Irish Hockey League matches postponed after Covid-19 restrictions tightened
Irish senior men and Irish senior women’s teams can continue to operate as usual
Jack Chambers, Minister of State for Sport and the Gaeltacht. Photograph: Fran Veale
All EY Irish Hockey League matches have been postponed until further notice following a Government announcement on Wednesday of the removal of the senior club championship from exemption from the Living with Covid-19 plan.
As a result, the board of Hockey Ireland (HI) has decided to postpone all hockey competitions on an all-Ireland basis. Training can proceed subject to Hockey Ireland protocols and restrictions and any restrictions that may apply locally. This also means that the interprovincial competitions scheduled for the end of October are postponed.
Elite hockey activity can proceed, although, this applies only to the Irish senior men and Irish senior women’s teams. The women’s team is currently in preparation for next summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo. Prior to the announcement, the club competition and players were considered in the elite category.
The announcement comes following a refusal of clubs in Cork to fulfil fixtures over health concerns about travelling outside their counties, especially when Dublin went to Level 3 lockdown. HI, this week, issued the three Cork clubs, Church of Ireland, Cork Harlequins and UCC with provisional sanctions if they repeated the exercise in coming weeks. HI claimed it was impossible to run a national league programme if clubs refuse to travel and that the Cork clubs had agreed to participate in the competition.
HI cited four matches in particular, which were not played. Cork Harlequins v Muckross, Saturday, September 26th; Cork Harlequins v Belfast Harlequins, Saturday, October 10th; Church of Ireland v Monkstown, Saturday, September 26th; and UCC v Trinity, Saturday, September 26th.
However, representation was made by club members to Cork city-based Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Michael McGrath, who took up the issue with Jack Chambers, Minister of State for Sport and the Gaeltacht.
Speaking in Government Buildings on Wednesday, Chambers told The Irish Times: “The return to sport expert group has consistently emphasised to national governing bodies and local sports partnerships that the return to training and competition should be on an opt-in basis.
“I am pleased that the expert group has advised that athletes and teams should not be penalised if they wish to opt-out of activity. I know also that Sport Ireland has had direct contact with Hockey Ireland in this regard.
“I think it is important that NGBs act and operate within the spirit of the opt-in protocol. Participants should be encouraged to communicate any concerns with regard to Covid-19 or other health and safety issues to their club or national governing body so that they can be addressed properly.”
HI added that the sport must endeavour to keep club activity going while it continues to observe Covid-19 guidelines and added that it is hopeful of resuming competition soon.