Drawn against Leinster club St Brendans in Saturday’s planned Semi-Final, it was anticipated that the match would be played on St Brendan’s regular (synthetic) Home surface at RCSI.
However, St Brendan’s demanded that the fixture be played on a GRASS surface adjacent to their clubhouse in Phoenix Park.
Throughout last week, the Irish Hockey Association made every attempt to persuade the Dublin club to play the match at their regular Home venue at RCSI; however St Brendans refused to budge, citing competition Rule 9.5.1.
This states that
all Cup Competition matches shall be played on a synthetic pitch, except for the Challenge which may be played on the home club’s own surface
This wording was originally drafted by the IHA to accommodate clubs such as Saintfield, who regularly play all their home fixtures on a shale pitch.
It is however unlikely that in their wildest dreams, anyone at IHA HQ would have expected rule 9.5.1 to be cited in favour of a grass surface.
The Campbellians club has released the following statement:-
Mens Irish Hockey Challenge 2010.
It is with deep regret that Campbellians Hockey Club has been forced to withdraw from the 2010 Mens Irish Hockey Challenge competition at the Semi-Final stage.
As reigning champions Campbellians were fully committed to retaining the MIHC title this season; and are disappointed that the opportunity to do so has been removed.
The club fully understands the dilemma faced by the Irish Hockey Association in attempting to resolve the issue of the Semi-Final of a 2010 national cup competition being staged on a grass surface; and remains grateful to those IHA officials (in particular Competitions Committee Chairman John Smyth) who have done their utmost to achieve a commonsense outcome during the past week.
Whilst our position remains that Senior Hockey in the 21st Century should ideally always be played on a synthetic surface, the Campbellians club fully supports the fundamental spirit of IHA Competition Rule 9.5.1 (not to exclude from the national Challenge competitions those clubs who regularly play their home fixtures on a shale surface).
It is however our contention that a Grass pitch can in no conceivable manner ever be construed as a “regular” home surface in this day and age.
Consequently, the fundamental spirit of Rule 9.5.1 has clearly been cynically abandoned.
Nowadays, the inclusion of studded boots within each player’s personal kitbag is something which is neither expected nor practised.
No player in Senior hockey will reasonably expect to ever have to play a match on a grass surface (not least the Semi-Final of a national competition).
To have equipped the Campbellians 1stX1 squad with studded boots suitable for a grass surface, would have cost in excess of £1,000.
To expect any club to incur such expenditure for a one-off fixture is entirely unreasonable.
The Campbellians club also has a clear duty of care in respect of the health and safety of its players.
To have contested the fixture on a grass surface without suitable footwear would have posed a number of significant health and safety risks.
Given the above, the Campbellians Club unfortunately had no alternative but to withdraw from the competition; and does not expect to receive any form of censure from the Irish Hockey Association in respect of this decision.
We do however expect that the Irish Hockey Association will regard this entire fiasco as a clear opportunity to examine (and ultimately re-draft) Rule 9.5.1, in order that such a ridiculous situation may never again arise.
All right thinking members of the Hockey fraternity will no doubt be wholly disappointed by the manner in which St Brendans have chosen to interpret Rule 9.5.1.
They have unfortunately done a great disservice to the promotion of our sport across the island of Ireland.
Hockey is the clear loser in this instance.
Campbellians Hockey Club.
Friday 5th March 2010.
Campbellians would have been hot favourites to again reach the Final, particularly as St Brendans could not have fielded two of their key players (red-carded in the quarter final meeting with Ballynahinch).
Consequently, the latter stages of the competition have now been thrown into disarray, and the final outcome of the 2010 Mens Irish Hockey Challenge will now struggle to ever achieve any serious degree of credibility.
Hopefully the IHA will indeed take this opportunity to re-write the rule book in order to ensure that such nonsense may never happen again.