Annadale player-coach Peter Caruth insists there needs to be a change in the format of the play-off mechanism that clubs face in their bid to qualify for the EY Irish Hockey League.
Speaking on the eve of the final stage of the process in which Dale and Cookstown carry Ulster’s promotion hopes in Dublin, the Irish Olympian believes four games in two days in the first phase is too much to expect.
Ulster Premier League winners Cookstown and the other provincial champions, Bandon and Corinthian, were exempt from the gruelling schedule as a reward for their respective achievements.
“I think the last weekend of qualifying, playing four games in two days, was very tough physically on the whole squad.” Caruth claimed.
“The system needs to be re-thought as it is a recipe for injuries and massive overplaying - you just cant prepare physically for it.”
At least Caruth’s team have the easier of the two semi-finals tomorrow as they face Munster minnows Bandon while Cookstown play Corinthian.
“Bandon won their league - something we didn’t do but our squad has gelled very well and the team spirit is high now we need to perform.” he added.
“We have huge amounts of young talent with a great mix of experience there and we know teams are looking at us.
“The IHL is a goal the squad has had all season and something all the boys want to prove we are good enough for.
“It looks like we’re doing something right if all the top IHL teams like to poach from you during the season.”
Cookstown know just how difficult it will be to set up that up the prospect of an all Ulster final, with the winners securing an EYHL ticket and the losers a promotion-relegation play-off.
“Make no mistake about it - this is going to be as tough a weekend as we will have had all season,” said Cookstown defender Keith Black.
“Corinthian are obviously an excellent teamand obviously you don’t make it into a Irish Senior Cup semi-final if you are not a talented outfit,” he added.
Lurgan Ladies will be bidding for a first appearance in the expanded EYHL when they take on the other provincial champions at the same venue over the weekend.
Leinster champions Trinity, Muckross and Old Alex look to be bigger threats than Connacht side Greenfields and UCC in the round-robin series with only the winners guaranteed a place in the top-flight.
Lurgan captain Charlene Hull said: “We are looking forward to the weekend ahead and it would be a great achievement for the club if we qualified for IHL.”
“But if that doesn’t happen for us, we would be disappointed although that wouldn’t take away from all we have done this season by winning the Shield, retaining the league title and we are also in the semi-final of the President’s Cup.
“Going straight into the final weekend is a bonus for us as we have been able to train as normal and have not had to play an extra four games.
“We will go out and do our best as a team as we do in every game and see how we fare against the other four teams in what we expect to be a tough weekend.”