Opinion: Shoot-outs to settle hurling games sound like the answer to a question no-one asked

The proposed measure would come into effect for League quarter-finals and semi-finals

BY Sinéad Farrell 17:12 Thursday 5 January 2017, 17:12 5 Jan 2017

©INPHO/James Crombie 

The GAA Central Council will make a final decision on whether or not they will introduce a free-taking shootout for games in the National League quarter-finals and semi-finals that end in a draw later this month.

It's believed that the exact details of the shoot-out will consist of both sides taking five 65 metre frees, after which sudden death will apply to determine a winner.

This comes off the back of a decision made by Central Council to introduce a system that will ensure that all NHL quarter-finals and semi-finals will produce a winner on that day, regardless of whether or not the fixture ends in a draw after extra-time.

This process will not apply for league finals, and those games will continue to go to a replay should the same eventuality arise. 

The concept behind this measure is to tackle fixture congestion, avoid problems between inter-county and club schedules, and ultimately reduce player burnout. It also allows fixture-makers to set the league semi-finals and final between the weekends that fall on April 16th and April 23rd.

But given how seldom hurling fixtures finish in a draw after extra-time, it seems to be a somewhat redundant measure. Hurling games in general don't have a strong reputation for producing draws, even after normal time.

Prior to the 2012 All-Ireland final, when Joe Canning scored a last-minute free to ensure the tie went to a replay, the last All-Ireland hurling decider to go to a replay stretches back to 1959.

Granted, the All-Ireland final required a replay twice more in the years that followed (2013, 2014) and this year's All-Ireland semi-final between Kilkenny and Waterford also ended in a draw. But for now, that can be taken as an isolated trend in an otherwise consistent pattern of winners emerging from the designated 70 minutes of normal time.

In any case, the above proposal will not be implemented in the championship for now, but it is important to acknowledge the recent cases of hurling replays to establish some context.

In order for this initiative to have a purpose, there needs to be a high incidence of draws occurring in the league for it to be a remedy worth having.

But, during the 2016 NHL, only three games produced a level scoreline after normal time. Galway and Tipperary drew in their Division 1 Round 4 encounter, which was followed by another draw for the Tribesmen in Round 5, against eventual finalists Waterford.

In addition, the final between Clare and Waterford also ended in a draw after extra-time, with the former prevailing in the replay.

However, draws in the round games are settled by dividing the points between the opponents, and the above proposal does not aim to interfere with finals going to a replay, so these cases are negligible.

The quarter-finals and semi-finals however, produced no drawn games, and given that this free-taking shooutout recommendation will only apply for these games, it seems the move is trying to correct a problem that currently isn't there.  

There's also the question of how the shoot-out will be received by the GAA fan-base. Indeed, it would be a entertaining conclusion to a game but it doesn't seem to tally with the ethos of the GAA.

The format mimics the style of the penalty shoot-out that we see in football and given the unique nature of Gaelic Games, a shoot-out scenario doesn't fit in with that framework.


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