Pat Daly looks to get to the core of sliotar debate

The GAA’s director of games Pat Daly admits the sliotar industry is unregulated and claims some manufacturers are illegitimately purporting their balls as officially approved.

Pat Daly looks to get to the core of sliotar debate

He has also speculated about a rib-less ball being one day used in hurling.

The standardisation of sliotars was a proposal in last week’s Hurling 2020 report. It read: “Our concern is focused on the disparity in the size and shape of the ball.”

In conjunction with DCU, Daly has been working on producing a standardised core, which he believes will provide the GAA with greater control of the sector. Tests are being done in Germany and Daly’s coaching and games team hope to have a proposal ready for the start of next year.

“It’s about regulating something that isn’t at the moment,” he said. “We’d like to see the scenario where there are approximately three core suppliers, whereby we’re able to build a bit of traceability into the core through technology and you can establish if the core is a bona fide core, where it came from, who produced it. Our desire would be for a cost-effective sliotar retailing for €5 or €6 so it wouldn’t be worth the trouble looking for a cheaper, unofficial alternative.

“It’s been a painstaking process, much like the Hawk-Eye situation. Most of the good research work has been done in Aachen in Germany because we found that’s where we had to go to see this through.”

Only sliotars which pass tests commissioned by the GAA are recognised as approved. However, Daly said: “We have had situations where people have presented us with the (GAA) approved logo and the sliotars had never previously been tested. I asked one guy how in the name of God did he get a logo onto the sliotar because it hadn’t gone through the proper procedures. That’s the sort of thing that has been going on.”

Daly hasn’t ruled out the possibility of rib-less sliotars. He has questioned whether all companies are complying with rib regulations of being between 2-2.8 millimetres in height and 3.6mm-5.5mm in width. “There are specifications for rib height and width but are they being adhered to by everyone? Probably not. There may come a time when there is a sliotar without rims. The sliotar used in the Super 11s (in 2013) had no rims and there were no complaints from the players. There was no adversity to it.”

Not all sliotars are the same, of course. Nine years ago at the height of Cork’s Cummins controversy, this writer and Dublin goalkeeper Alan Nolan conducted a test on the then three official brands — Cummins, Mycro and O’Neill’s — in a simulation centre. The Cummins was proven to carry on average 11 yards further than the O’Neill’s and 10 more than the Mycro.

As Nolan, then an U21, said of the Cummins at the time: “Because the ridges (ribs) on it are smaller, I’m hitting more of the ball and I have more accuracy and control over my puck-outs. These days a pinpoint puck-out is vital and I’d feel more confident of hitting my targets with a Cummins.

“I take the penalties for Dublin and I was considering bringing a Cummins sliotar to the (2006) Leinster U21 final against Kilkenny in case we were awarded one. They’re almost impossible to stop when hit powerfully.”

Daly believes concerns about the weight of sliotars will be addressed by the traceable core. “We have a very vigorous testing system set up by DCU and that keeps it independent of us. What you find now is there aren’t huge variations in how the balls are able to perform. We had tests last year where DCU and the players were blind to the tests. We numbered the balls one, two, three and four and to identify their preference.

“It’s not a perfect science either because the guys would most likely rate the ball that travels furthest the best. Some people would claim the sliotar is travelling too far (14% in the Hurling 2020 survey) but once we get to the standardised core and once we built an element of traceability into that, I think we’ll be able to deal with most of those issues.”

Former Kilkenny selector Martin Fogarty’s Championship sliotars are favoured by the likes of his own county and Limerick, while Tipperary, Dublin and Cork have used Eoin Kelly’s brand. Clare are known to prefer the Cummins’ ball and Galway opt for Coopers. Referee Brian Gavin is a sales rep for Marc Sports, which also produce sliotars.

However, all counties train with the O’Neill’s sliotar as they are usually the ball of choice for Championship games. In last year’s All-Ireland final, goalkeepers could only restart the action on receipt of a ball from an umpire.

“If you take Championship and league games, the CCCC would supply the sliotars,” explained Daly.

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