The GAA has been forced to park its plans to introduce a new ‘smart’ sliotar, containing a microchip to verify its authenticity, for this year’s Championship.
Plans to use a luminous yellow ball, however, could still materialise with GAA director of games development and research Pat Daly confirming there are ‘realistic prospects’ of this occurring.
Daly stated last December that following exhaustive testing of a new ‘digital’ yellow ball with implanted chip, he hoped to secure Central Council backing in early 2020 to use it in this year’s Championship.
That sparked a debate about the merits of a move from a traditional white to yellow sliotar though the chip within the ball is equally significant as it confirms the ball’s bona fides and, according to Daly, can eliminate potential child labour in the manufacturing process.
Daly has been working on the project for almost a decade, though, said that the chip element has had to be parked indefinitely due to the impact of the Covid-19 crisis.
“There was a critical meeting at the start of March and the plug was pulled on that because of the coronavirus situation so nothing has happened since to advance things,” said Daly.
“Unfortunately I can’t see the new ball happening this year, it would be just too much work to try to introduce it.
“We were basically at the point of securing the supply chain and the price pointing of the balls. Then it had to go to Central Council for approval but the supply chain and the pricing were the big things that take a bit of time to get through.”
Daly, however, remains optimistic about using a luminous sliotar in this year’s delayed Championship and believes it would make particular sense given that many Championship games will be played under floodlights between October and December.
“There is absolutely nothing in rule to prevent a yellow ball still being used this year,” said Daly. “The rulebook doesn’t specify colour so there is flexibility there. All of the evidence from optometry is that a yellow ball would help the game of hurling in various ways, there is a strong basis in science and strong evidence there to support that and to back that up.
“I could see realistic prospects of that happening. At the moment the fixation is naturally on getting the games up and running but I think we’ll get to a place where we will be making decisions about all those things and all the evidence suggests it would be a positive development for the game.”
A yellow ball has already been used in the Super 11s hurling games in the US and former Cork goalkeeper Dónal Óg Cusack has stated that a full move from white to yellow, as happened in tennis decades ago, ‘can’t come soon enough’ in hurling.