Micheál Donoghue believes there is no need to rethink the weight of the sliotar in light of his Galway team’s achievement in claiming last year’s All-Ireland title without finding the net in their last four championship games.
The Connacht side was the first to capture the Liam MacCarthy in that manner, rattling off 110 points and no goals from their Leinster semi-final defeat of Offaly on June 18 through to their All-Ireland final defeat of Waterford on September 3.
The only goals they scored all summer came in the provincial quarter-final defeat of Dublin in May when Conor Cooney and Jason Flynn bagged one each in the course of a 14-point win at Tullamore’s O’Connor Park.
It is no slight on the All-Ireland champions, merely a statistical nuance that arose due in no small part to the tactics employed against them. Offaly used two sweepers and both Wexford and Waterford have made liberal use of an extra man at the back in modern times.
“We were just really fortunate to have a group that was talented and was well able to take the point opportunities ,” said Donoghue at this week’s Leinster SHC launch.
“There was no point last year where we said, ‘keep tapping them over’. We are very conscious when we are up that side of the field to take the opportunities and take the scores but it is something that has been well documented.
Galway’s lack of three-pointers contributed to a goal per game average of just 2.4 in the 2017 All-Ireland series – games including last eight ties and onwards. That is the second lowest since the current system with just two quarter-finals was introduced.
The lowest, incidentally, was just two years before, in 2015.
Though the graph has shown minor peaks and troughs, there has been an unmistakeable trend of diminishing returns with goals scored. Between 2008 and 2010, the average was 3.6. That has plummeted to just under 2.4 this past three seasons.
Whether coincidence or not, 2015 and 2017 have returned the two highest averages for points scored in the course of the All-Ireland series – 42.2 and 41.6 - and the two lowest for goals.
It is the sort of trend in games concerning the top hurling counties that has exercised more than a few minds in recent times with Babs Keating among the most vocal proponents of the idea of regulating a heavier sliotar.
Supporters of that cause would have found considerable weight for their case at the start of this month when Kilkenny goalkeeper Eoin Murphy landed a free during their Allianz Hurling League semi-final win over Wexford from the vicinity of his own ‘D’.
Time for something to be done, then?
“Ah, I don’t think so,” said Donoghue. “It is a massive skill. I saw recently where they suggested allowing two points for a sideline cut. That is a skill in itself. If it’s not broken you don’t have to fix it. The distance lads are getting is amazing.
“But it is just testament to the type of modern player there now. When you see a keeper landing one from his own ‘45’ it just shows that distance means nothing. It’s all about having your discipline right now.”
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