The GAA has erred in altering the penalty rule for hurling, according to Dublin’s Paul Ryan who believes there was a considerably easier and better means of solving what had become a thorny issue for the association.
It was the sight of Waterford’s Stephen O’Keeffe charging down the penalty of his Cork counterpart Anthony Nash last summer that finally convinced authorities that the rule as it stood had to change and change it duly did.
Nash’s ability to lift the ball to near the 13-metre line before striking with his oversized ‘goalie hurl’, allied to O’Keeffe’s tactic of racing off his line, gave rise to genuine fears for the health and safety of those stationed on the line.
A temporary measure was introduced mid-season, with players no longer allowed to advance beyond the 21-metre line before striking the ball, which ultimately made it next to impossible to score a goal from the dead ball.
Fast forward to last winter and the Hurling Review Committee recommended that the number of players defending the goal be reduced from three to one. That was duly written into GAA law and has been in effect since last month.
“I think it could have been solved if they’d just got rid of the goalie hurl,” said Ryan at an AIG event to launch their Pupil Protector Insurance Plan in partnership with JF Dunne Insurances. “If they got rid of the goalie hurl from anyone coming down to take it, yeah … and just keep three on the line.”
Ryan has more insight than most in this instance as a penalty taker himself and he clarified that he had no issue with defenders using the hurleys with a larger bás as all three Tipperary men did last summer when thwarting his effort in an All-Ireland qualifier in Thurles.
His premise is simple: outlawing the use of a goalie’s hurl would reduce the sweet spot and in turn make it more difficult for players to raise the ball forward as Nash so expertly did and still be confident of a clean strike.
It seems an eminently sensible solution to a scenario that caused so many headaches and arguments and Ryan could only chuckle when asked if it was frustrating that such input at ground level perhaps isn’t taken into account when these rules are being tweaked.
“I don’t know what they’re thinking. I would have seen it as an easy issue to solve, just taking the goalie hurl away, especially if a goalie is coming down to take the free. If he’s switching to an outfield hurl, he’s not going to connect with it as he would using a goalie hurl.”
“That said, the thing is done now with the result that goals are going to proliferate from penalties, especially as takers become more adept at placing the sliotar rather than blasting it as has been the case for time immemorial.
“It’s after going from one extreme to the other and now there’s only one in the goal. So, yeah, you could say it’s easier – but nothing’s easy in front of a few thousand.
“You’d have to put a certain amount of power in it and pick a spot,” he added. “But you’re under the threat now that the ‘keeper is just going to move.
“Rather than relying on reaction, he’s going to be in that spot before – so he’s going to pick a spot and you’re going to pick a spot and that’s going to be a guessing game.”
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