Three brands of sliotar have officially been sanctioned for use in this weekend’s All-Ireland senior hurling quarter-finals in Páirc Uí Chaoimh — but only Clare and Tipperary have agreed on a ball of choice.
Since 2006, counties have been asked to state their preference of licenced ball prior to All-Ireland semi-finals and finals. That also applies to the forthcoming matches in Cork where referees and umpires will provide them.
The regulation was backed by Central Council 11 years ago in an attempt to cut out “unethical behaviour” regarding the use of sliotars.
Both Clare and Tipperary have opted to go with the Cork suppliers Cummins’ sliotar, meaning it will be the only ball in use on Saturday. However, there will be two brands pucked in Sunday’s Wexford-Waterford clash, O’Neills and Star, Wexford picking the former and Waterford the latter.
GAA national match officials manager Patrick Doherty explained the use of ball in the second quarter-final will be random. “The umpire hands the goalkeeper the first sliotar that is in his pocket. There will be a mixture of both out there and at the puck-out the goalkeeper will do so with whatever sliotar he is handed.”
Doherty also revealed there will be no extra security measures put in place to avoid a repeat of what happened prior to the Munster final when a bag of sliotars belonging to Cork were thrown into the crowd by an individual wearing a Clare top.
“Whatever happened in the Munster final had nothing to do with the sliotars that were being used in the game. The sliotars that are used are supplied by the referee and the umpires. So if somebody wants to rob somebody else’s sliotars it’s probably a criminal act rather than a breach of rule or regulation.”
The Cummins brand was used in the Munster final.
GAA director of games development Pat Daly has warned that not all stamped sliotars are officially licenced balls, but it is hoped this year’s championship is the last in which non-standardised balls are used.
Daly anticipates the ball with a uniform core will be ready for St Patrick’s Day or Easter next year with a price tag of €5 or €6.
“We’re standardising the core in an attempt to ensure there is consistency in performance,” he told the Irish Examiner in January. “We’re inserting a chip into the core for traceability. Obviously, it’s a painstaking process. You’re trying to make sure the chip can withstand the hits a sliotar takes. It’s essential the technology holds up to that.”
A study 11 years ago revealed that when pucked out at full capacity the Cummins ball travelled 13 yards further than O’Neills. However, speaking last September, Tipperary goalkeeper Darren Gleeson said the margins between the various official sliotars aren’t as significant now. “I don’t think there is a big difference in how far balls go — it depends more on the striker and you are never going to have uniformity in that — but there is in the quality.”
Last week, Clare selector and former Cork goalkeeper Dónal Óg Cusack said sliotar regulations were being breached across the board.
“As long as there isn’t a standard sliotar, go to any goalkeeper, or any player, and they will still bring their own.”
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