Trends point to free-scoring hurling final

 Eamonn Pitts examines the modern surge in hurling scoring rates.

We are all expecting an exciting high scoring hurling final on Sunday. I have been particularly impressed by the large number of scores in hurling in recent years and the skill involved and decided to check whether my perception of an increased scoring rate accorded with the statistics. And it does.

The 70-minute game dates from 1975. The average number of scores (goals and points)  in the hurling championship in 1975 was 30.9. (14 games). The average number of scores per match stayed within the range 28.3 to 33.3 over the period 1975 to 2004, with two exceptions. In 1982 the average was 34.4 while it reached 35 in 1987.

Since 2005, there has been a dramatic increase in the scoring rate, which was 35.5 in that year, slipped to 33.6 in 2006 but has exceeded 36.9 in every year since – and continues to rise. The average number of scores in the 2014 championship was 40.1 while the average to date in this year’s championship is 40.7.  So there has been a 25% increase in scoring rates in hurling in the last ten years.

A factor that may have influenced this development is the introduction of the qualifiers in 2005. The number of games in the championship can now be as high as 36 (there were 36 last year but only 27 this year to date – but this is much greater than the 10 to 15 games typical of the ‘70s and ‘80s). Teams are now guaranteed at least a couple of matches and it may be worthwhile to devote greater time to develop the skills of the game.

The Fifty Score Game

One new aspect of hurling is the “fifty score” game. Over the period from 1975 to 2004 inclusive there was one championship game which had more than fifty scores (Kilkenny beat Westmeath by 7-31 to 0-13 in 1982) and four games which had more than 45 scores (Wexford-Offaly in 1975, Cork Waterford in 1982, Tipperary-Cork after extra-time in the replayed Munster final of 1987, and Galway-Roscommon in 1998).

Since 2005 there have been 11 “fifty-score” championship games including six last year and two this year.   They were Clare-Waterford in 2008, Galway-Laois in 2009, Limerick-Antrim in 2012, Kilkenny-Offaly, Cork-Limerick, Clare-Wexford (twice), Tipperary-Offaly and Kilkenny-Tipperary (the drawn final), last year.

This year, we have had fifty-score games between Laois and Offaly and Galway and Cork. The game with the highest number of scores is the Kilkenny Offaly game last year which the Cats won by 5-32 to 1-18, a total of 56 scores in 70 minutes.

In addition, since 2005 there have been 31 games where the total number of scores was between 45 and 49 – compared with four in the thirty years from 1975 to 2004.

Scoring in the Final

The record number of scores in the final was in the drawn game last year which had 54 scores (Kilkenny 3-22, Tipperary 1-28). The next highest number of scores were in 2008 and 2009 with 47 each.

As a contrast, the final in 1987 between next Sunday’s rivals had only 22 scores (Galway won 1-12 to 0-9). The next lowest was in 1979 with the same teams, which Kilkenny won by 2-12 to 1-8. However the prospects are for a much higher score on Sunday between these teams. Kilkenny have scored 7 goals and 71 points in three games (average 26 scores), while Galway have scored 12 goals and 136 points in six games (average 24.3 scores). So we have the prospect of another 50 score game.

Thirty Points

Individual teams have scored thirty points on five occasions in the championship since 1975. The first to do so was Cork who scored 5-31 against Waterford in 1982. Kilkenny scored 7-31 against Westmeath in the following year, while Galway scored 4-30 against London in 1988. Kilkenny scored 3-30 against Waterford in the 2008 final.  The next thirty-pointer was Kilkenny’s last year when they scored 5-32 against Offaly. So 32 points is the highest number for one team in a championship game.

Personal Scoring Achievements

With the greater number of games, the individual scoring records are also dominated by modern players.  But players are also are achieving a higher average score per game.

If we look at the records of players who have achieved 10 scores per game over a season, the names which appear are Nicky English in 1989 with 4-38 from four games, Ger Farragher from 2005 with 3-57 from six games, Henry Shefflin from 2006 with 2-47 from 5 games, Eoin Kelly from 2008 with 7-43 from 5 games, Joe Canning from 2009 with 3-46 from 5 games, Paul Ryan from 2011 with 2-47 from 5 games and Henry Shefflin (again!) from 2012 with 3-56 from 6 games. 

In 2015 the leading scorer to date is Joe Canning with 4-47 from six games but TJ Reid has scored 3-25 from only three games and so approaches the average of 10 scores per game achieved by those mentioned in the last paragraph. Maurice Shanahan from Waterford has achieved ten scores per game this season (2-38 from 4 games).








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