Thursday 27 October 2016

The Great Debate: Will one-v-one penalties produce more goals than previous rule?

Martin Breheny and Colm Keys

Published 12/06/2015 | 02:30

Cork’s Patrick Horgan fires a penalty to the net past Waterford goalkeeper Stephen O'Keeffe during last weekend’s Munster SHC clash in Thurles RAY McMANUS/SPORTSFILE
Cork’s Patrick Horgan fires a penalty to the net past Waterford goalkeeper Stephen O'Keeffe during last weekend’s Munster SHC clash in Thurles RAY McMANUS/SPORTSFILE

'Yes' says Martin Breheny

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The issue here is whether one-v-one will result in more goals than traditional penalty-taking, which involved the striker tossing the ball well inside the 20-metre line before making the hit.

It was illegal, of course, but an anomaly in the rules, coupled with an unwillingness to outlaw what was regarded as an exciting part of the game, allowed it to remain in place for decades.

Then, along came Anthony Nash, whose ability to toss the ball forward almost to the 13-metre line, showed up the nonsense of a rule which allowed the striker to be so close to goal when hitting the ball.

Apart from anything else, there was the legal loophole which permitted a 20-metre free to be taken much closer to goal.

If a defending player were seriously injured and took court action, his legal team would have no difficulty proving that the GAA were negligent over not applying their own rules.

Last season's temporary measure, where the striker had to hit the ball outside the 20-metre line against a goalie and two defenders, was not sustainable as it swung the balance heavily in favour of the defending team. Only 20pc of penalties produced goals in last year's championship, prompting the Hurling 20/20 Committee, chaired by Liam Sheedy, to propose the one v one method.

So far, the goal return under the new system is not as high as anticipated. Indeed, only one (Patrick Horgan) of three penalties awarded last weekend produced goals.

Dublin's David Treacy shot wide, while his colleague, Paul Ryan had his effort saved by Colm Callanan in the clash with Galway.

That has led to claims that the new system favours the offending team.

However, as Sheedy pointed out in yesterday's Irish Independent, one-v-one is in its early stages.

Strikers are still gettting used to it, trying to figure out whether to go for power or placing.

Obviously, a combination of both is the best option but it will take time for the sharpshooters to get that right.

Once they do, the goal rate should increase significantly. If it doesn't, then the strikers should take a long look at themselves.

For while the standard among goalkeepers is extremely high, they should have to rely on luck to save a sliotar hit from 20 metres at a 15.6 square metres target .

The onus is now very much on the penalty-takers to refine their expertise.

We're told that the top strikers are skilful enough to place a ball in the narrowest of channels so surely they can beat a goalkeeper from 20 metres most of the time.

Goalkeepers will get lucky on some occasions but once one-v-one settles down, the goal rate from penalties should reach 70 to 80pc.

'No' says Colm Keys

If anyone wants to define the future, he or she must study the past. Wise words uttered many hundreds of years ago that still carry much resonance today.

So it's the appropriate starting point to address the question of whether or not the one-v-one penalty in hurling will produce as many goals as the previous method.

First the distant past. When the Hurling 2020 Committee called for trialling of the proposed one-v-one method in the pre-season competitions, the following results emerged; from 36 games played, nine penalties were awarded and from those nine there were two goals, a point, a wide and five saves.

That's a goal conversion rate of just 22pc.

True, the new method was in its infancy, penalty-takers were still caught by the dilemma to 'power or place' while the novelty and increased spotlight may well have led some to stage fright.

Roll on to last week gone by, the more recent past.

Three televised games produced four penalties. Two were saved (Kilkenny under 21 goalkeeper Darren Brennan stopped the effort from his Dublin counterpart Sean Brennan, while Galway's Colm Callanan denied Paul Ryan); one (from Dublin's David Treacy) went wide; and only Cork's Patrick Horgan was on the money - a goal conversion rate of 25pc in the short period of time analysed.

By comparison to last year, specifically after Waterford's Stephen O'Keeffe prompted a rule clarification from Central Council, the figures are interesting.

From 19 games, 10 penalties were awarded and just two were scored, a 20pc conversion.

Right now, the new one-v-one penalty conversion rate is coming in slightly above the interim method which just about everyone came to accept was heavily weighted towards the defending team.

Granted the conversion rate will improve as players adjust. But so too will goalkeepers, the majority of whom favoured this change.

Logic might suggest that three on a line have a better chance of stopping a shot than one. But, conversely, it diluted responsibility.

Under the old method, a goalkeeper was less inclined to reach left or right and cross the territory of the 'defender' on either side.

Now they have sole responsibility, their range is greater and, as the skilled practitioners of reflex saves, they enjoy the challenge in the knowledge that the odds should favour the taker, thus increasing the pressure.

By reducing the numbers on the line the temptation for the taker will be to place, just like Horgan and Treacy, but we can expect as many wides as goals because such precision doesn't come easily to everyone who stands over one.

Already that is evident.

The dynamic has changed but the outcomes won't.

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