Sport GAA

Sunday 26 May 2019

Colm Keys: 'Teams will pay penalty for their lack of practice'

Breaking Ball

Future vision?: Leitrim's Mark Plunkett sends Mayo goalkeeper Rob Hennelly the wrong way during the shoot-out. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Future vision?: Leitrim's Mark Plunkett sends Mayo goalkeeper Rob Hennelly the wrong way during the shoot-out. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

To understand their penalty shoot-out failings stretching back through major tournaments in 1990, 1996, 1998 and 2006 (World Cups) and 2004 and 2012 (European Championships), the English FA undertook an analysis prior to last year's World Cup in Russia to learn more, if they could, as to why they were so often on the receiving end of such an unwelcome trend.

It involved, among other things, psychometric testing of the players before they left for the tournament and a preferential list was drawn up based on their findings.

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The idea that volunteers would be scrambled at the end of 120-plus minutes was dispensed with and under Southgate, the prospect of a shoot-out was something they were going to think through clearly.

Ultimately practice, or lack of it, was an issue but so was the speed with which the players walked up to the kick. The analysis found that English players approached quicker than their opponents.

Southgate is entitled to feel that the work paid off with their subsequent shoot-out success in the quarter-final against Colombia, taking them to the semi-finals for the first time since 1990.

The Mayo and Leitrim players may not have had time for their own psychometric testing in advance of Sunday's Connacht League match, a competition that has reverted to knock-out this season, having only received the 'clár an lae' in the days before.

In the 'clár an lae', Connacht Council announced drawn games would be decided with penalties - not a free-taking competition or even the obligatory two periods of extra-time.

But the novelty brought a probable vision of the future for how more games will be decided on the day in some competitions.

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The 'winner on the day' concept was introduced last year and had early exposure when Meath and Longford drew in fading light in an O'Byrne Cup semi-final when the second period of extra-time (two five-minute halves) was shelved.

But prior to the championship the difficulty of kicking a ball over from 45 metres in tricky conditions was acknowledged and instead it became a kick from the edge of the 'D'.

Hurling had just one free-taking shoot-out when Limerick nudged past Clare in a thrilling league quarter-final but while it was novel, it wasn't really as engaging for a spectator as it might have been.

Nothing in these situations beats a one-on-one and a bulging net, hence switching to penalties this year makes much more sense.

Next week's Central Council meeting is expected to approve a proposal from the Central Competition Controls Committee to switch to a penalty shoot-out in football and hurling for a raft of games including league knock-out games, All-Ireland football qualifiers, provincial club games, inter-county intermediate hurling and junior football, and U-20 and U-17 knock-out championship games (with the exception of All-Ireland finals)

Interestingly, a provincial hurling final could also be decided this way if, after a replay and two periods of extra-time (two halves of 10 minutes and two halves of five minutes), the sides are still deadlocked.

So tight is the inter-county schedule now that it doesn't allow latitude for a third provincial decider so 'winner on the day' kicks in here too.

The spread of games where a shoot-out can happen has increased but the prospect is still relatively low.

In qualifier football games, for instance, there were only two occasions in this decade when a shoot-out would have been required after extra-time had failed to deliver a winner, Kildare v Antrim in 2010, and Armagh v Wicklow in 2011.

Deadlock

There's a far greater window for deadlock after extra-time in 60-minute provincial club games with the shorter time and more testing conditions.

Last year Cavan intermediate champions Mullahoran advanced to an Ulster club final by beating Derry's Banagher in a free-kick competition after three separate periods over 90 minutes couldn't separate them.

In Carrick-on-Shannon on Sunday there was widespread approval of the new shoot-out concept, even without extra-time.

They will always be far less common than in soccer but they'll bring novelty and drama for spectators and an extra planning headache for management determining who is best-equipped to carry the burden over five kicks.

As Gareth Southgate has shown, it's not something that should be left too chance.

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