Council to opt for 65-metre shoot-outs to settle drawn NHL games
Which will be the first county to win a big hurling game on frees? How long will it be before it happens? Will it ever actually occur? And could it be extended to other games?
Having opted to introduce a free-taking shoot-out to ensure that no replays are necessary in the Allianz Hurling League quarter-finals or semi-finals from this season on, the GAA must now decide on the precise mechanism that will apply in the event of a game being level after extra-time.
The matter will come before Central Council later this month where it's likely that five 65-metre frees will be chosen as the means of deciding a winner.
If teams are still level after five frees each, 'sudden death' will apply, similar to what happens in soccer when penalties are required to produce a winner.
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Some technical aspects will also need to be tidied up, such as eligibility to take the 'shoot-out' frees, specifically whether they would be confined to players who were on the pitch at the end of extra-time, as opposed to those who had been substituted.
forerunner Frees will also be used to settle games that finish level after extra-time in the All-Ireland U-17 football competition which will be played this year as a forerunner to reducing the minor age limit from 18 to 17 years in 2018. It's likely that 45-metre kicks will be used where Central Council will also have to decide whether they can be taken from the hand or off the ground.
Under existing rules, frees (other than penalties) can be taken off the hand or the ground but '45s must be kicked off the ground.
Central Council decided late last year to introduce the 'sudden death' system to guarantee that the NHL quarter-finals and semi-final produced a result if teams were level after extra-time.
That's designed to avoid the need for replays, complete with the knock-on impact on club fixtures. Also, it enabled the fixture-makers to fix the league semi-finals and final on successive weekends this year (April 16 and 23).
The 'sudden-death' system will not apply to drawn league finals, which will continue to be replayed, as happened last year when normal and extra-time failed to separate Clare and Waterford.
Given how infrequently hurling games finish level after extra-time, 'sudden death' shoot-outs may not be required for several years in the NHL but the possibility of introducing it across the board could come on the agenda as pressure mounts to rule out replays in an already-crowded fixtures programme.