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Martin Breheny: ‘Three points is no longer just reward for a goal in hurling and football’

Anthony Daly wants hurling to trial one of the most radical experiments in its history and Barry Kelly agrees.

hey would like the value of a goal increased to four points to gauge what the impact would be in an era when point totals (excluding goals) are often over 30 per game. They believe it would drive up entertainment levels.

“The goal is a hugely exciting part of our games, the thing that gets the stadium rocking. I’d trial it (increased value) in next year’s National League,” said Daly.

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He complicated the proposal somewhat by suggesting that a team’s first goal remains at three points, but that subsequent goals jump to four points as an encouragement for teams to hunt for more.

A different value would be an impossible sell, so let’s stay with the suggestion that they all be worth four, or perhaps even five. Kelly, one of the top referees for many years, also sees merit in rebalancing.

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Darren McCurry celebrates scoring Tyrone’s second goal in the All-Ireland final win over Mayo in Croke Park. Photo by Ray McManus

“You quite often see where a team scores a goal, the other team replies unbelievably quickly with two points. Suddenly, the goal, the buzz and the lift it’s given dissipates immediately. A goal brings a level of excitement – the net being rattled. I think it’s (increased value) worth exploring,” he said.

Well praise be! At long last, the link between goals and points is being questioned. I write that as someone who first raised it as far back as 1987 in a Sunday Press column.

I did it on the basis that it was impossible to justify awarding only two points more for a score in an area totalling 168 square feet, which has the full-time protection of a goalkeeper, than for one scored in a limitless zone over the bar where nobody can defend.

So before Limerick supporters complain that proposing an increase in the value of a goal is a response to their team’s point glut, none of the squad were even born when I first wrote about it 34 years ago.

Besides, I have no doubt that if the goal value were increased, Limerick would be among the most inventive at making it count to their advantage.

Daly and Kelly only mention it for hurling but it’s equally important for football. They proposed a one-point increase but I’d like to see the goal notched up to five in both codes.

There’s little incentive for coaches to work on goal-scoring strategies when the gain is relatively modest by comparison with the less risky point option. Surely that would change if goal values were increased.

And if that didn’t happen, it would be some indictment of coaching which we’re led to believe it on an all-time scientific high.

Goals produce drama and excitement, which no amount of points can ever generate. The rules should take that into account, helping in as much as they can to provide a favourable climate to encourage teams to be creative. A five-point goal would certainly do that.

The argument that an increase would make games even more defensive is not valid. Packing defences – especially in football – when the opposition has possession has been happening for a long time anyway and could scarcely become any more pronounced. The solution for that rests in insisting that both teams must have a certain number of players in either half at all times.

Conscious of the need to encourage teams to be more creative, rugby raised the value of a try from three to four points in the early 1970s but felt the need to increase again in the early 1990s when it moved to five, three points more than in the 1880s when it was a mere two.

At that time, a goal outweighed any number of points in GAA before being revalued at five after Dublin won the football final by 2-1 to Cork’s 1-9 in 1891.

That absurdity led to the goal being set at five points in 1892 before being decreased to three in 1896. It has remained there ever since.

Bizarrely, a decision taken 125 years ago when the GAA was in its infancy and uncertain as to where the goal value should be pitched has never been assessed or addressed. Well, never beyond occasional comments from unofficial sources.

Just about every other rule has been either changed or scrapped, while lots more have been added. That’s as it should be as part of the evolution of any sport. What applied in the 1890s or indeed the 1990s isn’t necessarily right now.

So why is the three-point goal sacrosanct? Hopefully the comments from Daly and Kelly will spark a wider debate.

A final thought. If, for some nonsensical sentimental reasons, the three-point goal remains in place, why not increase the width of the goal to 24 feet? That would drive up the strike rate and add to the gaiety of the watching nation.

Credit to Colm Bonnar for being so publicly upbeat about Tipperary’s chances next year. Most new managers fit the period-of-transition cushion and appeal for patience. Bonnar is talking a different game, one that isn’t long-fingering his ambitions.

“People think there’s going to be a transition and some of the younger players are going to have to get involved. I don’t see it that way. If I get the right mix there and get a bounce, this could happen very quickly,” he said.

He’s right. History shows that first-season managers often do very well. That applied for Liam Sheedy in 2019, albeit in his second coming, and for Michael Ryan in 2016, both of whom led Tipperary to All-Ireland titles.

First-season bounce is even more pronounced in football where, over the past 25 years, Feargal Logan/Brian Dooher, Dessie Farrell, Jim Gavin, Pat O’Shea, Jack O’Connor, Mickey Harte, Joe Kernan and John O’Mahony all presided over All-Ireland wins in their opening seasons in charge.

The only surprise about the Kerry manager’s job was that Stephen Stack and Co put themselves forward.

Why go for a job you have no chance of getting? They must have known that once Jack O’Connor quit Kildare just so soon after Tyrone beat Kerry, he was on his way back into the Kingdom seat.

Would he have left the Lilywhites if the Kerry job wasn’t in the offing? There were no signs of it in the four weeks between the Leinster final and the Kerry defeat but suddenly everything changed. Travel became a problem for him.

“A round journey of over eight hours from St Finian’s Bay to Newbridge and back takes its toll and I felt this was unsustainable for the coming season,” he said in his resignation statement.

Most people took it for granted that his return to Kerry was a certainty, which makes the intervention by Stack and Co intriguing.

They entered a race at a time when ‘winner alright’ was already echoing all around Kerry.

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