Hurling hand-pass and puck-out rule trials set to begin:

By John Harrington

The GAA’s Standing Committee on Playing Rules (SCPR) will next week commence trialling two alternative playing rules in the Higher Education Freshers 1 Hurling League.

The rules being trialled relate to the hand-pass and the puck-out.

When hand-passing, players will now have three options. They can strike the sliotar with a) the non-holding hand or b) with the original holding hand after bouncing the ball off the hurl, or c) with the original non-holding hand after bouncing the ball off the hurl.

You can view examples of these two types of hand-pass in the video at the top of this article and in the below graphic.

The rule is being trialled because the frequency of hand-passing in hurling has risen markedly in recent years and there have been concerns over the frequency with which the ball is being thrown rather than correctly hand-passed.

In the 2023 Allianz Hurling League there were on average 104 hand-passes per game compared to 76 during the 2016 League and Championship season.

It can be difficult for referees to ascertain whether a hand-pass has been executed correctly or thrown, and the idea behind the rule being trialled is that the striking action required to hand-pass the ball will be much clearer, with greater separation between hand and sliotar.

The second hurling rule being trialled will require all puck-outs to travel past a team’s own ’45 metre line, that is the the ’45 nearest the goalkeeper taking the puck-out. The rule is illustrated in the below graphic.

A statistical analysis of the 2023 Allianz Hurling League revealed that 31% of puck-outs were hit to a team-mate inside the defensive ’45, which was more than double the 14% of puck-outs that were struck short in the 2016 League and Championship season.

The number of uncontested puck-outs has also sharply increased. Back in 2018, 36% of puck-outs were uncontested, whereas 49% of puck-outs were uncontested in the 2023 Allianz Hurling League.

The idea behind trialling a rule requiring goalkeepers to hit their puck-outs beyond their own ’45 is that it will result in more contests for possession, which for many supporters is one of the most exciting aspects of hurling.

Educational resources including video and graphics of the trial playing rules have been sent to all competing Higher Education Freshers 1 Hurling League teams, and the SCPR also hosted a webinar with those stakeholders last Tuesday.

The SCPR has also circulated a pre-competition survey to third level coaches, development officers, and referees which enabled them to submit any questions they might have about the trialled playing rules before the competition starts.

Once the competition commences, a post-game survey will allow those same stakeholders to submit their feedback, comments, and suggestions about the implementation of the rules and any additional considerations about the rules the SCPR might want to take into account.

Gaelic Stats will undertake a comprehensive analysis of the trialled rules, and a report will then be produced in December for presentation to Central Council in January 2024.