All white on the night... what colour should the sliotar be for hurling under floodlights?

All white on the night... what colour should the sliotar be for hurling under floodlights?
Anthony Nash pucks out the sliotar. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

HAD Donal Óg Cusack a good case when he argued last Saturday night, speaking live on RTÉ, that the GAA need to change the colour of the sliotar?

Just to recap, Cusack said the following: “The ball is the wrong colour, simple as that. It needs to be a ball that can be seen,” he said.

“It’s like tennis. Tennis used to be a white ball, and they changed the ball to make it easier for people, players, TV, to see it.

“I know Croke Park are looking at it, but it can’t come soon enough that change of ball, to give everybody that little bit of help, umpires included.”

Donal Óg Cusack. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Donal Óg Cusack. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Certainly, given that Croke Park and Semple Stadium are the only stadia with Hawk-Eye available to call whether shots like Tony Kelly’s actually did go over the bar or not, the Cloyne man’s suggestion makes a lot of sense.

Even in the summer months, seeing a white ball through clear skies might not be the easiest thing in the world, especially when we take into account how fast the ball travels.

Of course, it is an extremely rare occurrence that any player has an actual problem keeping sight of a sliothar in flight at present.

However, you can be sure that there would have been a number of instances over the years whereby some individuals have indeed lost sight of a sliotar because that person, in an instant, has been distracted by the sun or even a cloud.

Yet, Cusack’s case for switching the colour was based, more so, on tying down whether attempts at the posts are scores or not. And, the more you think about it, it is a compelling argument.

Of course, we all appreciate the GAA have trialled microchipped, luminous balls, but has the time come, as Cusack said it has, for the powers that be to push through a revised sliothar that can be used at provincial venues around the country?

In situations such as night matches, a different coloured sliotar would help umpires in tight calls. Additionally, it will be easier to pick up on TV if a ball has gone inside or outside the post if it wasn’t white.

The question is: What colour would be best to use? It sounds like such a simplistic question, but it was a pity Joanne Cantwell did not press Cusack to see if he was willing to put forward a suitable colour for the alternative ball.

I am sure the brains trust in headquarters have people on that case, people detailed to assess important changes such as the colour.

And then the following question has to be asked: How often would that alternative ball be used? Would it also be used during day-time matches and not just games under lights?

Furthermore, if the powers that be used the white ball in day-time games and an alternatively-coloured ball in matches contested at night, would that be fair on the players?

Gaelic football encounters have been played with yellow balls in the last few years and, according to inter-county, that switch hasn’t hurt.

However, if the GAA do intend to listen to Cusack, or if they had planned in time to change the colour of the ball anyway, canvassing all players beforehand will be imperative.

They should not create a separate committee entrusted with bringing this through and then have the players complain against it afterwards.

The club and inter-county GAA bodies should have their players vote on whether they want a change or not. 

And if they do want a change, the majority should rule on what colour, depending, of course, on the evidence any study on the issue carried out has been put before them so they can make an informed decision.

The way in which Dr Crokes went about their business last Saturday after Johnny Buckley was dismissed for an off-the-ball incident against Mullinalaghta was admirable.

They maintain their directness and attacked the Longford outfit relentlessly until the closing minutes when they understandably operated with the mindset of taking any remaining sting out of the tie.

Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne
Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

One of the men leading their brigade was the exceptional Fionn Fitzgerald and his post-match comments were telling as regards their laudable attitude to the difficult situation they found themselves in so early in the contest.

“We have lost a few men over the last couple of years, and whatever it is and the psychology behind it, but you lose a man and sometimes everyone lifts their game,” Fitzgerald said.

“You just go at it like your life depended on it and I think the way we played in the second half probably showed that.

“It was just one of those days, a character-building day where you roll the sleeves up and get on with it.

“It was do-or-die at that stage. We had nothing to lose. You just go at it like your life depended on it and I think the way we played in the second half probably showed that.”

As of the weekend, Buckley will miss the final on St Patrick’s Day which will help Corofin’s cause as they seek to retain their All-Ireland title.

However, Crokes will obviously appeal and the outcome of that appeal will have a major bearing on the destination of the silverware.

A full-strength Crokes against a full-strength Corofin would make for a belting decider.

And an extremely tough to call.

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