OISIN DUDDY: The importance of the short puck-out

PUCK-OUTS are getting more and more important by the era in the game of hurling. And the short puck-out is the reason why the game of hurling is so thrilling.

Club and counties are starting with the short to medium puck-outs as their main way to start the attack compared to the likes of the ‘old school’ game where the goalkeeper pucks it as far as they can like the poc fada competition to get the ball up to any forward brave enough to put their hand up.

If you take a look at Eoin Murphy, he is known to be the best goalkeeper in the game, but he plays outfield for his club Glenmore. The reason why he is getting picked in the sticks for the Cats is his distribution of the ball.

It’s so important that the distribution is great because the game is so fast in hurling, the goalkeeper can puck the ball and then the opposition can get it and next minute the ball is over the bar. This is where the element of the short puck-out is being used.

Hurling is now all about possession. This is getting drilled now into the underage players, ‘if you keep the ball you are going to win’ and for the goalkeeper they are the backbone of keeping that possession from hitting short puck out.

The innovator of the possession approach was Cork’s Dónal Óg Cusack and he says in his autobiography ‘Come that May’ that “We were trying to transfer the ball from A to B with the least amount of risk rather than lamping the ball down the field where it would be contested 50-50.”

The stats show when the short puck-out is being used, there is more possession gained and more goals, points, and more chances being made. An example of this is in Limerick against Cork in the All-Ireland final where Nickie Quaid finds his full-back and then this creates space for Aaron Gillane for him to put it over the bar.

There are more chances now being made with short puck-outs than ever before.

The short puck-outs work if you look at the stats. In the Derry v Roscommon All-Ireland U-20B final, Derry went short with over 50 percent of their own puck-outs, scoring 1-3 as a direct result. And when Roscommon went for the long puck, Derry won 16 of those and scored three points as a result. The stats don’t lie – short puck-outs is the safer way to get scores.

On the training field, young hurling goalies and senior players who want to improve should be practicing their short accurate puck-outs. They should be looking online to find out how to improve their short puck-out and try and implement that to their coach which will make the club lose the ball less. They should also be looking at the likes of Limerick’s Nickie Quaid, Kilkenny’s Eoin Murphy, and Ballygunner’s Stephen O’Keeffe and see how they distribute the short puck-out as they are the top goalies in the short game.

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