GAA – Hurling and Football Advice


       Paudie Butler – National Hurling Co-ordinator


  1. Australian Football Sports Science Researchers found that it is only when an action is repeated more than 200 times that improvement from one day to the next, is really being made.
  2. For over 20 years, on an almost daily basis, DJ Carey hit the sliotar, right side and left, against the outside wall of his house. His target was 300 contacts or ( strikes ) of the ball.

    DJ Carey

  3. Henry Shefflin likes to do the same practice, aiming for 300-400 strikes on a daily basis.
  4. In an average match, 7 yards is the average sprint a player does.
  5. In a typical match, a normal player has 11 ball-contact occasions.
  6. In the 2006 All-Ireland Hurling Final, 1.9 seconds was the average time players spent with the sliotar. Kilkenny won the game. Apparently Cork had trained for a game average of 2.1 seconds.
  7. Individual practice is the key to excellence for any player, using left and right sides.
  8. Conditioned games ( ground hurling only for example ). Small-sided games, 5-a-side, are the best for developing skill across your squad.
  9. Hurling at the top level is done on the run. Training should reflect this. Players, especially forwards, should be almost constantly moving and ready for immediate action.
  10. Players are being patterned for success or failure, therefore drills and practice must be designed to allow players to achieve success. Success leads to higher motivation. Higher motivation leads to better performance and so therefore, you can see that we are building in an upward spiral.
  11. The Coach must design the drills from ‘ match situations ‘, for example catching, hooking, blocking and striking.
  12. Enjoyment is the key to the development of young players.
  13. No drill is effective beyond 5 minutes.
  14. Catching – is the biggest skill in the modern game. To practice and improve, players need a regular, trustworthy, predictable supply of ball, while constantly moving. They need to catch the ball high in their fingers, not in the palm of the hand. They need to learn handgrip and movement. 94% success is needed for the catching drills. Players need to be close together, no more than 2 hurl lengths apart. That is the learning zone. Outside that is less effective.
  15. Be in a crouched position, on your toes. Have a hurler’s posture, which means that you don’t stand upright. Hurl should always be held at a 90 degree angle, in an ‘ L ‘ shape, which means you are always prepared for action. Train the players in posture.
  16. Roll or jab lift – lift the ball. Take 4 hard steps, and then choose your next option ( hand pass, strike etc.. )
  17. Scanning and Decision making ; in any given game, 4 forwards are hard-marked, 1 or 2 are usually free. Players need to be taught to scan and make decisions. Train them in small spaces. Train them to scan, not allowing any other players to shout or call their name. They must all play in silence. Liam Dunne, Wexford hurler, said the successful 1996 team trained in this way too.
  18. Any mistakes players are making need to be eliminated gently not in a rough manner or by shouting abuse at them. Otherwise, you are wasting your own time as well as the time of your team.
  19. Don’t allow them to kill the ball on the stick before catching it. Encourage them to catch it first time. Catch it, and move . That gives a player added time.
  20. The players cannot learn the whole game ‘ at once ‘. Be prepared to teach them skills one by one. Building all the time.


Football / Hurling Advice, for training and for playing :


  1. The Down team in 2010 played to their strengths with short accurate passing, into the space, and getting players forward to support the other attacking players. This is sometimes referred to as ‘ Heads-up’ football, where very few passes are wasted. Heads-up means that you are fully aware where you are passing the ball and that the player that you are passing to has an 90% chance of safely receiving your pass.

    Dean Rock - Áth Cliath

    Dean Rock – Áth Cliath

  2. A hospital pass’ on the other hand is a pass that your own player has a 20% chance of safely receiving. Maybe he was being too tightly marked or your pass fell short of where he was.
  3. It is very important to be prepared to support the ball carrier. You may be used or you may not be. But you will often provide a decoy by distracting the other team who might feel they have to mark you.
  4. Good players will work unselfishly to offer options to their team-mates when the ball is going forward. That player will often run into an unmarked ‘space’ offering a good passing option to his team-mate.




Points to consider when scoring  :   


There can be no doubt that scoring is the most important aspect of attacking play. Why is it so difficult to put the ball between the posts ? Do we spend enough time practising that actual skill ? ? Therein lies the answer.   Here are a few very valuable pointers.

Everything you do as an individual and as a team, during a game, is a means to an end. That end is scoring.
Players should possess a wide range of techniques regardless of position.
Sufficient time and effort should be given in practice for the improvement of finishing.


Often players lack responsibility for , either they will pass to
a teammate or not shoot at all. Accepting personal responsibilities for scoring, as well as missing, is fundamental to becoming a consistent and confident point and goal scorer.

Between passing, soloing or  kicking – Kicking will bring the highest level of success in and around the final third of the pitch. You should discourage yourself from making inter-passing movements in the attacking third when a possibility arises.

It is an obvious fact that there will be more occasions when we will miss the goal or point, rather than actually score. It is estimated that only 2 out of every five shots will be converted. A very skillful side will still only convert about 60% – 70% of chances.

It is a lesser sin to shoot wide than drop the ball into the goalkeeper’s hands. A shot going wide is at least a decisive shot, whereas a shot going into the goalkeeper’s hands merely gives the opposition an opportunity to break upfield.
If going for a goal, a low shot has far more potential than a shot struck high at goal. In going for a high shot you are offering the goalkeeper a greater chance of stopping the ball. This is true of hurling and Football. Moreover, shots along the ground may be deflected by another player, or it may stick, bump or skip depending upon the playing surface.

Finally, shooting must be practised formally not just a kick-about session at the start of training . Pat Spillane, arguably one of the greatest point-scorers in Gaelic Football, practiced his point-taking for 1 hour and more, each day. Spillane maintains it was his practice that brought about his success. Matt Connor, the Offaly Supremo and one of the most skillful footballers in the last 100 years, did his practicing from the 13 and 21 metre lines.


There is little merit in players practicing point-taking from out near the halfway line if they are missing 80% of their attempts to score. They should move closer, to a distance where they are successfully converting 80-90% of their practice points. Aim over the ‘black spot’ on the cross bar. This lends itself to far greater accuracy and longterm value. Then, with increasing success, the player can gradually increase the distance from the posts. It is amazing how few coaches actually organise drills . Opposed drills are of course best, when technique and accuracy have been established. Opposed drills can also be done at say, 50%, where some chance is still given to the forward to practice. This percentage can then be increased or decreased as the situation demands.



Advice from the top Footballers and Hurlers : Taken from ‘Cúl 4 kidz’ Irish Times Supplement.


Ciaran Whelan ( Dublin Football ) – If you want to make it as a top footballer, you will have to practice kicking with both feet. It will really help your game. Always practice on your own when you can.


Eugene Cloonan ( Galway Hurler ) – I think its very important to practice on your own. If you can get out there for 20 – 30 mins everyday, you will definitely see your skills improve.


Darragh O Sé ( Kerry Footballer ) – practice kicking with both feet.


John Gardiner ( Cork hurler ) – All you need is a hurl, a ball and a wall to improve your game. GPA hurler of the year 2005.


DJ Carey ( Kilkenny ) – The basics skills of the game, primarily striking, picking up the sliotar, catching and blocking, are the most important, and you should never forget that. The Kilkenny squad practice them everytime they train. No matter how good a player you become, you can never practice those skills enough.


Eoghan O’Gara (Dublin Footballer) – It would take a bit of work for me to get my self-confidence right. I do work hard on that, as I’m not naturally the most confident person. But self-confidence is very important, especially in the Dublin camp where there are so many players at such a high standard. If you want to get picked, you have to force yourself to be confident and positive. You won’t get far unless you do. You literally have to train yourself to believe in yourself.


Oisín McConville ( Armagh Footballer ) – the most important thing is to practice the very basic skills of kicking and catching.


Conal Keaney - sár iománaí

Conal Keaney – sár iománaí

Conal Keaney ( Dublin Hurler ) – try and get out and play everyday. This is important. Even spinning the hurl with a few friends or playing against a wall for 20 – 30 mins. If you go off and train on your own, you will improve.

Seán Óg Ó hAilpín ( Cork Hurler ) – Eat well, sleep well and train well.


Babs Keating ( Tipperary Hurler and Manager ) – fitness and playing with heart are obviously important, but the skills are 80% of it.


Stephen O’Neill ( Tyrone Footballer ) – develop your skills using both feet. GPA footballer of the year 2005.


Matt Connor ( Offaly Footballer) – practice your kicking, both points and free kicks, very near to the posts until you have brought your accuracy at that distance to a very high level – only then, bring the ball out further. Repeat the same technique at the next distance.


Damien Fitzhenry ( Wexford Hurler ) – It’s all about Practise. Get a ball and find a wall and sharpen your skills on your own when you are not training.

Seanie McMahon ( Clare Hurler ) – hitting the ball on the ground is a great skill. Try to work on both left and right sides and this will help to keep the ball moving for your team.


Bryan Cullen ( Dublin Footballer ) – try to develop your weak side at a young age, as it will be a major advantage in the future. Accurate kick passing, as opposed to hand passing, is the most important skill in the game. It has the ability to open up a defence and also gain a lot more   ground faster.

Bryan Cullen - Captaen Átha Cliath 2011

Bryan Cullen – Captaen Átha Cliath 2011


Ollie Canning ( Galway Hurler ) – Ground hurling is the greatest skill in my opinion. It is the best way to keep the ball moving when you don’t have the time and space to pick it up.


Henry Shefflin ( Kilkenny Hurler ) – keeping your eye on the ball at all times during a match. This means that you are concentrating and can react quickly when things happen. Keep practising on your weaknesses and on your weaker side. Even when you’re not training, every chance you get, hit a ball against a wall at home on your own.


Eoin Brosnan ( Kerry Footballer ) – Being able to kick the ball with both feet is really important. It takes a lot of practice however, but it’s worth it in the end. Colm Cooper and Stephen O’Neill are great examples. Practise catching and kicking the ball against a wall at home. It’s great for ball control.


Mickey Harte ( Tyrone Manager ) – it’s not necessarily the amount of time spent training, but the quality of what you do when you train.


Pádraic Maher (Tipperary Hurler) – Young players in their own time should go to a Hurling wall as often as they can.


————————————    Bealtaine 2014    ——–