GAA Football

'Penalty shoot-outs are the best available option in the absence of replays'

Armagh's Ethan Rafferty does his best to stop Galway's penalties Picture: Philip Walsh.

SEVERAL GAA figures have backed the Association’s controversial introduction of using penalty shoot-outs to decide Championship games.

Despite Armagh’s shoot-out heartbreak against Galway in Sunday’s All-Ireland quarter-final, Tony McEntee, Gerard O’Kane and Matthew Fitzpatrick were at odds with the notion that spot-kicks were not the answer.

RTE pundit Sean Cavanagh was firmly against their use to decide games, while the two managers involved – Padraic Joyce and Kieran McGeeney described them as a “lottery”.

However, Fitzpatrick disagreed with the post-match assessments, insisting that penalties were a combination of skill and mental toughness for both player and goalkeeper.

The former Antrim footballer, turned Irish Premiership footballer said: “I agree there should be replays but a penalty shoot-out is not a lottery because you can’t be good or bad at a lottery.

“Penalties are a skill and there is mental toughness involved.”

After Sunday’s titanic struggle, Joyce blasted: “Penalty shoot-outs are for soccer.”

“I think it’s a bit snobbish that the GAA is looking down on soccer,” Fitzpatrick said, who plays for Glenavon. “It’s a skill, it’s in the game.”

Recognised outfield player Ethan Rafferty has been a revelation as Armagh’s roving goalkeeper in 2022, but Fitzpatrick feels not being entirely acclimatised to keeping goal for penalties may have gone against the Orchard men.

“I would’ve loved Armagh to win,” Fitzpatrick added.

“But I don’t know if not having a regular ‘keeper hindered them a bit [in the shoot-out] because I had to go into nets for Glenavon last season and the opposition had a penalty and I was all over the place in terms of my positioning and diving.”

Galway converted four successive penalties while Stefan Campbell and Conor Turbitt missed their spot-kicks for Armagh.

“I would have had confidence in those lads who missed penalties because both would have played soccer but there is no such thing as blame or otherwise,” said McEntee, who saw his Sligo side overcome Leitrim via penalties in a Tailteann Cup clash earlier this month.

“I do think there is value in replay situations but if the schedule doesn’t allow for it and we’re aware of that, well that’s okay. Whether we’re familiar with penalty shoot-outs or if it’s a good idea is a different question.”

Gerard O’Kane holds the unenviable record for being the first player to miss an 11-yard penalty in Championship football against Armagh back in 2010.

The former Derry defender said a penalty shoot-out is arguably the best way to settle Championship matches in the absence of replays.

“Given that the GAA made the call on the condensed season, I’ve no issue with penalty shoot-outs. If you’re not using penalties, what’s the alternative? How do you get around it if replays aren’t viable?

“I’ve seen people writing about taking ‘45s but that’s a complete non-starter because no team has five kickers. It’s the same with free-kicks.”

Meanwhile, the GAA’s CCCC will meet this evening to discuss the fall-out from Sunday’s melee between Armagh and Galway at the end of normal time.

Television footage appeared to show Tiernan Kelly – a non-playing member of the Armagh squad – gouging Galway forward Damien Comer.

Galway’s incensed captain Sean Kelly was seen confronting Kelly immediately after the incident – a player who was on the receiving end of an alleged eye-gouge himself from Derry’s Gareth McKinless at Owenbeg earlier this year.

McKinless served a one-match ban for the indiscretion. Before extra-time commenced, Kelly was sent off for his alleged part in the melee alongside Armagh's Aidan Nugent.

Former Armagh footballer John McEntee yesterday tweeted: ‘Eye gouging should never happen and cannot be condoned with ‘buts’ or misdirection... Galway deserved the win, just.’

On Twitter, former Armagh goalkeeper Patrick Morrison drew attention to the perceived hypocrisy of social media outlets calling out the “violent scenes” and then proceeding to show the incidents from every conceivable angle.

‘I love the ‘We don’t want to see this in our games...’ attitude that contradicts itself with the “...BUT let’s look at it from this angle and that angle, here it is in slow motion.’

Morrison added: ‘Croke Park can organise who goes out first but for some reason cannot organise who goes in first.’

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