Brendan Cummins hails development of new Smart Sliotar
By John Harrington
Former Tipperary goalkeeper, Brendan Cummins, believes inter-county hurlers will be very pleased with how the new official GAA Smart Sliotar performs.
Cummins was part of the Sliotar Workgroup which devised the new ball which has a chip embedded in it.
This chip can be read by an app on a mobile phone and can be verified as being an official match-ball which ensures it has met ethical production and supply chain practices as determined by the World Federation of the Sports Goods Industry.
Cummins took part in the extensive testing to ensure the addition of a chip didn’t have a negative impact on the performance of the Smart Sliotar, and he’s satisfied he found no difference between a sliotar with a chip and one without it from the same manufacturers, O’Neills and Greenfields (PDMR).
“None,” said Cummins. “No difference whatsoever.
“Initially, when I came into it, I said I wanted to look at it with the view of a manager involved with a team, or as a player.
“Ultimately, if a player gets a ball out there and hits it and he feels ‘this thing is a disaster’, then the whole thing goes down in flames. And I feel having struck a ball and having looked at it and when we did the testing outside, there were four balls in particular that myself and a couple of other lads felt were fine.
“We didn’t know who the manufacturers of the balls were, I still don’t know who they were. But two of them were two that were passed and the chip is in them.
“And looking at the ball there, I feel it is fine. And when I came into it first, I thought I don’t want to be outside a working committee that might result in the ball going 30 yards or 50 yards or 60 yards shorter, because the players are the integral part of what we are doing.
“They will be the ones who will be using this equipment every day, so that was the view I went in with.”
The Smart Sliotar will be trialled initially in the U-20 inter-county hurling championships this year with a view to using it in all inter-county competitions from 2023.
All official GAA sliotars, both Smart Sliotars and those without a chip, will now have to satisfy the defined dimensions of the sliotar in terms of diameter, mass, rim height and width, and thickness of leather that were passed at GAA Congress 2022.
The biggest change relates to the weight of the sliotar. Previously official sliotars had to weigh between 110 and 120 grammes, but now it must weigh between 110 and 116 grammes.
It might seem counter-intuitive, but a slightly lighter sliotar will mean the ball will travel slightly less far. A slightly heavier ball travels further because it can better knock the air molecules out of its way during flight.
But even though official GAA sliotars will now be lighter, Cummins doesn’t believe there will be much of an appreciable difference in how far hurlers can strike them.
“When I hit it, it still goes beyond the 45,” he says. “I certainly don’t see a massive difference when I hit that ball – that it’s dropping on the opposition 65 rather than 45.
“You’ll all see that the spec of the ball has changed. Up until now, no-one really adhered to the spec of the ball. The process has become more transparent because any change to design of the sliotar now that we’ve modernised and brought it up to where it is in 2022 can’t happen without all the key stakeholders knowing.
“Yourselves in the media, who are dispensing the information, the players who actually hit the ball, the county secretary and the managers of each intercounty team and the supporter – everybody’s impacted and now we have a clear spec of what a ball is to look like and it’s modernised.
“And if there is a change in spec everybody needs to know about the change in spec and we’ll have another conversation. But I don’t think that will become a factor for a number of years down the road, if ever, but we have to start some place on this and the Under-20 Championship is where it’s starting.”
Cummins believes the biggest positive about the development of the new Smart Sliotar is that it ensures official match balls are ethically produced and don’t involve the use of child labour.
“That to me gave me the biggest fright of the whole thing,” he says. “It is one thing me hitting a ball 100 yards, but it is another thing me making sure that ball I am hitting is made to the standards we all have, from the way that labour is done.
“And that to me is what I was happiest with when we finished the process, that we nailed that down now.”