HomeFootballHow the new two-point arc could do for Gaelic football what the...

How the new two-point arc could do for Gaelic football what the three-point line did for basketball


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WHEN the NBA insisted on teams publishing the ‘precise’ height of players a few years ago, Steph Curry took exception.

“Without shoes, I’m officially 6′2″ and three-quarters. But I don’t play basketball without shoes.”

At six-foot-two-and-three-quarters without shoes and just over 13 stone, Curry is particularly small in comparison to Hall of Famer point guards that have gone before him.

He wouldn’t have existed in the conversation if it wasn’t for the three-point line.

Introduced reluctantly in 1979 – the NBA previously thought it was gimmicky – it took a long time before teams recognised its worth.

It had been in existence for eight years before there were a total of 100 three-pointers scored in an entire league season.

If basketball stays on its current trajectory, half of the shots taken in the 2025/26 season will be three-point attempts.

When Curry won his second MVP award guiding the Golden State Warriors to a record-breaking campaign in 2016, he was averaging more than 11 three-point attempts per game on his own.

Attitudes changed and with that, so did the sport.

Yesterday, it was announced that the GAA will trial, among many other ideas, a two-point scoring zone in Gaelic football.

The plan is to draw a new arc that would replace the existing ‘D’, creating a 40-metre perimeter from goal outside which any ‘point’ kicked would be worth two.

In tandem with the increase in value for a goal from three points to four, it could – given time – have a revolutionary impact on the sport as a whole.

Gaelic football’s problem is the same problem that every sport has – coaches have worked out what carries the least risk and the greatest reward.

There is no value to be had in shooting from sidelines and corner flags and outside the 45.

Statistically, it’s a complete no-no.

The number of shots being taken in inter-county football remains around 54 per game, pretty much exactly as it was in 2012.

But shooting accuracy has climbed almost annually.

Teams were scoring 49 per cent of their shots in 2011, climbing to 55 per cent in 2018 and up to 58 per cent in 2022 before dipping to 57 per cent last season.

The percentage of frees scored has risen from 68 per cent (2011) to 82 per cent last year.

In a huge statistical analysis undertaken by Rob Carroll on behalf of the GAA, he designated the area between the ‘D’ and the end line as the scoring zone.

For the last six seasons, more than 60 per cent of shots from inside the scoring zone have been scored, compared to less than 50 per cent each year from outside.

Dublin’s great team stretched the parameters of what it would take to win All-Irelands.

They established the 20-point benchmark for big games in Croke Park and rarely fell short of it.

Out of that evolution grew players like Derry’s Ethan Doherty, in many ways football’s inverse of a Steph Curry.

The reigning Young Footballer of the Year has, even in the midst of the mess of a championship they’ve endured, remained their brightest light by a distance.

He’s a metronomic footballer, a ball-carrying machine who makes good decisions on it, creating goals. As long as you live, you’ll never see him chance one off the outside of the right from the 45′.

But what has also developed is a sport where risk is actively discouraged, because it carries no reward.

A point from 50-metres is worth the same as a point from a 21-metre free, and so naturally it has become all about working the high percentage shot.

In the drawn 2019 All-Ireland final, Diarmuid Connolly attempted a shot from right on the 45-metre line.

It was the first time in three years a Dublin player had taken a punt in open play from the 45 or beyond.

Three years earlier, the same man had famously taken a late sideline ball off Ciaran Kilkenny and tried to shoot. He missed, Mayo broke and equalised to gain a replay.

When the Dubs came out against Donegal in 2014, Connolly and Paul Flynn ran a clinic in long-range shooting. They led by 0-8 to 0-3 after 23 minutes.

Off The Ball’s Tommy Rooney yesterday dissected how the proposed new scoring arc would have affected that game.

At that point, given where Dublin had kicked their scores from, their 0-8 would have been worth 0-14.

Changes such as these could alter the entire profile of Gaelic football at the top level.

It is almost impossible to survive in the sport’s current form without pace. It is the first prerequisite.

But what this does is potentially open the door not only to a different physical profile of player, but to a different skillset that carries a different valuation.

In 1979, Steph Curry would have been virtually worthless as a point guard in a sport dominated by giants.

It was years before teams caught on but eventually, the introduction of the three-point line transformed the way basketball was played and the stature of the men it was played by.

The technical ability to shoot from range became of greater economic value than simply being a big unit that could lay the ball up.

In the book Loose Ball, former NBA coach Hubie Brown talked of having to recondition the whole defensive side of the players’ mindset as a result of the growth of three-point shots.

“You have to tell your players to remember who the shooters are, and when those guys are 25 feet from the basket, get in their jocks and guard them. Don’t give them the 25-footer, which is something players had been conditioned to do all their lives.

“And as a coach, if you have a shooter with range, you have to give him the freedom to take the 25-footer, which is a philosophy that goes against what you learned as a young coach – namely, pound the ball inside.”

Now, the conversation in basketball is around whether the balance has tipped too far the other way.

Three-pointers have become easy. Last December, Steph Curry’s run of 268 consecutive games in which he’d scored at least one three-pointer finally came to an end.

There are those that argue it has become a shooting competition, leaving the game devoid of all the other skills it once celebrated – a criticism we’ve heard of hurling in recent seasons, but one the caman code continues to survive.

There will be an inevitable resistance in Gaelic football coaching to the idea of playing against the percentages and taking a risk.

It runs against the grain of perfection that many seek.

We might have to stick with this two-point arc for a while before we see its good.

But it is good, because at some point teams will find the value of it and introduce long-range kickers into their team.

That in turn will mean defences have to push further out, which in turn creates more space inside and, hopefully, more goal chances.

A new two-point arc could truly transform Gaelic football.

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