At half-time next Sunday, one of the coaches will be able to say with some justification that, “we are playing into the scoring goal in the second half”. That said, the scoring goal is not likely to be the crucial factor for the captain that wins the coin toss. In gaelic games, winning the coin toss means getting to decide what direction to play. It has no bearing on possession as there is a battle for possession at the start of each half. There is no option to follow a New England Patriots strategy of receiving the ball at the start of the second half. Nor is there a decision to be made about getting the kick-off versus deciding what direction to play. Winning the coin toss gives the winner a choice about what direction to play in the first half (knowing that you will be playing the other direction in the second half).
So, where is the scoring goal in Croke Park? Is it at the Davin Stand end of the ground or at the Hill-16 end of the ground? In an attempt to answer these questions, I have used the GAA Archives of All-Ireland Senior Hurling finals (available here). These short highlights allow me to determine the direction teams played and the score at both half-time and full-time. I have used the hurling finals since 1976.
The All-Ireland hurling finals have been of 70-minute duration (plus added time for unnatural stoppages) during the period. This 70 minutes is made up of two 35-minute halves. There have been 43 finals and three replays during this period. The 1984 final was played in Thurles and the remainder were played in Croke Park.
There was 1,873 points scored in the 45 All-Ireland Senior Hurling finals held in Croke Park between 1976 and 2018. This comprised 149 3-pointers (goals) and 1,426 1-pointers. The scores are split almost exactly between the Hill-16 end and the Canal end. There is only one score (goal) between the scores into either end. No evidence of a scoring goal for the full period.
However, there is a marked difference between the start of the period and end of the period. In the early years, a greater proportion of the scoring occurred at the Hill-16 end of the ground. In the latter years, the scoring goal has been at the Davin Stand end. Between 1976 and 1997, 53.19% of the scores were into the Hill-16 end. Between 2003 and 2018, only 45.88% of the score have been into the Hill-16 end. A sizable enough difference.
On Sunday, the team playing into the Davin Stand end for the second half will probably be playing into the scoring goal.