Does the GAA need to address the steps rule in hurling?

If you attend any hurling game across the country you will hear cries from supporters, players and management to the referee about the amount of steps taken by an opposition player.

While at a game it is enjoyable to further antagonise the person beside you crying out “steps” by replying to them saying “great band”

Rule 1.7 states that:

When a player is in possession of the ball it may be:

(a) Carried in the hand for a maximum of four consecutive steps or held in the hand for no longer than the time needed to take four steps.

But are referees paying enough attention to this rule?

We analysed the interpretation of the steps rule over one game from the 2018 hurling championship. We looked at Limerick and Tipperary in the Munster Championship.

We analysed each possession and broke down how many times a player over carried the sliotar during the game.

Over carrying while a player was fouled or had advantage was not included. James McGrath from Westmeath was the referee for the encounter.


  • On 49 occasions the ball was over carried in this game.


  • Only one free was awarded during the course of the game for over carrying the sliotar. The offending player taking 6 steps with the ball.



Breakdown of number over carries

proper steps table

On 34 occasions in the game a player took 5 or 6 steps which went unpunished. It is was very noticeable during game how players got frustrated while tackling their opponent and knowing their opposing player had fouled the ball and had taken more than 4 steps.

On 15 occasions during the game a player took between 7 and 11 steps without being punished for over carrying with the ball.

In the game a player was penalised once for taking 6 steps,  yet 6 steps or more were taken on another 37 occasions and it was not punished.

Referee’s are under pressure to let the games flow but there needs to be clarity with the rule and what way they are interpreting the rule.

Does anybody have a solution?

From the analysis it may be that the GAA may need to change the number of steps allowed to 6.

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