Suit up and test yourself against GAA greats

Elite players such as Henry Shefflin and Bernard Brogan wear optical motion capture clothing

Padraig Breheny, DCU hurler and member of the Galway Hurling senior panel in a laboratory of the engineering department of Dublin City University for the launch of Re-Play

Padraig Breheny, DCU hurler and member of the Galway Hurling senior panel in a laboratory of the engineering department of Dublin City University for the launch of Re-Play

Wed, Mar 20, 2013, 16:11

Youngsters may soon be able to measure their hurling skills against legendary GAA greats such as Christy Ring through an EU-funded research project that will see motion capture technology used to "computerise" hurling and football.

Basque court games poleta and haijalai are also to be analysed in an unique collaboration that brings together scientists, sporting bodies and athletes in a project called Re-Play, to be launched on Thursday at Croke Park.

"Sport is one of the most accessible forms of cultural heritage," said Prof Noel O'Connor of Dublin City University who is leading the international €2 million project. "What we want to try to do is capture the key characteristics of our sports. We want to see whether if no one played these sports, in 100 years time could we recreate them."

Prof O'Connor is director of Clarity, the centre for sensor web technologies at DCU, and he will join with Dr Kieran Moran of the university's school of health and human performance and with Dr Marinate Linaza of the Spanish research centre ViacomTech to tackle the challenge.

The project is in two parts, Dr O'Connor explained. Elite players such as Colm Cooper, Henry Shefflin and Bernard Brogan will be amongst a group of elite GAA athletes who will suit-up in special optical motion capture clothing that allows their every movement to be computerised in 3-D. It will use blue-screen technology similar to that used in films, but also a range of sensors, accelerometers, video and up to 25 infra-red high speed cameras, with equipment costs running to €100,000.

"They are master practitioners and they represent the skills of Gaelic games," Prof O'Connor said. "We want to capture their movements and skills and make them available for future generations." Elite players of the Basque games will also be filmed and their movements computerised so they can be studied.

The players asked to participate are "national heroes" but as part of the project the researchers also want to reach "local heroes", using much less expensive technology to provide a similar service at grass-roots level, he explained. Both the elite and local player profiles would then be made available for use by coaching staff and players who want to hone their skills and play like the greats.

Prof O'Connor hopes to take this work a step further, using motion analysis software and archived video and film of past greats to see if similar playing style profiles can be developed for the likes of Christy Ring. This would allow a young player to compare their style puck for puck with a GAA legend.