In hurling, Gaelic football, camogie, ladies' Gaelic football and shinty-hurling, the goalposts are placed 6.5 m (21 ft) apart and are at least 7 m (23 ft) tall, with a crossbar at a height of 2.5 m (8 ft 2 in). Playing the ball (a sliotar or Gaelic football, depending on the game) between the posts and below the crossbar scores a goal (Irish: cúl), while playing the ball between the posts and above the crossbar scores a point (cúilín). A goal is worth 3 points. The umpire signifies a goal by waving a green flag, and a point by waving a white flag. Signal flags have been used since the 1900s; one game in the United States in 1907 used a US flag to signify points, and an Irish flag (presumably the tricolour) for a goal. The tradition of green flag for goal and white flag for point appears to date from the 1920s.
In international rules football there are further posts 6.5 m (21 ft) either side of the goalposts. Playing the ball between the goalposts and these side posts scores a behind. Playing the ball between the centre posts and below the crossbar scores a goal, while playing the ball between the posts and above the crossbar scores an over. A goal is worth 6 points, an over 3, and a behind 1.
The first Gaelic football and hurling rules were published by the fledgling Gaelic Athletic Association in 1885. These specified goalposts similar to soccer goals: for football 15 ft (4.6 m) wide and a crossbar 8 ft (2.4 m) high, while for hurling they were 20 ft (6.1 m) wide and a crossbar 10 ft (3.0 m) high. Goals were the only score possible; this led to a high number of scoreless draws.
In 1886, two poles were placed 21 ft (6.4 m) either side of the goals. A goal was scored when the ball was played into the goal; a point was scored when the ball was played above the crossbar, or wide of the goals between the two outer posts. When the ball was played wide of the outer posts, no score was recorded, unless it was played by a defender, in which case a forfeit point was awarded.
Whichever team scored more goals won the game; if teams were tied on goals, points were counted, and forfeit points were worth of a point. The score was written in the format goals-points (forfeit points), e.g. Tipperary's score of 1-1 (1) in the 1887 All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship Final. Forfeit points rarely made any difference, although one game in 1887 ended North Tipperary 0-0 (1), Holycross 0-0 (0).
In 1888 the forfeit point was abolished, replaced by a 70 yd (64 m) puck in hurling and a 50 yd (46 m) kick in football. Hurling and Gaelic football goals were made the same size: 21 ft (6.4 m) by 8 ft (2.4 m).
In 1892 the goal was changed to be worth five points.
In 1896 the goal was reduced to three points, and has held that value ever since.
In 1910 the side posts were removed, and the H-shaped goalposts introduced. Now, a point had to go over the crossbar.
In the 2005 National Hurling League two points were awarded for a point scored from a sideline cut in hurling, in recognition of the difficulty of this skill (typically only about one-fifth of such efforts are successful).
An oft-repeated aphorism, especially with regard to Gaelic football, is "points win games" or "take your points and the goals will come." This has become especially true in recent decades: in the mid-1970s, games in the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship averaged 3.5 goals, but in the 2000s this had fallen to 1 goal per game. Martin Breheny observed "Improved fitness levels, more mobile defenders, and better defensive techniques have combined to seal off attackers' approach routes, making the goal an endangered species." Raising the value to 4 or even 5 points has been suggested.
A particular notation has been developed over the years by journalists and statisticians to record scoring in Gaelic games.
A team's score is given in the form goals-points, separated by either a hyphen ( - ) or en dash ( - ), for example Kerry 2-10 Cork 1-12. The total points score may be given in brackets afterward for clarity: Kerry 2-10 (16) Cork 1-12 (15). Unlike other sports, where the home team's name is given before the away team, in Gaelic games the winning team's name is almost always given first.
Scores are spoken aloud thus:
In newspaper and other written accounts of games, the score of each individual player is given in abbreviated format. First the total is given, and then it is broken down by dead ball scores.
So if a report says James Kelly 2-5 (1-1f, 1-0pen, 0-2 '45'), it means that he scored 2 goals and 5 points, of which a goal and a point were from frees, a goal from a penalty, two points from 45-metre kicks, and the other two points were from open play. If no goals are scored, the 0- will be omitted, e.g. Michael O'Shea 0-9 (5f, 1 '65', 1 s/l). If all scores were of one type, the brackets may be omitted, reading: Síle Harrington 0-5f (indicating five points, all of which were frees) or J. J. Maguire 1-0pen (one goal, a penalty) or sometimes Sarah Moore 0-4(fs).