Rules of Irish Rounders

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Although the GAA claim that their version of Rounders is of “ancient Celtic origin,” most readers of Protoball will be struck by its remarkable similarity to 1860s NABBP baseball. One cannot, I think, discount the possibility that the game was brought back from America by returning expatriates; there was a substantial reverse migration during the 1860s. If not, then it is an astonishing example of parallel evolution.

Cumann Lúthchleas Gael

Playing Rules for Rounders


1. The field of play shall not be less than 70 metres long by 70 metres wide (230 x 230 ft). There shall be four bases 25 metres (82 ft) apart, and the lay of the ground shall be as shown in diagram 1.

Diagram 1

The letters stand for a - Foul Lines e - First Base b - Pitcher’s Stand f - Second Base c - Home Base g - Third Base d - Catcher’s Box h - Field Boundary d1 - Batter’s Box i - Batters’ Bench (foul ground is shaded)

A rectangular box, 4 metres by 8 metres (13 x 26 ft), shall be placed at home base, with the centre of the back line in line with the centres of home base, the pitcher’s stand and second base, and six metres away from the centre of Home base. The back corners of the catcher’s box will be each 2 metres from the centre of the back line. A line across the centre of the box will divide it into two equal squares, the section containing home base shall be called the Batter’s box, the back section will be the Catcher’s box. (See Rule 14). The side lines of the batter’s / catcher’s box and the back line will be continuations of the foul lines.

2. Home base shall consist of a square of 64 centimetres (25 in) each side. Its centre will be over the intersection of the base lines. Each of the other bases shall be a square of 64 centimetres (25 in) each side. Each of 1st, 2nd and 3rd bases shall be contained within the 25 metres square, between the diamond corners, and the base area will be the marking on the ground, not the material temporarily laid for the match.

3. There shall be a Pitcher’s stand 64 centimetres square at 12 metres (39 ft) (11 metres/36 ft for ladies and minor pitchers) from the centre of home base in the direction of and in line with 2nd base.

4. A bench (or area) shall be provided for the batting side, at a distance (to be marked) from fair ground and the Catcher’s box as allowed by the referee. a. Managers will not be allowed to coach any nearer to fair ground than allowed by the referee. b. Team managers (or Captains) must ensure that the space designated by the referee shall be kept clear of bats and other equipment.

Equipment (Bat, Ball, Gloves)

5. The bat shall be a round staff not more than 70 millimetres (2¾ in) in width and not more than 1.10 metres (43 in) or less than 70 centimetres (27½ in), in length.

6. The ball shall be a hurling ball (size 5), 98 grams to 130 grams weight (3½ - 4½ oz), and between 227 and 255 millimetres (9 - 10 in) in circumference.


a. In all official matches players must wear clean and proper attire, skirts, shirts, blouses, shorts or trousers must be worn in club (team) colours and must be worn for the duration of the match. Socks, stockings or tights must be worn and must be in club (team) colours.
b. No spikes or gloves will be permitted. The sliotar must be caught with the bare hand.
c. Fielders may wear helmets with face guards but these are not compulsory.

Teams (Field Positions and Substitutions)


a. Teams shall consist of not more than nine players each. Each captain or manager must insure that the referee has an accurate team list in the correct batting order; with the initial fielding positions recorded.
b. All batters’ names must appear, in full, on the batting order with both first names and surnames written legibly, and distinguishing middle names or other titles must be made clear where any two players have the same first and second names.
i. This must be done in advance to allow the match to start on time.
ii. No more than 12 players from the panel may play in a match. Three (3) substitutions may be made in a match, once the referee has been informed. Runners on base may be substituted. A temporary substitution may be made for a Blood Injury.
iii. No listed batter may be omitted from the batting


a. The batting team shall remain at the batters’ bench or area when not at play. Batters must not approach the batting area until called, by name, by the referee or scorekeeper.
b. The batter must then give his/her name to the referee. If a batter ignores a third call to bat, then he/she will be called out.


11. The referee will call both captains and make a toss for choice of batting/fielding, before the game commences.


a. The game, when commenced, shall continue until each side has had five innings (seven innings in All Ireland Senior Championship Semi-finals and Finals).
b. The team, which has scored the greater number of points (or runs) at the end of the game, shall be the winners. If, at the end of a knock out match, the scores are level, a toss will be made, and two additional innings will be played to decide the winner, commencing with batter number one. Substitutions may be made. If the sides are still drawn, then the team which has won more innings, shall be declared the match winners. If the innings won method fails to decide, then the match will be refixed (replayed).
c. The team last to bat shall not continue the match if and when they have scored more than the opposing team on their final batting chance.


a. The pitcher, facing home base, should present the ball to the batter. The pitcher must take no more than two steps onto the pitcher’s stand and deliver the ball under-arm (underhand) towards home base.
b. The ball must pass over home base, not lower than the batter’s knee nor higher than the batter’s shoulder. The pitcher must be in contact with the pitcher’s stand, and not in front of it, at the time the ball is released. If the ball is outside these limits it will be declared a Bad Ball. A batter may not run, and the call is against the pitcher. If the ball hits the ground, bounces, and is struck by the batter, the call is a Bad Ball.
c. On a bad ball the ball is dead and no play can take place, unless it is the third bad ball (not necessarily in succession); in which case the batter goes to first base and all runners advance one base each. A run will be scored provided a runner coming home from third base touches home base. Play on the ball ends once the referee calls the next batter. (A runner coming home and not having touched home base will then be declared out).
d. If, in the referee’s opinion, a pitcher deliberately delivers three bad balls, then the referee may allow each of the batter and runners to move two bases.
e. It is permissible for the fielding team to change the pitcher at any time, but good pitches and bad pitches will stand.
f. The pitcher is free to move from the Pitcher’s stand to play the ball. No infielder may take up a position nearer to home base than the pitching distance, until the pitch is good.


a. A batter, having taken up a position, must receive one good ball before changing to bat on the other side.
b. A batter may not stand in advance of home Base. A batter may not obstruct the catcher’s view of the pitcher (nor the pitcher’s view of the catcher) or vice versa, or the pitched ball.
c. A batter may not encroach on the catcher’s box. For the first offence a warning should be given and for a second offence the batter should be declared out.
d. Each batter shall be entitled to three good pitches before being required to leave home base.
e. The catcher may not enter the Batter’s Box nor have either foot outside the Catcher’s Box until the ball is in play.

15. The ball must be struck in a forward direction and to be in play must enter the field of play without touching foul ground, be legally played by a fielder, remain in the catcher’s box or land in the catcher’s box and travel directly over the end line. That is, a ball struck sideways and entering foul ground from the batter’s/catcher’s box will be called a foul ball and on the third good ball the batter is declared out.

16. If a batter throws or tosses a bat in a dangerous manner, then a warning will be given and, if the act is repeated, then the batter will be disqualified from the game.


a. If, on a third good ball, the batter fails to hit the ball and the catcher holds the ball before it touches the ground, then the batter is out, runners may try to advance and may be put out.
b. A batter must swing in an obvious attempt to hit the ball.


a. If a batter hits a good ball and it first touches foul ground (shaded in Diagram 1) he/she is not entitled to leave home base. The hit shall count against him/her and, if it is the third hit, then he/she shall be declared out.
b. A foul ball is a dead ball. No play can be made.


a. When a batter leaves home base each runner on a base may advance to the next and succeeding bases.
b. If the batter, having struck the ball, leaves the marked batter’s box on a first or second hit, then he/she must continue to first base and may not return to the batting position.
c. A batter is deemed to have left the batter’s box if no contact has been kept with the box by either foot or any part of the body.

20. On a third hit, a batter must vacate the batter’s box. No runs may be scored while the batter is in the box.


a. A base runner shall be declared out if a member of the fielding side, possessing the ball, touches the runner or touches the base before the runner.
b. If a base is tagged when a runner over-runs and, unless the next base is available, the runner is out; except at first base. The batter is allowed on first base unless the batter definitely tries for second base.
c. If a base is occupied then it cannot be tagged. This action does not restrict the base holder from running to the next base, provided it is untagged or unoccupied. The ball may not be thrown at a runner (or batter).
d. All bases become untagged when the pitcher steps onto the pitchers stand.


a. Base runners may not deviate between bases so as to avoid being tagged.
b. If a fielder is waiting with the ball, then he/she should try to contact a runner with only the hand, or by light touch. The runner may not claim obstruction.
c. A runner may not deviate from the straight line, but if it is possible to avoid contact by sliding under or jumping over a fielder, then the runner may do so without penalty. If contact is made in any way, even accidentally, with the fielder holding the ball, then the runner is out.
d. If the ball touches any other fielder or spectator before a fielder catches the ball, an out will not be declared.

23. A fielder may not stand on a base nor on lines between bases so as to put a runner off course, unless the fielder has the ball. The runner is entitled to occupy the base to which he/she is running. A fielder must be seen to be holding the ball firmly, at the time of the tag on a base or a runner. If the ball is dropped in the tagging motion, then the fielder has not had possession of the ball.

24. If a fielder catches a struck ball before it touches the ground, the batter is out and runners may advance. If a fielder is touching foul ground when the ball is struck the play or catch is illegal. The ball is dead and the batter is entitled to receive another good ball.


a. Batters shall bat in the order in which their names appear on the team list.
b. In subsequent innings the first batter is the one whose name follows the last batter in the preceding (immediately previous) innings.


a. Bases must be touched in legal order: 1st, 2nd, 3rd and home base. Players obliged to return must do so in reverse order to the last base they were legally entitled to occupy.
b. A player must return if an umpire or referee determines that he/she has failed to make contact with a base and, in doing so, has proceeded to the next base. The umpire at the relevant base will extend both arms vertically to indicate that the runner has missed the base.
c. The runner has a right to return to the untagged base. d. Failure of a runner to touch a base, and who is declared out, shall not affect the status of preceding or succeeding runners who touch each base in the correct order.


a. No runner shall score ahead of another preceding him/ her, if the preceding runner is not out or in danger of being put out.
b. A base cannot be occupied by more than one runner.


a. The ball is not in play until it is struck, or has passed, as a good ball, over home base.
b. If a batter strikes and does not run, then runners on base may not occupy the next base, unless it is the third good ball, or there is a catch. Runners may not leave the base until the ball is in play.
c. Umpires should extend both arms vertically to indicate that a runner has left early

W. C. Hicklin 2016