2019 All Ireland Review

September 12, 2019

The preview of this game is referenced throughout the below and can be found here

Overview

• Kerry won the possession battle – but mainly through regaining shots rather than kickouts or turnovers
• They also had more shots than Dublin
• On raw volume Kerry had five shots at goal only returning 1 – 01. Dublin had one and returned 1 – 00. But Kerry had a propensity to foul O’Callaghan to stop the attempts at goal whilst O’Shea popped over 0 – 02 from subsequent 45s
• Dublin were brilliant on the use of kickouts scoring 1 – 10 from 25

Dublin attack

(disc = score, X = miss; yellow = deadball, red = attempt at goal, black = point attempt 1st half, white = point attempt 2nd half)

This is not Jim Gavin’s template. In the four games used within the preview Dublin produced a 62% Conversion Rate on point attempts with 54% coming from “outside”. Here they were 47% (0 – 09 from 19) with 63% (12 of 19) coming from “outside”. Neither are horrendous but when compared to their previous outputs it does look like Kerry knocked them out of their stride. I say Kerry but quite a lot of the poor Conversion Rate was execution. Of their 12 shots “outside” I tagged eight as being taken under little or no pressure. From those eight Dublin managed just 0 – 01

Part of the reason for the “inside”/”outside” split was Kerry’s propensity to foul. They gave Dublin eight shots at goal from frees with six being very central – including four on O’Callaghan (nicely rotated by Kerry – one each for Foley, Barry, Murphy & O’Sullivan). These inside frees are also directly relatable to the fact that Dublin only had one shot at goal. Less shots at goal because Kerry were intent to foul O’Callaghan. More fouls equate to less mayhem (rebounds, pulling up for easy point attempts inside the 20m line) which affects the inside/outside ratio.

On those goal attempts, Kerry only allowing one (frees on O’Callaghan aside) was an exceptional defensive effort. From 2018 (the Super8 games onwards) Dublin have averaged five attempts a game (6, 1, 8, 2, 3, 8, 5 and 7 before the drawn game). Even if we include the O’Callaghan attempt that was pulled back for a free (as an aside this isn’t recorded in the database as the end result of the possession was a shot at goal from a free …) that means that Kerry allowed a shot at goal once every 21 possessions. Dublin had been producing a goal attempt once every 8.5 possessions in the run up to the final. And this would appear to be repeatable as after the Munster final Kerry had allowed only eight shots at goal – or one every 23 possessions!

At a player level Kerry were excellent at nailing down Dublin’s Big3 (O’Callaghan, Mannion & Kilkenny). In the run up to the final they were accounting for 49% of Dublin’s point attempts with an incredible Conversion Rate of 71%. Here they combined for just 0 – 03 off five points. You cannot say that these three were peripheral as they combined for 11 primary assists but Kerry did lock down their shooting. One man who was, in an attacking output sense, peripheral was Scully. He didn’t pull the trigger whilst on the pitch and his only primary assist was the final pass for McCaffrey’s goal.

And yet for all this the strength of Dublin’s panel flowed through with Rock & McCaffrey combining for 1- 06 from 9 shots.

Rock’s numbers were gaudy. Scoring 0 – 10 in an All Ireland is a phenomenal achievement. But we must overlay a little context here. 0 – 07 came from nine deadballs with 0 – 06 coming from readily scoreable positions. He got everything, deadball wise, he was expected to and missed two of his three hard ones; – out wide right with his right and the last kick from on the sideline.

Kerry’s attack

Kerry had two more shots than Dublin (31 to 29). This quite simple statement is not to be taken lightly. Only Mayo, in the 2015 semi final and 2017 Final, had achieved this in the 20 late stage games (QF/Super 8s onwards) in Dublin’s drive for 5.

They were very similar to Dublin on point attempts with 19 in total and 58% (11 of 19) “outside”. Dublin were 0 – 03 from 12 on their outside shooting; Kerry 0 – 04 from 11. Dublin got 0 – 06 on their seven “inside” shooting with Kerry producing a relatively poor 0 – 04 from 8.

(disc = score, X = miss; yellow = deadball, red = attempt at goal, black = point attempt 1st half, white = point attempt 2nd half)

Dublin will look to up their “Outside” returns but Kerry equally have room to improve on the easier “Inside” attempts. Whether they will is another matter – their “inside” shooting has been consistently poor all year; in the four games from the Super8 to the semi final they were 59%. I cannot give a concrete reason as to why Kerry have been so consistently poor “inside”. But it is definitely a thing.

The big divergence on how the teams performed, and executed, was on goal attempts. It is a crude (but effective) read through that Kerry restricted Dublin here by fouling O’Callaghan. So their attempts are somewhat supressed in the raw numbers. Still Kerry produced a very impressive five shots at goal but only returned 1 – 01. Given one of these attempts was a penalty – which are converted at a rate > 80%, the expected return is somewhere in the region of 2 – 01.

In the run up to the final Kerry’s Big3 (Clifford, Geaney & O’Brien) had combined for 51% of their attempts from play with an excellent Conversion Rate of 69%. Here they were again to the fore with 48% (11 of 23) of all of Kerry’s shots from play but their radar was well off scoring just 0 – 03 from those 11 shots. And one of those points was an attempt at goal that went over. Given the shots attempted Kerry left 1 – 00/0 – 03 behind them from these three alone.

Luckily (though in truth luck has little to do with it) for Kerry the rest of the team stood up scoring 1 – 06 from 12 attempts (58%; Expt Pts of +2.19). This was in line with what we had seen in the run up – 52% & +4.0 Expt Pts – and should give Kerry confidence that they can keep the scoreboard ticking over

Aside from the raw numbers perhaps the most impressive element was that these “secondary” shooters attempted Kerry’s final six shots producing 1- 04 from the 55th minute onwards. When the pressure was on the shooters outside the Big3 stood up.

Another man who stood up was Séan O’Shea. Whilst Rock had the headline figure of 0 – 10 his deadballs were, as noted above, average. O’Shea converted all seven of his deadballs including three 45s. We are more certain on the Expt Pts for deadballs than from play and O’Shea returned 0 – 02 more from his seven attempts than the average free taker would score. And that is without overlaying the situational position he found himself in “needing” to keep the scoreboard ticking over just to keep Kerry within range.

Kickouts

Despite the fact that the possession regains were relatively even, at 25 v 23, Dublin are still the Kings of the restart. Getting their hands on the ball is only part of their strength – what they do with these restarts is their real weapon. Here they scored 1 – 10 from the 25 kickouts won, or 0.52 points per possession (ppp). Kerry scored 0 – 08 or 0.35ppp

(slight change in language here. Normally we use the phrase “won” the kickout but we’re using “possession regain” instead as won indicates a positive intervention from the keeper or outfield players. Sometimes teams just get lucky when they “win” a kickout)

In the preview it was predicted that kickouts out past the 45 would break even. And so it was with both teams getting their hands on 12 apiece (Dublin won 8 of their 13 that went past the 45; Kerry were 7 of 11 on theirs). The fear for Kerry was their short ones. They had lost seven in the run up to the final and Dublin were primed to pounce getting their hands on 7% of the opposition’s short ones and scoring off each one.

Kerry did give up two short ones. And Dublin did score off both. But both had gone over the sideline and whilst the two quick points hurt it was not calamitous.

Cluxton gave up his first short one of the year. Tommy Walsh intercepted one out to Cluxton’s left and whilst he composed himself to take a shot off same it was a poor effort. If Dublin give you an easy one, whether it is the 1st minute or the 71st, you have to take it.

(disc = kickout team won, X = kickout team lost; black = 1st half, white = 2nd half)

Looking at the kickout chart Ryan did not shirk from the difficult ones … but those “mid mid” kickouts just around the 45 are lethal. Kerry won all four but you have to imagine that Dublin will be looking to pounce on these come the replay. Compare where those four are compared to where Cluxton puts them when he goes past the 45

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All Ireland preview; – 3 key areas (Examiner)

September 12, 2019

The below article was originally published in the Irish Examiner on August 31st (the day before the game)

Dublin’s Goal threat

From 2015 – 2018 teams have had a shot at goal once every 18.5 possessions. Dublin have averaged 13.5 in the same timeframe including once every 11.6 possessions in both the 2017 and 2018 campaigns.
In their three competitive games (ignoring the reserve’s run out up in Omagh) this year, from the Super8s onwards, they have recorded 20 goal attempts; 8 vs Cork, 5 vs Roscommon and 7 vs Mayo. That equates to one goal attempt every 8.2 possessions.

That big a jump in one year represents a clear change in strategy.

The catalyst for this change? Con O’Callaghan. He has been directly involved in 60% of these goal chances (6x shots and another 6 assists in the build-up). Not unconnected is the fact that Dublin have earned 0 – 06 from Rock frees after O’Callaghan was fouled. His ability to hold the ball up also enables Dublin’s marauding midfield duo to join the fray. Fenton & MacAuley have combined for 4 – 01 from five attempts.

Can Kerry contain this goal threat? They will have to. First impressions matter and our first Championship glimpse of this Peter Keane led Kerry team was that of Cork ripping the back line asunder for goal chance after goal chance in the Munster final.

There is hope, however. In the four games since then Kerry have allowed just nine shots at goal – or one every 23 possessions. That is immensely frugal and counter to the general view held of this Kerry backline.

If Dublin get their seven shots at goal, then Kerry will concede in the region of 3 – 02. If the Kerry defence can maintain their current form, they will allow two shots at goal conceding 1 – 00/0 – 02.
Incredibly small differentials – but it is in these margins that All Ireland finals are won.

The Big3

Both teams have a Big3 up front. For Dublin they are O’Callaghan, Mannion & Kilkenny. Kerry’s are Geaney, Clifford & O’Brien. Both sets are producing incredibly accurate displays – whichever trio prevails on Sunday will go a long way to deciding the outcome.

In the aforementioned three games Dublin’s Big3 have accounted for 45% (33 of 74) of all their attempts from play combining for an exceptional Conversion Rate of 70% (3 – 20 from the 33 shots). The average intercounty Conversion Rate for shots from play is 48%.

A quick word on Mannion. Over the years Dublin have had an obvious target of moving their shots in closer to goal. Every Dublin player’s shot map will be much tighter in 2019 when compared to 2016. Except for Mannion. He is their designated “outside” shooter (if such a thing exists). And he is fulfilling that role to perfection. In the three games under review he is 81% (0 – 09 from 11) on point attempts and 0 – 05 from 6 on the wider, longer attempts. If Kerry do drop to protect the goal, they cannot allow Mannion to pick them off from long range.

What of Kerry’s Big3? They are even more central to Kerry’s game plan being responsible for 51% (49 of 97) of Kerry’s attempts from play. This despite Clifford missing the Meath game and O’Brien running into black card trouble. Combined they are running at a barely creditable 76% (3 – 34 from 49).

The fear from a Kerry perspective is just how reliant they are on these three. If Dublin shut them down the back up is O’Shea, the two Spillanes, Moran, Murphy, Tom O’Sullivan. All capable but not “shooters” of the quality to replace the output of the Big3. The rest of the panel have produced a Conversion Rate of 50%. Dublin’s Conversion Rate outside the Big3 is 61%.

Kickouts

It is impossible to preview a big game without considering primary possession. And thus kickouts. Kickouts account for 52.7% of all possessions. To win the game you must have the ball. To have enough ball you must get your hands on kickouts.

There has been quite a bit of commentary on Dublin’s high press and the pressure it applies to the opposition’s goalkeepers. And it absolutely does. But in terms of kickouts retained the raw numbers have Dublin winning 31% of the opposition’s kickouts and 43% of those that travelled past the 45. Kerry have also won 43% of the opposition’s kickouts that travelled past the 45. So, whilst the Dublin press is exceptional it hasn’t produced the volume of raw possessions, in direct comparison to Kerry’s returns, that might be expected.

Dublin do have a distinct advantage in one area; short kickouts. Dublin have not lost possession off a Cluxton short one this year. In big games since 2017 (QF onwards) Cluxton has coughed up just 3 out of 162 short kickouts. Yes, teams drop off. And yes, Dublin possess a wonderful group of ball handlers at the back. But Dublin also have Cluxton. He always has been, and continues to be, the master of the quick restart. And, crucially, he doesn’t overcommit. There are no absolutes, but the numbers suggest he has learned not to press the short one.

Contrast that with Ryan. He is still on a steep learning curve in his maiden campaign. Kerry have gone short 60% of the time but have lost possession seven times. That includes three in one vs Donegal. Dublin have gotten their hands on three of the opposition’s short ones scoring off each (1 – 02). Ryan will come under immense pressure on Sunday. The default, when the pressure comes, must be long.

2019 All Ireland Preview

August 28, 2019

As in previous years we will do a preview of this year’s All Ireland final by reviewing previous games within the year.

The methodology is roughly the same. We have four competitive games for Kerry under Peter Keane – the three Super8 games against Mayo, Donegal and Meath plus the semi-final against Tyrone. We have a lot more for this Dublin team but so as to ensure like for like comparisons I have used Dublin’s semi-final against Mayo, the two competitive Super8 games against Cork and Roscommon (no sniggering down the back) and I have replaced the run out for the reserves up in Omagh with their Leinster semi-final v Kildare (see NOTE1).

When team or player numbers are referenced, they will relate to these eight games unless specifically stated otherwise.

The commentary has a “this is what Dublin do – how do Kerry measure up/defeat them” slant to it. This is the nature of the beast when you are going for 5 in a row.

Possession – the unseen edge

I reference “the unseen edge” above because in the previous four Championship campaigns every three possessions you gather is worth 0 – 01 on the scoreboard (teams scored 0.37 points per possession (ppp)).

In their four games under scrutiny Dublin managed to get their hands on the ball 27 times more often than their direct opponents. The differences ranged from 3 more possessions against Cork (in a game with 81 total possessions) to 11 more against Roscommon (in a game with 91 possessions). If they maintain this in the final it is akin to starting 0 – 02 up.

The makeup of their possessions is interesting. Given their dominant nature (NOTE2) in these games Dublin have had 20 less possessions directly from their own kickout despite having a much higher retention rate; Dublin have retained 81.5% of all their kickouts whilst the opposition retained 70.5%.

How have they made up the deficit then if they are starting from -20 on their own kickout? One area is the aforementioned retention rates on kickouts – Dublin have gotten their hands on 36 opposition kickouts whilst only giving up 15 of their own. Thus, on kickouts in their entirety Dublin are one possession up. We’ll go onto the details later but here is where the mere fact of counting can set you wrong. Yes, their opponents have essentially broken even on kickouts against them – which is surprising given Dublin’s perceived dominance. But it is the type and ratio of kickout that is won/lost that is of vital importance.

The remainder of Dublin’s possession edge is gained on turnovers (+22) and Other (NOTE3) (+4). Dublin’s turnover differential is nearly all achieved inside their own 45. On turnovers outside their own 45, which would be deemed as the most dangerous as the opposition is caught in an attacking mindset, they are only +2 (gained 20 turnovers outside their own 45 but gave up 18 such turnovers to the opposition).

It is somewhat surprising that they gave up the ball 18 times outside the opposition’s 45. Digging a bit deeper Mayo did the damage getting their hands on such ball ten times. The other eight were split evenly (Kildare x3, Cork x3 & Roscommon x2); so, it appears to be just small sample size noise.

What of Kerry?

Unlike Dublin their games have been closer which means that they have, proportionally, taken more of the kickouts (45% in total; Dublin have taken 40%). On the surface this should help Kerry in the possession battle. But Kerry have not been as clinical in their execution either on their own kickout (Retention Rate of 77%) or the oppositions (opposing teams have retained 80%). This in turn means that whilst Dublin came out with a possession total of +1 from all kickouts Kerry come out with a -20.

The good news is that they were aligned with Dublin in pure turnover terms (+19; 89 turnovers won in the four games v 70 conceded) however were slightly ahead of Dublin in where those turnovers were won. 28 were won outside their own 45 with 19 such turnovers conceded.

Revisiting that small sample size noise from the Dublin numbers. What if Mayo’s press identified a small chink? Mayo claimed ten (five of which occurred in the first half when the game was there to be won) turnovers outside their own 45. Kerry, with the oft quoted Donie Buckley link, are not only good here but have obviously worked on what they do when they win such ball. Of the 28 turnovers up the pitch they have produced 21 shots and scored 2 – 13. Of the 21 shots 14 had six or less player touches … they look to strike hard and fast off the turnover.

But for all their good work on turnovers that kickout number of -20 is very concerning. Especially when you consider that they will be up against (a) the best kickout press in the game and (b) the team with historically the best kickout in the game. More of that anon.

When Dublin have the ball

Once Dublin get their hands on the ball what do they do with it? The simple answer is they score. The 10-84 they amassed in the four games equates to 0.58ppp. As stated previously the average for games from 2015 – 2018 was 0.37ppp (NOTE4). And the scary thing is that they are actually getting better.

Last year’s preview touched on a lot of the themes as to how Dublin had increased their Conversion Rate. It is worth re-reading now as a lot of the principles still hold through.

Goals

Dublin are the goal Kings. From 2015 – 2018 inclusive (non-Dublin) teams went for goal every 17.8 possessions. As the above table shows Dublin have, apart from the blip in 2016, gone for goal at a much more frequent clip. But they have been relatively consistent on this going for goal every c11.5 possessions. In 2019 they have obliterated this mark going for goal once every c8.2 possessions. That is a huge change in emphasis.

It is worth noting that they have not been more efficient when going for goals (NOTE5). But they don’t need to be. They are coming away with 1.50 points per goal attempt which is better than can be achieved than going for points. Con O’Callaghan has been the catalyst here with six shots himself but also being directly involved (NOTE6) in the build up to another seven attempts (3x primary assists & 4x secondary assists).

You want to stop Dublin going for goals – nail down O’Callaghan. That’s not to say he’s the only threat. The two midfielders (Fenton & MacAuley) have combined for another six attempts getting a score from each attempt (4 – 02). Only Mannion, of the main strikers, has not been productive scoring 0 – 01 from his three attempts.

To increase your points per possessions you don’t necessarily need to get better at any one thing – if you tweak the ratios to go for the more productive shot more often then you’ll increase your returns.

Point attempts from play

That tweaking of shot types, to eke out more efficiency, leads us to Dublin’s point taking. The below shot chart is taken from 2016 and contains Dublin’s point attempts for the four games from the QF onwards

Every team will have a different shooting zone (as an example I used a completely different zone when previewing last year’s final). For illustrative purposes I use the red dotted line to denote “inside” and “outside”. I’m sure internally Dublin’s is different, but we can work with this. In 2016
• Dublin had an overall Conversion Rate of 45%
• 21% of all their point attempts came from “inside”
• They produced a 76% Conversion Rate “inside” and 37% “outside”

Now let us look at the same chart for 2019

Even visually you can see the change – the “inside” is so much more populated. There are no shots inside the 20m line from out wide. But to put some comparative meat on the bone
• Dublin now have a 62% Conversion Rate
• 46% of all their point attempts were from “inside”
• They have recorded a 74% Conversion Rate “inside” and 52% “outside”

Want to improve your points per possession? Go for goals, which are more productive per shot, more often whilst maintaining the Conversion Rate. Move more point attempts “inside”, again maintaining the consistency whilst also improving your “outside” shooting.

Kerry have their big three in Geaney, Clifford & O’Brien. For Dublin this year it has been Mannion, O’Callaghan & Kilkenny. Between them they have taken 49% of their point attempts with a whopping combined Conversion Rate of 71% (0 – 30 from 42; Expt Pts of +10.15). That is amazing consistency.

Con O’Callaghan again shows up well on the point taking tables with a 70% Conversion Rate (0 – 07 from 10; Expt Pts +1.82) and 11 primary assists. Combined with his involvement with the goals and he has become a central cog in what Dublin do.

But Paul Mannion has topped him in terms of accuracy with a Conversion Rate of 76% off a whopping 21 point attempts. That despite him being Dublin’s ostensible outside shooter.

Elsewhere Niall Scully has been the assist machine being directly involved in the build up to 25 point attempts and six goal attempts

Deadballs

And just to top it all off introduce a red hot Dean Rock during the Super8s. He is 95% (0-20 from 21) on deadballs with his only miss being deep in injury time against Mayo out wide left just to kill the clock.

On Rock. In the lead up (QFs, Super8 & SFs) to the AI final in the last three years he has been imperious recording a 92% conversion rate (0 – 36 from 39) on frees with an Expt Pts tally of +4.81. He has dropped off in the finals however returning just a 73% Conversion Rate with an Expt Pt of -0.20.

He is the best free taker bar none. He has shown his metal in 2017 when slotting the winning point deep into injury time. But he is human and has shown it previously when we enter the finals.

What of the Kerry defence?

Have we seen anything from Kerry to show that they can disrupt this process?

In the four games under scrutiny they have only allowed eight shots at goal including two penalties. That is an excellently frugal one attempt every c23 opposition possessions. If Kerry can keep Dublin to their pre 2019 standards of 1 goal attempt per every 11.5 possessions that should see Dublin at 4 shots at goal (assuming a c90 possession game). Meet somewhere in the middle of the 8.2 attempts from Dublin and 23.2 allowed by Kerry and you are at three attempts. Using Dublin’s conversation rates 3 attempts comes in at 1 – 01; four attempts and you are at 2 – 00. Any more than that and Kerry are staring down the barrel of a defeat.

Dublin have attempted 23 point attempts from frees or one every 8.6 possessions. Kerry have allowed the opposition to take 24 shots, or one every 7.7 possessions, at goal from frees. These 24 included three from outside the 45 (2x M Murphy, 1x C O’Connor). Whilst Rock is capable of slotting these over he knows his range and generally doesn’t take them from out there. Removing these three longer ones reduces the rate to one every 8.8.

All other things being equal you want to avoid giving Dublin, and Rock these easy points. Foley, Murphy & Crowley will need to be cognoscente of their tackling as they have given away four shots at goal, from fouling, apiece. On top of that O’Callaghan is the most fouled player for Dublin (he’s won 6 shots at goal from frees – the next best is 2).

Stop Dublin going for goal. Especially O’Callaghan. But don’t foul him. No problem!

That leaves us with Kerry defending point attempts. At a macro level this has been very poor this year. Opponents have converted 66% (0 – 45 from 68) of all point attempts from play scoring in excess of 0 – 11 more than what those 68 shots would be expected to record.

However, when we look at the shot graph for these 68 point attempts what is striking is just how good teams have been from “outside”. Between them Kerry’s four opponents have combined for a whopping 62% (0 – 24 from 39) Conversion Rate “outside” which, for context, is miles ahead of Dublin’s 52%. And I can find no good reason for it other than Kerry have been on the wrong end of some excellent shooting. Will this continue in the final? Anything is possible in a one-off game against Dublin. But what it does indicate is that the Kerry defence has not been as poor – or porous – as the final scoreboard(s) indicate.

You can begin to see the bones of an argument as to why Kerry’s defence can hold Dublin. Restrict Dublin to four goal attempts (Dublin have averaged six, Kerry have given up two) with them scoring 2 – 00. A point attempt from a free every 8/9 possessions should yield Dublin 0 – 04 to 0 – 05. Give them the “inside”/”outside” ratio that they have enjoyed to date but restrict them to 19 shots (Dublin have averaged 21.5; Kerry have allowed a lower). That equates to 0 – 11 from play. You are now at 2 – 15 … possibly 1 – 16. And assuming your attack shows up you are in the game for 80 minutes.

When Kerry have the ball

So what of Kerry? Whilst not as stellar as Dublin their attacking returns have been very positive

If we assume 50 possessions each then just using the baseline metrics above Dublin come away with 24.4 scores (50*83%*84%*70%) whilst Kerry come away with 21.9 (50*83%*80%*66%). Using the points per possession its Dublin 29 points and Kerry 25 points. That’s not to say that this is how the game will end (that calculation is as rough as a badger’s a*se) but it does show that the Kerry forward line are not a million miles behind perhaps the most accurate front line of all time.

Their goal attempts – perhaps surprising given an inside line that consists of Geaney and Clifford with O’Brien on the burst from the half forward line – has been an issue, however. Not so much the execution but the volume. They have only managed nine attempts at goal over the four games which contrasts starkly with Dublin’s 24. Again, their Conversion Rate is very good (56% Conversion Rate and 1.89 points per attempt) but the volume just isn’t there. Playing it safe when in front of goal? You feel this is something that Kerry will have to up in the final. Either they have to take the two chances they get, or they have to go for goal more often and come away with 2 – 00 from four attempts rather than 1 – 01 from two goal attempts and two point attempts.

Whilst not quite in the Dean Rock mould Séan O’Shea has been very good on deadballs returning 83% (0 – 20 from 24) and scoring about 1.5points above what would be expected from his attempts. Very solid. Just like Rock he will have to prove he can do it in the white heat of an All-Ireland final.

Kerry’s point taking has been a smidgen off Dublin’s with a combined 59% (0 – 52 from 88). That is still excellent returning about 8.5 points above what was expected. But that could be even better if they were more careful on their “inside” shooting.

They’re “outside” shooting at 56% (0 – 29 from 52) is better than Dublin’s – which, as we have noted, has taken a huge leap from where they were at in 2016. It is their “inside” shooting at 59% (0 – 23 from 39) that is hurting them. It is almost as if the mind wanders when they get inside thinking the job is down. They have the outside shooting to compete with Dublin – they need to pop those easier points or alternatively turn some of those closer in shots to less secure goal attempts.

Kerry’s big three (Geaney, Clifford & Stephen O’Brien) returns are eerily similar to Dublin’s big3 attempting 49% of all of their point attempts for a combined Conversion Rate of 70% (0 – 30 from 43; Expt Pts +9.01).

Like Mannion O’Brien has been on fire with a 90% Conversion Rate (0 – 09 from 10 Expt Pts of +3.62) whilst he has been very high up on the assist chart with 16 primary assists (1x goal attempt, 9x point attempt and 6 frees won).

Dublin’s defence

Dublin have only allowed nine goal attempts in the four games tightening as they’ve gone along (3 v Kildare and Cork, 2 v Roscommon and 1 v Mayo). Stephen Cluxton has again shown just how good he is by producing five saves from those nine shots with the only ones getting past him being an outrageous piece of skill from Lee Keegan and a penalty from Luke Connolly.

Dublin have only coughed up 13 shots from frees (John Small x3, MD MacAuley, B Fenton, C O’Sullivan with two apiece) in the four games which equates to one every 13.1 possessions.

On point attempts they have allowed more or less what is expected; 20 per game with a 51% Conversion Rate allowing an Expt Pts of +0.94

All very simple and concise compared to the in-depth detail above. But only because Dublin, like on offence, do the basics very, very well. Don’t offer up the goal attempts. When tackling do so properly – or at least if you need to foul don’t do so inside the scoring zone. Only give up what is expected from point attempts.

For Kerry’s attack let us assume things stay as they are. The Dublin defence do their thing whilst the Kerry offence does theirs. Kerry will get two goal attempts (Dublin have allowed nine in four games; Kerry have attempted nine) resulting in 1 – 00. Kerry win five shots at goal from frees (somewhere between the one every 7.5 possessions that they earned, and the one every 13 possessions Dublin have allowed) scoring 0 – 04. Kerry take 21 shots from play (Kerry have average 22 point attempts whilst Dublin have allowed 20) with a Conversion Rate somewhere in the mid 50s which comes in at 0 – 11/0 – 12.

All things being equal Kerry score 1 – 15/1 – 16. Their defence stands up as previously outlined allowing 2 – 15/1 – 16. Just saying ….

Kickouts

Attempting to show how Kerry can stay in, and even win, the game is conditional on a lot of things, plausibly, going their way. Contain Dublin to four attempts at goal. Foul at a “normal” rate. Allow point attempts at a slower rate than Dublin have taken to date. Up either the goal attempt volumes or the accuracy. Outside shooting efficiency against them to regress to the mean. Maintain their high attacking efficiency.

But that is all superseded by one larger condition that also needs to break Kerry’s way. We touched on it earlier when looking at the possession volumes – Kerry absolutely need to break even in terms of possession volumes on kickouts. [A gentle reminder that they were -20 on kickout possessions compared to Dublin’s +1. Despite having more kickouts in games than Dublin]

Dublin kickouts

The kickout details for both teams are in the Appendix. Unsurprisingly Dublin have not lost a short one. I say unsurprisingly as in the eight games that comprised the QFs onwards in 2017 and 2018 Dublin lost just three short kickouts – a combined retention rate of 97.5% (retained 118 of 121).

If they get their hands on one of your short ones lookout – they got one each against Cork, Roscommon and Mayo scoring off all three. Those three equated to 7% (3 of 46) of all short kickouts faced. This success rate is a step up on previous. In the aforementioned eight games in 2017 & 2018 they got their hands on 5% of the opposition’s short ones (6 out of 103) but only came away with 0 – 02.

In the four games there have been 116 kickouts past the 45 with Dublin gaining possession 50% of the time. That may seem poor enough, but they were 63% on their own kickout and 43% on the opposition’s. Dublin may have a fearsome press, but the opposition have been getting their hands on the ball

Kerry kickouts

Intriguingly enough Kerry have also won 50% (40 of 80) of kickouts that went past the 45. They had similar splits to Dublin in that they won 58% of their own kickouts and 43% of the opposition’s.

The problem, and the fear, is that they have lost seven short ones in the four games played. Seven. Compared to Dublin’s zero. And not in any one game where they had a systems malfunction either. They have lost at least one short kickout in every game. Indeed, they lost two vs Tyrone and three vs Donegal.

As stated at the very start I was worried for Kerry winning primary possession on kickouts. I still am but if they can force the majority to go past the 45, they can break even. But if they continue to press the shorter ones (60% of their kickouts have been short) then they have a propensity to cough up the ball which will be calamitous against this Dublin team.

Prediction

I have faith in the Kerry brains trust. Although under different management they came with a plan against both the Dublin kickout in 2016 and the Donegal kickout in 2014. I believe they will lose the possession battle here by two or three, as Dublin get a few short ones off quickly, but they will avoid any obvious calamitous errors.

They will break even in terms of turnovers. The game will be a relatively open 92 possession game (Dublin games averaged 91.75 possessions; Kerry’s 93.5) with Dublin winning that battle 47 – 45. Then the fun starts. On current point per possession trajectories that has Dublin at 27 points (47 possessions x 0.58). I don’t see that – as outlined I can see the Kerry defence being stouter than anticipated. If it “drops” (drops is a relative term here!) to the 2018 level of 0.52ppp that brings them into the 2 – 18/2 – 19 realm. To get down to the projected score I have for Kerry of 1 – 16 then Dublin’s ppp needs to drop to 0.40. Which I just can’t see.

Kerry to be closer than people think but Dublin to win 2 – 17 to 1 – 16

NOTE1 By right I should have used the Leinster final v Meath as a more “competitive” game however Meath’s shooting was so poor that it would affect the overall averages. Plus Kildare went in at half time only four down, so it was competitive enough to spark the familiar second half surge from Dublin.
NOTE2 Dublin’s opponents tend to have more kickouts due to the sheer volume of shots Dublin take. You retain your own kickout at a much higher rate therefore if the opposition has a lot more kickouts they should have a higher volume of possessions from same
NOTE3 Other is defined as Throw Ins at the start of halves or shots blocked, off the post etc. regained by the attacking team
NOTE4 Remove Dublin’s returns from the equation and that drops to 0.36ppp
NOTE5 Dublin can have a higher points per attempt in 2019 compared to 2018 with a lower Conversion Rate as points scored off goal attempts are not included in the Conversion Rates but are in the points per calculation
NOTE6 Assists here are still defined by being on the ball – actual passes. Runs off the ball are probably as important – especially for goal attempts – but we’re not quite there yet.

APPENDIX
Dublin kickout data

Kerry kickout data

Dublin v Meath 1991 Leinster Game4

June 19, 2019

Overview

For the second game in this series (Kerry v Dublin 1985 final here) the team that came out on top of the volume metrics (Possessions, Attacks, Shots) was beaten. Again, similar to 1985, the team with the better Conversion Rate came out of top but unlike that game here the impact of goals, both those scored and those missed, were of greater importance.

A big focus of the 1985 final review was the very high volume of possessions at 145. Here, just six years later, the volume has dropped to 114. At first glance it would appear that the intervening rule change of allowing frees to be taken from the hand has helped teams retain possession. Whilst this is probably true it is slightly deceiving in the context of this game as there was a large gulf in half splits here with 49 possessions in the first half and 65 in the second. That 65 is more in line with the 1985 final than modern trends but the first half was low predominantly due to the vast volume of shots from frees early doors (10 shots in the first 21 minutes of which 9 were deadballs!) as opposed to either’s teams increased focus on retention of possession. Indeed much like 1985 32% of all possessions had only one player control the ball.

When Meath had the ball

Goals, goals, goals. They win games. Meath had three shots at goal scoring 2 – 00 including one of the most famous goals of all time. The most interesting aspect of Kevin Foley’s goal – from a numbers perspective – is that it is the first time we have seen a team hold onto the ball. 114 team possessions in the game and there was only one with a sequence of more than six passes – the goal. There were 12 different player possessions in that move. In the aforementioned 1985 final there were 145 possessions with none containing more than seven player touches.

At a macro level Meath’s Attack Rate of 43% is very poor however it is a consequence of the type of game that was in vogue at the time. The primary concern was to clear your lines rather than retain possession. The Shot Rate of 87% was excellent however. Meath struggled to get the ball into Dublin’s 45 but once they did they were extremely effective at getting a shot off.

Outside of the goal attempts their shooting was a touch below average; Stafford took all deadballs scoring 0 – 06 from 8 (7x frees + 1x 45) for a 75% Conversion Rate and Expt Pts of -0.17 whilst they were a combined 0 – 04 from 9 (44%, Expt Pts of -0.54) on points from play.

Whilst he didn’t trouble the scoreboard during this game – only the one long range effort in the first half that drifted wide – Colm O’Rourke was highly influential throughout the game. He was the primary assist for 0 – 04 (won three frees that Stafford converted as well providing the pass for McCabe’s point in the 59th minute) as well as being central to both goals – providing the final ball across the box for Stafford’s goal as well as, miraculously given the state of the game, finding a pocket of space to receive the ball and flick it on to Tommy Dowd in the final throes of the Kevin Foley goal.

When Dublin had the ball

Dublin’s 1985 loss could, quite easily, be laid at their poor shooting (36%, Expt Pt -3.73). Superficially that is not the case here with a 56% Conversion Rate from play and 50% overall however their shot chart tells a different story.

The expected return, for the shots they attempted, was bang on average (0 – 10 from 18 for a Conversion Rate of 56% and Expt Pts 0f -0.03) when compared to modern returns. This despite missing five shots from within ~25metres. Their issues came from deadballs.

Combined Charlie Redmond and D Sheehan had 10 attempts from frees converting 0 – 05. In and of itself a Conversion Rate of 50% is below average however when we overlay the current “inside”/”outside” range on to their frees it becomes obvious that they converted all the ones they should have (0 – 03 from 3 “inside”) but didn’t score enough of the “outside” attempts. Add Jack Sheedy’s desperation attempt at the end and their “outside” free taking returned 25% (0 – 02 from 8).

Unfortunately for Dublin their deadball woes did not end there. They were three points ahead when Keith Barr dragged his penalty wide in the 61st minute. Missing a penalty happens (probably a much more regular occurrence then as the penalty was taken from the 13m line thus making it a lot harder) but what is most remarkable about this one is just how close Mick Lyons was allowed to be when Barr is striking the ball.

I’m not sure Mick Lyons would ever be described as subtle … but that’s not even trying!

Kickouts

Returns were even with Dublin winning 21 kickouts to Meath’s 20. Dublin went short five times and were relatively successful with them manufacturing three shots and scoring 0 – 02. Meath didn’t go short but that didn’t hinder them as they won the possession battle 20 – 16 on kickouts that travelled past the 45.

The “old” kickouts rules were still in place however we began to see some changes when compared to 1985. Dublin were trying a more directional kick out to the sidelines than either team did in 1985; especially on those from the small square (noted in black on the below chart)

Never back Each Way in GAA

June 7, 2019

Never back each way (EW) in the 1st goalscorer market with Paddy Power. And I mean never. For the uninitiated EW is explained here ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Each-way ) but it is essentially two bets; half your stake on your selection scoring the first goal and the other half on them scoring one of the first “x” goals as laid out by the bookmaker in the place terms. For GAA Paddy Power make this “x” to be the first three goals. Below is a screenshot of the goalscorer market for Tyrone v Donegal in the Ulster semi-final (2019) with the place terms highlighted.

Why not bet EW? Because the answer is there on the screenshot … instead of putting €1EW on a player put €1 on the same player in the 1st goalscorer market and the other €1 on the Anytime market. Why? Let us use Peter Harte as an example.

Harte is 7/1 to score the first goal. If you put €1EW on Harte to score first, and he does so, you get €10.75 back (calculations below). If his first goal is the 2nd or 3rd goal in the match you get €2.75 back. If his first goal is the 4th goal or later (or indeed he doesn’t score) you get nothing

So:

1st goal – +€8.75

2nd/3rd goal – +€0.75

4th goal onwards, or no goal – -€2.00

 

Now instead of backing Harte €1EW lets split our stake to be €1WIN and €1 ANYTIME. The returns for same are

1st goal – +€9.50

2nd/3rd goal – +€1.50

4th goal onwards +€1.50

No goal – -€2.00

 

On every permutation the ANYTIME return is better than the EW return because the place terms (for the EW portion) are just so poor. And on top of that you get paid for the 4th goal onwards in the ANYTIME market. This holds true for every player.

Never back EW in the 1st goalscorer market with Paddy Power. And I mean never

 

Calculations

EW market

€1 WIN @ 7/1 = (€1 *7 + original stake back) which = €7 + €1

€1 PLACE = ((7/4) *1) + original stake back) which = €1.75 +€1

ANYTIME market

€1 WIN @ 7/1 = (€1 *7 + original stake back) which = €7 + €1

€1 ANYTIME = ((5/2) *1) + original stake back) which = €2.50 +€1

Corofin’s attack

March 27, 2019

Corofin produced an absolutely scintillating performance in the first half of the recent club final against Dr. Crokes. I threw up a few pieces on twitter (@dontfoul) around that performance and what follows is an amalgamation of those pieces with a bit more context.

It is important to note what this is not. It is not is a critique of how Corofin play. It is a review of how they played in one half of one game.

Corofin’s shooting

The first thing that jumped out when watching the game “live” was their shooting. In that first half against Dr. Crokes they attempted 15 shots with none coming from further out than ~23m.

Corfin 1st half shooting v Dr. Crokes

That is an incredibly neat and tight shot chart. I tend to use an ad hoc arc around the D to give a visualisation of “inside”/”outside” shooting which I have overlaid on Corofin’s shots. In the Super 8s last year 45% of shots were taken inside that arc. 45%! Corofin were at 87% (13 of 15) with the two “outside” being on the edge of the arc.

Passing sequences

Taking a step back the next question is how Corofin managed to create such a neat shot chart. Below is the passing sequence for all 18 of their first half possessions and the result for same (excluding the very last move when the referee blew for half time just after the kickout was gathered).

Corofin passing sequence 1st half v Dr. Crokes

Green is a successful pass, orange is where the pass did not go where anticipated but Corofin gathered/controlled the ball and red is a turnover from a pass.

There is probably a thesis there for someone in comparing that table to other teams, be they club or county. Passes per possession, hand pass to kick pass ratio, avg. length of kick pass, quantum of attacking passes to possession retention passes etc. But from a cursory review there are a few things that jump out

• Just how much green there is and the implication of assuredness whilst in control of the ball;
• Only one turnover in the tackle
• Only four, out of 128 passes, led to a turnover

That is not to say that the other 124 passes were perfect – far from it. There is quite a bit of oIrange in there but that in and of itself was a feature. Twice shots were blocked and regathered, at least five times unorthodox passes (fist through, toe pokes, kick through – you don’t always need to “go down on it”) successfully found a Corofin player. Corofin were alert to all possibilities at all times.

Visually Corofin were in utter control and the above table is just another way to show it. And that control was achieved with a variation in both tempo and style. The first three possessions took six passes apiece, contained two outfield solos and averaged ~20 seconds on the ball. The last point was a 20 pass string with five outfield solos and consumed 72seconds on the clock.

That control was evident even with a heightened volume of kick passes. More work is (definitely) needed here but it is important to stress that it is the type of kick that is emphasised here rather than the volume.

(As an aside ….. Patricia Lynch, the current senior performance analyst for Kerry, did a notational study of passing (https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/24748668.2017.1416526) showing that from 2014 – 2016 the ratio of kick passes to hand passes was 2.5:1 (~ 72% to 28%). Eamon Donoghue (https://www.irishtimes.com/sport/gaelic-games/gaelic-football/gaa-statistics-how-much-has-gaelic-football-changed-in-the-last-decade-1.3619732) in his piece in the Irish Times post last year’s all Ireland final showed a kick pass/hand pass ratio of 75%/25%)

Corofin, at a 30% kick pass ratio, were just above these norms but their attacking kick passes were immense and it is phenomenal that they only had a 3% turnover rate on all passes when we overlay the (subjective) nature of their kick passing.

Front 6 touches

So stepping away from the passing sequences (as I said you could create a thesis on this alone) the question becomes how they create this control. They are generally on point with their passing allowing them to attack the goal and almost point-blank refuse to take unnecessary shots. Joe Brolly eulogised on their understanding of movement and space in the Sunday Game and that got me thinking re how Corofin use their front six.

Corofin front6 touches v Dr. Crokes

The above chart outlines the passing and movement on the ball of Corofin’s front six. In doing so you can see a few things that work into their game plan

• expanding it out to the full pitch it is rare for any of them to be on the ball in their own half – 5 touches between them (with Michael Lundy having four of them)
• Gary Sice (#10) is the main architect of the attacking kick; the front six had four kick passes combined from outside the 45 with all of them coming from him
• Michael Lundy (#11) preferred the right-hand side
• Michael Farragher’s (#14) natural habitat is a small rectangular box between the 13m & 20m lines in front of goal however if he collects the ball out the field he is carrying the ball directly towards the danger zone

But all that pales into insignificance when we see what the front six didn’t do. They stayed away from the No. 6 channel (yellow coloured rectangle in the above chart) altogether. Compare that to how other teams view the concept of space and where they try to get their playmakers on the ball.

Could we have seen it coming?

That first half display against Dr. Crokes was outstanding. Unfortunately (despite my endless invocations to people on Twitter to back up their data) I have lost my copy of the 2018 final v Nemo Rangers but commentary points to how they blitzed both Nemo in that final and Slaughtneil in 2016.

What I do have however is the semi-final v Gaoth Dobhair. And the comparison of the two first halves is as scary as it is striking.

Dr. Crokes v Gaoth Dobhair comparison

Part of the narrative around Corofin’s displays in the finals is that Croke Park suits them. The wide open space allows their forwards to run all sorts of angles whilst the outfield players can find space to pick a pass. Scarily Corofin were even more clinical in the first half of the Gaoth Dobhair game, down in Seán Mac Diarmada Park, than they were up in Croke Park. I mean … 2 – 07 from 11 shots in an AI semi-final.

Once again the shooting was very considered with only three shots coming from outside the aforementioned artificial zone (I wonder did Jason Leonard have to do punishment laps the next night at training for that shot out to the right ….).

Across the two halves analysed that’s 81% (21 of 26) of shots coming from “inside” with only one shot that could be considered in any way away from the arc with 35% of all attempts from play being goal attempts.

Again, a reminder that the 2018 Super8s saw 45% of shots from “inside” with 10.4% of attempts from play being goal attempts.

Passing sequences v Gaoth Dobhair

Corofin passing sequence 1st half v Gaoth Dobhair

The passing was not as slick as against Dr. Crokes in that seven passes led to a turnover but the avoidance of turnovers in the tackle is evident with just the one ball dislodged early on.

All the main ingredients for that first half performance v Dr Crokes were evident in their first half display v Gaoth Dobhair.

Kerry v Dublin 1985 All Ireland Final

February 17, 2019

The stand out metric from the game, when compared to how the game is played currently, is the number of possessions. Over the last four years the average number of possessions per game was 96. This year in the Super8s onwards it was 90. The very highest I have recorded is 116 (both from Dublin in 2015 – against Kerry in the rain in that year’s final and against Longford in Leinster). Here it was 145!

That 145 gives a snapshot into how the game was played – including the effect that the rules (see note1) then in effect had. Possession was not as coveted and instead clearing your lines, and contestable balls, were much more de riguer. 52 (36%) of the possessions had just one player on the ball. Throughout the game just seven (5%) possessions involved sequences of six or more passes (Kerry twice had sequences of seven pass). As a point of reference in this year’s final there were 94 possessions in total of which four (4%) had only one player in possession and 31 (33%) had sequences of six passes or more.

These high possession volumes have knock on effects on metrics such as Attack Rates, Shot Rates and points per possession. The ratio of turnovers to kickouts is also skewed.

So what of the game itself? From the television coverage there appeared to be quite a strong wind which is borne out by the fact that 3 – 14 of the 4 – 20 scored was into the Hill16 end. Kerry played into that end in the first half and opened up a sizeable lead that Dublin sought to furiously claw back.

The time series chart above shows how Kerry got ahead early. This was achieved through both their excellent shooting (82% conversion rate (1 – 08 from 11) & +3.40 Expt Pts) in the first half and also Dublin’s very poor shooting (20%; 0 – 02 from 10 & -3.53pts). Kerry had a lead of 0- 09 despite only having one more shot. Had both teams converted their chances at modern rates (see note2) the lead would have been 0 – 03.

The fact that Dublin were always in the game, despite the scoreboard, is highlighted by the fact that the two teams Expt Pts crossed somewhere around the 40th minute. Dublin created the chances – they just were nowhere near as clinical as Kerry.

When Kerry had the ball

As has been touched on both teams’ use of the ball was of the time so Attack and Shot Rates are much lower than we are used to. That said however Kerry’s shooting was as good and efficient as any team in the modern era with a 64% Conversion Rate and Expt Pts of +2.63. Kerry struggled to get shots off but when they did they were excellent ably led by Jack O’Shea & Pat Spillane who combined for 1 – 06 from just 9 shots.

Kerry they had four shots at goal returning 2 – 01 (Timmy O’Dowd’s only two shots in the game were both at goal!) whilst also returning 57% on all point attempts (0 – 08 from 14; Expt Pts of +1.83). Looking at the shot chart in the Appendix there was only really one long range or wide effort – from Eoin Bomber Liston at the end of the first half – which really helped their returns.

Bomber only had that shot in the game but he was immense for Kerry overall moving out to the middle third to shore that area up but also being involved in Kerry’s link play providing five main assists and also being involved in two other shots. Next on the assist chart was Ambrose O’Donovan who was involved in the set up for three point attempts and also being involved in the build up to both of O’Dowd’s goal attempts.

When Dublin had the ball

Dublin manufactured six more shots than Kerry but the majority of that was through deadballs (eight shots at goal from frees plus one 45 as against four frees from Kerry). Given that all frees were taken from the ground there was a bit of subjectivity overlaid on all the above shots in yellow to satae that they were indeed shots but … Rock struggled on the day converting just 38% (0 – 03 from 8). Duff missed the sole 45.

Point taking was also poor. Dublin attempted 16 point attempts returning just 0 – 05 (Expt Pts -2.21). Their “outside” shooting was fine retuning 0 – 03 from 6 with John Kearns popping over two fine efforts in the second half – one out on the defence’s right at 60 minutes and another from ~40m just right of the D. It was their “inside” shooting that let them down returning just 0 – 02 from 10 attempts with 0 – 01 from 6 in the first half when Kerry jumped out into their lead.

One noteworthy point was the fact that only six Dublin players attempted a shot throughout the game and only five from play (all of Barney Rock’s attempts were from frees). All six were their designated forwards (Tom Carr being a direct replacement for Charlie Redmond). Nothing, in terms of shots, came from their midfield back (see note3).

Kickouts

(note that the TV pictures missed where a few landed – a bit of subjective overlay required on those!)

The make-up of kickouts in 1985 was very different than today with just 7 (19%) of the 37 kickouts taken going short. Indeed of those the TV cameras picked up only three kickouts were “deliberately” short or clipped out to a player.

Of those taken after a wide (see note1), and thus from the small square, the kickout team won the possession battle 8 – 7. Similarly when the ball was placed on the 20m line, after a score, the kickout team won possession 11 – 10. There was no discernible difference in whether the kickout team won the ball depending on where the kickout was taken from.

When we look at it by team however there is a difference. Dublin had 19 kickouts with 4 going short. Of the remainder (those that went past the 45m) Dublin won 53% (8 – 7) however when the kick went longer, after being placed on the 20m line, Dublin won 64% (7 – 4). Kerry were able to attack the kickouts from the small square that went past the 45 getting their hands on 3 of 4. There was also something about O’Leary’s trajectory as none of his kicks were claimed through a clean catch.

Kerry on the other hand struggled. They claimed both of their own kickouts that went short however on their longer ones they lost the possession battle 6 – 10. Given the small sample size there was no discernible trend on those taken from the small square (lost 3 – 4) as opposed to those taken from 20m line (3 – 6).

Again we have to be careful overlaying modern sensibilities on the game (but are going to do it anyway!) however Dublin must have been disappointed with their return here. They were on top of Kerry’s kickouts but only produced 2 shots and 0 – 01 from the ten they won. Kerry scored 0 – 02 of the seven Dublin kickouts they won.

Note1; Major rule discrepancies between now and then
• All free kicks, including sidelines, had to be taken from the ground. This led to many long, contestable balls from half back and midfield into the forwards
• Differing kickout positions depending on whether you are taking a kickout after a score (thus from the 20m line) or from a wide (thus from the small square).

Note 2; We may be doing these historic games, and thus their participants, a disservice by comparing their accuracy to current regimes given the differences in the ball (heaviness) and much surer underfoot conditions in the modern game but it may also be instructive.

Note3; Kerry had eight different shooters. Again all six forwards (John Kennedy as a direct replacement for Ger Power had one shot – Power didn’t have a shot in the game) as well as Jack O’Shea and Tommy Doyle. Let alone score Doyle was thus the only back in the entire game to attempt a shot.

Appendix

Kerry shot Chart

Kerry kickouts (if missed by TV they have been left out of the below)

Dublin kickouts (if missed they have been left out of the below)

Comparison of League & Championship returns

January 20, 2019

Comparing league and Championship

I have only ever used Championship games when creating specific averages or metrics. In the main this was due to laziness on my part as I wasn’t really tracking League games but there was also a part of me that viewed League & Championship as sufficiently different to be treated individually. Separate entities. Different games on different pitches in different weather.

But then I got notions and tracked the 2018 league. Was the league data sufficiently similar to that of recent Championships allowing us to augment existing datasets and produce more robust outcomes? Or did the “gut feeling” that the two should be kept separate stand up to even the most rudimentary of reviews?

In the end 22 League, and 32 Championship, games were tagged (a fancy way of saying “noted a lot of different things within a game”) throughout the year. A nice, healthy, robust possession count of just under 5,000.

Given the size of the dataset, and the fact that the games reviewed were within the same calendar year, any differences should really be due to the competition, and its peculiarities, rather than any observed changes in styles throughout the years. (And as a nice aside we’ll also have a clean, comparable, dataset to test the effects, if there are any, of the new rules being introduced in 2019).

Game flow

At the outset it became obvious, despite the best intentions of curtailing the review to one season, that we were not comparing apples with apples. Within the 32 Championship games there were quite a few where the disparity between the two teams’ quality was very evident (somewhat expanded upon here). So the 2018 Championship returns were subdivided further into (a) all Championship games and (b) those games between Division1 teams only (Dublin, Tyrone, Galway, Monaghan, Donegal, Kerry, Kildare & Mayo) of which we had a healthy number – 15 in total – thanks to the introduction of the Super8s.

And we have our first surprise. There were as many possessions per game in the league as there were in the Championship; and the differences between the two Championship subdivisions were small enough to be deemed immaterial. I say “surprise” as, based on nothing more than intuition, I fully expected there to be more possessions during the League as a result of increased turnovers through weather, heavy pitches and teams not being quite at their peak.

Now there were more turnovers during the league – five a game – but this was counter balanced by how teams used the ball. There is an appreciable step up in attacking production across the Championship with higher Attack and Shot Rates. Both these then lead to noticeably more shots (~8.5%) per game. More shots equal more kickouts.

Those turnover possessions “lost” from the League to the Championship were regained through extra kickouts resulting in the immaterial movement in the total number of possessions.

Kickouts

Viewing kickouts in isolation that point is further evidenced; kickouts account for 49% of all possessions in the League but 54% in the Championship.

Teams were much more on point on kickouts throughout the Championship retaining possession at a much higher rate than they did during the League (77% v 70%).Teams won more short ones (95% v 91% during the league) as well as more of the longer ones (61% v 56% during the league).

One of the contributing factors here could be the well-worn training cycle within GAA where teams work on kickout routines coming into the Championship as the winter months are used to lay down a fitness block.

Interestingly this is the first time we see a break in how the two Championship subdivisions perform. During the league the kickout team won 56% of their own kickouts that went past the 45; this stepped up to 61% in the Championship and again to 66% when we segment just the Div1 teams.

A jump in retention rates from 56% to 65% on kickouts past the 45 is quite noticeable – especially on those kickouts that should be the most contestable. The teams, and the quality of the opponent, haven’t changed. Instead teams have just improved.

This stepped increase in retention rates, both from league to Championship and within the Championship subdivisions, lends credence to the above supposition that teams “work on” their kickouts more in the lead up to Championship than they do in the League with the better teams, i.e. Div1, being more successful at implementing their plans.

Shooting

As noted above there are more shots attempted during the Championship. But that alone does not account for the higher scoring rates observed during the summer. Teams are more efficient with that extra shooting. And not just in one particular phase but across all three – point attempts, both from play and deadballs, as well as goal attempts.

Point attempt Conversion Rates (from play) during the League were lower than those in the Championship. But not massively so. They are probably within any margin of error so further work is required to confirm if this a League v Championship, early season v late season, bad weather and heavy pitches v good weather and “proper” pitches thing or just one season noise.

Deadball returns have improved the last two Championships (2018 – 74.0%, 2017 – 73.5%, 2016 – 69.0%, 2015 – 68.9%) so the 72.2% achieved within the 2018 League feels like a lag. Again though it is within any margin of error so it is probably wise to err on the side of caution and say that the differences are inconclusive.

Goal shots are probably the most eye catching numbers with just 32% of shots converted during the League and 39% during the Championship. Again those Championship games involving the Div1 teams saw another slight bump to 41%. The volume of goal attempts in those Championship games was less at 4.2 per game (as against 4.7 during the league) yet they were converted at a much higher rate. Why? More work done on finishing moves? Random one year fluctuations on small sample sizes? Effect of must win games in the Championship ensuring players take points off less clear cut chances? That most unsatisfactory of answers … to be determined.

Instinctively the Conversion Rates for all three elements, deadballs, point attempts and goal attempts, being lower in the League feels right. As stated I have never been a fan of mixing data from the two competitions and whilst the disparities are probably small enough for some the differences just reinforce my original belief that, without further analysis, we shouldn’t just lump the two competitions together to get bigger volumes.

So there you have it. At a macro level League games are similar to Championship games with the same number of possessions and comparable Conversion Rates. But get under the hood and the makeup of each component differs just enough to warrant (for me anyway) keeping all metrics for the two separate.

One final quick note

Defence

Unfortunately there are no great defensive metrics per se. The sign of a good defensive performance is usually evidenced by the absence of good offensive metrics for the opposition. But that doesn’t really work here when we are looking at averages in the round as everything just becomes an aggregate blob with no real decipherable differences.

Some specific defensive metrics we can look at are turnover rates (though the assumption that all turnovers are induced by the defence doesn’t hold much water), how often teams get in for an attempt at goal and the pressure faced by teams when shooting.

Focussing on the Div1 teams we can see a tightening up on the defensive front with a ~10% increase, from the league to the Championship, in the number of shots taken under strong pressure. There is also a ~10% increase in the number of possessions it takes to get a shot on goal.

As well as getting more clinical on their use of possessions and kickouts the Div1 teams also tightened up defensively (balanced by more efficient shooting). Everything trends towards the Championship just being that step ahead of the League. Sometimes what you see really is what you get.

Kilmacud Crokes v Mullinalaghta Leinster Club Final 2018

December 11, 2018

Rian Brady scored a lucky point in the 17th minute when his long ball into the full forward line evaded everyone and bounced over the bar. But Mullinalaghta were far from lucky in this game. Yes they trailed for much of the second half but over the entirety of the game they had more shots, as well as a much higher Expt Pts return, than Kilmacud. On top of that they dominated the contested (and contestable) kickouts whilst also restricting one of the country’s foremost club teams to one shot at goal. On numbers alone Mullinalaghta deserved this victory.

If and when they ever get to review this game what will be gnaw away at Mullinalaghta is where they gave up the ball. Kilmacud got their hands on 17 possessions from their 65 upwards from which they scored 1 -04 of their 1-06. That is insanely high with the returns from the other six club games covered on the blog this year being 6, 6, 4, 9, 9, 9, 9, 0, 5, 6, 7 & 6. You sense that they will not get away with that against Dr. Crokes in the semi-final. But that’s for another day …

When Kilmacud had the ball

Kilmacud’s numbers are slightly squirrely what with a relatively low Conversion Rate (47%) but an Expt Pts of +1.21.

The dichotomy between the Conversion Rate and the Expt Pts can be explained through their goal and free attempts. Pat Burke’s effort was their only shot on goal, producing an Expt Pts of +1.19, whilst Paul Mannion scored 0 – 02 from 3 (Expt Pts of +0.13) on frees. That’s 75% (1 – 02 from 4) combined with Expt Pts of +1.32. Quite good from an accuracy perspective.

What let them down was their point attempts which returned a very low 36% (0 – 04 from 11). This was somewhat surprising as they had produced a combined 59% (0 – 22 from 37; Expt Pts of +4.43) in their two games against St. Judes and Portlaoise. As stated in the Portlaoise review we always have the small sample size caveat but Kilmacud had looked like an accurate, tidy, shooting team. It is difficult to attribute this poor shooting display to Mullinalaghta defending as seven of the eleven point attempts were taken under little or no pressure. It was just an off day.

What we can give the Mullinalaghta defence credit for is shutting down Kilmacud’s avenue to goal. In the aforementioned two games Kilmacud had ten shots at goal producing 4 – 01. It looked like we might be in for a repeat here when Pat Burke tucked away Williams’s pass in the 4th minute. But Mullinalaghta shut that forward line down thereafter and indeed were excellently set for Kilmacud’s build up play. Kilmacud had 22 possessions originating inside their own 45 (9 from kickouts, 13 from turnovers) off which Kilmacud only manufactured six shots returning 0 – 02.

When Mullinalaghta had the ball

Up until the 55th minute Mullinalaghta’s shooting was letting them down. They had 13 attempts returning 38% (0 – 05 from 13) with an Expt Pts of -2.78*. That included their only goal attempt which Brady lifted over the bar under huge David Nestor pressure.

*they were 0 – 06 in the 55th minute but Brady’s long punt into the full forward line that bounced over the bar does not count as a shot.

And then begins a sequence that will go down in club lore as Mullinalaghta scored 1 – 02 off three shots in four minutes to open up a two point lead that they never relinquished.

The turning point was the Gary Rogers penalty in the 58th minute. Penalties are relatively sparse (31 in 126 intercounty Championship games from ’15 – ‘18) in football but have a high Conversion Rate (74%; 23 from 31). What made this one slightly different was that it occurred right after Nestor had saved a last gasp penalty in the semi-final against Portlaoise (@ 14:30 here). Did that save play on either of the protagonists in this instance? Against Portlaoise Nestor saved to his right; he dived to his left this time … any reason why? Did he think his post-game comments (paraphrasing here but he said “I went to my right as at my age that’s the only way I can go”) that day would play on Roger’s mind? Did Rogers hear them?

Postscript; in the end that wondering was for nought. Rogers gave an interview to Second Captains in which he says that he did see the save against Portlaoise but took no heed of it as he is not the normal penalty taker (McGivney is but has a knee issue that prevents him from shooting off the ground) and was just concentrating on a clean contact!

Roger’s impact on the game was not solely based on the penalty. He managed six primary assists as Mullinalaghta’s link man. No other player, across either team, managed more than three primary assists.

Kickout overview

As stated Mullinalaghta stymied Kilmacud’s short kickouts allowing just one shot off the nine they won and also scoring a point off the one that went awry.

Mullinalaghta weren’t interested in short kickouts (case in point being the one they did try ending up in a throw in as the ball didn’t travel the required distance) and instead went long(er) with 6 of their 13 going past the 65m line.

Mullinalaghta were very strong here winning five of their six that went past the 65 and 68% (13 of 19) of all kickouts that went past the 45.

Appendix

Shot charts; disc = score, X = miss, yellow = deadball, red = goal attempt, black = point attempt from play 1st half; white = point attempt from play 2nd half

Kickout charts; disc = kickout team won, X = kickout team lost, black = 1st half, white = 2nd half

Mullinalaghta shot chart

Kilmacud Shot chart

Mullinalaghta kickouts

Kilmacud kickouts

Gaoth Dobhair v Scotstown 2018 Ulster Club final

December 4, 2018

In the normal course of events a review starts with a table summarising the game. That is to follow. For this game however there is a slight detour as we start out with a picture instead.

Darren Hughes had turned the ball over in the 61st minute when the game was all square. He was leading a counter attack down the right wing and receives the ball back from Heaphey who has just come on. Turning inside he sends a kick pass across the defence to Morgan who is in space (just out of frame). Instead of setting up the winning score the ball doesn’t rise off the pitch at all instead skidding away from what can only be described as a square metre of mud.

Quite obviously it is an important moment in the game but it also illustrates the conditions the game was played in. The pitch was heavy with quite a few mud patches. There were frequent bursts of quite torrential rain both before and during the game. The ball was greasy, the pitch a quagmire and the day a wet, dark, miserable Irish winter day.

This is in complete contrast to both the usual summer weather the averages for games are built upon and even the club games that have been covered on the blog this year. When reviewing the game this context must always be at the forefront.

Game Overview

The pitch took the speed out of the game.

The weather layered on top of this by forcing shots from closer in than is the norm; between the two teams there was maybe one shot from play that could be considered long range and that came in extra time (see the shot charts in the Appendix).

And to top it all off the teams were relatively conservatively set up. Add all three together and you get a grand total of 65 possessions in normal time. Compare that to the 87 in Gaoth Dobhair’s previous game with Crossmaglen or indeed the 97 possessions in the Kilmacud v Portlaoise game. The ball was hard won and it wasn’t easily given up.

Gaoth Dobhair had eight more possessions, eight more shots and a tally of just under 4.0 Expt Pts more than Scotstown in the opening 60 minutes. They lost just one of their own 13 kickouts whilst winning 75% (6 of 8) of Scotstown’s kickouts that travelled past the 45. By all known measures they really should have been out of sight … but to Scotstown’s immense credit it was Gaoth Dobhair who had to stage a comeback in the second half when they went three points down after 38 minutes.

So how can all these things (Gaoth Dobhair’s apparent dominance and Scotstown’s lead) be true? Shooting accuracy. In normal time Gaoth Dobhair returned a relatively poor 48% (0 – 11 from 23; Expt Pts of -1.62) whilst Scotstown, given the conditions, produced a quite remarkable 73% (0 – 11 from 15; Expt Pts of +2.19).

There was a trend apparent in normal time which was to prove crucial during extra time. As can be seen from the shot charts Scotstown’s shooting during normal time was from much further out than Gaoth Dobhair’s. “Much” might be a stretch but in the conditions every metre mattered.

Of Scotstown’s point attempts from play 80% (8 of 10) came from “outside” (as denoted by the dotted red line) whereas only 47% (9 of 19) of Gaoth Dobhair’s shooting was from “outside”.

When we get to extra time we see that Gath Dobhair scored 0 – 02 from their four attempts with the two points coming from right in front of goal whereas Scotstown missed their four attempts with none coming from close range. Gaoth Dobhair were able to get inside, as they had done all game, during extra time when everyone was exhausted, both mentally and physically, from the day, the pitch, the enormity of the occasion, whereas Scotstown were never able to break down the Gaoth Dobhair defence.

Details of both teams’ shooting and assists can be found below but once again it is worth highlighting Odhran Mac Niallais. He has produced excellent numbers for a putative midfielder. He topped the assists chart the last day with five primary assists against Crossmaglen and does so again here, in conjunction with M Ó Cearbhaill, on four. He also tops the shooting tables across the two games with eight point attempts combined (50% conversion; Expt Pts of +0.427). And just to top it off he is Gaoth Dobhair’s main free taker (taken 14 of 19 attempted across the three games covered).

Kickouts

Given the nature of the game what the teams did after winning the kickout is of less importance here than just winning the kickout. And Gaoth Dobhair controlled this section of the game winning 67% (12 of 18) of all kickouts that went past the 45 including 11 of 14 in normal time.

Their supremacy in this area fed in to Scotstown changing tack. Seven of Scotstown’s eleven kickouts went past the 45 with Gaoth Dobhair getting hold of six of those seven. Thereafter five of their next six went short

Appendix

Gaoth Dobhair shot chart

Yellow = deadball, black = from play in normal time, white = from play in extra time; X = missed, disc = score

Scotstown shot chart

Yellow = deadball, black = from play in normal time, white = from play in extra time; X = missed, disc = score

Gaoth Dobhair shooting table

Gaoth Dobhair assists

Scotstown shooting table

Scotstown assists