Mayo v Galway 2018 Connacht

May 15, 2018

For those new to the blog, or who haven’t been here for a while, please find a refresher on the definitions and how the numbers are compiled here

Team Possessions Attacks Shots Scores Exp Pts
Mayo 40 35 27 0 – 12 14.69
Galway 41 34 23 1 – 12 12.33

Overview

81 possessions in total is very low. In the 31 Championship games charted in 2017 only one – Carlow v Dublin at 79 possessions – came in lower whilst there were 106 total possessions in the 2016 meeting of these teams and 113 in 2017. The low possession total was very much aligned to the “new look” Galway which emerged during this year’s league campaign. In the five games involving Galway shown live on TV the possession totals were 77, 77, 78, 78 and 84.

Focusing on Mayo the positive is that they produced four more shots than Galway in a game where they, for various reasons, managed to get just over one full game from the two O’Connor brothers, Lee Keegan & Tom Parsons combined as well as playing with 14 men for more than half the game. The downside? Old failings, that have haunted them at various ports in this journey, are still evident. Poor conversion rates. Frees from the right. Ill-discipline.

Galway? Once again they won a game by hitting their marks. Progression from the league was maintained by continuing to condense games and converting at an above average rate. They may be concerned at just how long it took them to break down a team playing with 14 but somehow I doubt it. They played *their* game and won. Move on.

When Mayo had the ball

Overall Mayo were able to get shots off at a better rate than Galway (27 shots from 40 possessions as against 23 from 41 for Galway) however the execution was very poor. Perhaps surprisingly the majority of the damage was done *before* the sending off. Up until D O’Connor’s red card Mayo had attempted 12 shots scoring 0 – 05 (42%). Three of these points were from frees leaving their point attempts from play at a very poor 25% (0 – 02 from 8; Expt Pts of -1.971). When they went down to 14 their overall Conversion Rates improved to 46% (0 – 06 from 13; Expt Pts of +0.240). This improvement only dragged them up to average however and couldn’t “fix” the poor start.

This poor shooting is nothing new. Galway have proven to be kryptonite to Mayo’s forwards. In 2016 and 2017 combined Mayo were a very poor 28% (0 – 11 from 38) on point attempts from play. Here they were 38% (0 – 09 from 21).

Below is the 2018 point attempts (in yellow) overlaid on the 2016 and 2017 shots (black). A couple of things are stand out. Lessons were learned in terms of shot location in that unlike the previous two years there were no wild shots this year from out on the wings (possibly aided by Galway’s inverted umbrella defence around the D allowing Mayo to get closer) however on the flipside Mayo were unable to get inside the cover during this year’s encounter.

From a shooting perspective no one stood out. Kevin McLoughlin converted his two shots from play but also missed two readily convertible frees from the right (he also turned down a difficult third free from the right wing on the 20m line).

A O’Shea had a quietly efficient game. He ended up with five primary assists for shots on goal – the next highest on either team was three.

The lack of offensive depth on the bench is a stick regularly used to beat Mayo with. They were already stretched given the above noted absences but again the last ~30 minutes were effectively left to the stalwarts. Those involved in the shots, from when Parsons went off and C O’Connor came on, were

Shots – A Moran x3, C O’Connor x2, K McLoughlin, C Boyle & J Durcan x1
Assists – K Higgins x3, A O’Shea & C O’Connor x2

Stretch it out to the 2nd last pass – where it mattered in the lead up to the shot – the players involved were C O’Connor x3, A O’Shea & J Doherty x.

Tough I know given that C O’Connor was a sub, and the defensive realignments allowed Higgins to move forward, but you want to see Loftus & Doherty more involved in this period when they were on the pitch. S Coen (though he won the free at the death) and P Durcan as well. One shot from J Durcan was the sum attacking involvement of the 2nd rank in that last 30 minutes.

When Galway had the ball

As intimated earlier the shape of the game was played out to Galway’s league template; low possessions high conversion rates.

The Conversion Rates, and high Expt Pts (+2.67), were aided greatly by McHugh’s two very good free kicks and them converting the only goal chance in the game. McHugh’s two frees were on the edge of the normal free taking range, or just outside it, and the conversion of both saw him bring his excellent league form (90%; 0 – 19 from 21 with an Expt Pts of +2.42) through to the Championship.

Galway’s point attempts were essentially average (47%; 0 – 09 from 19 Expt Pts of -0.416) with Comer (0 – 02 from 3) and Duggan (0 – 02 from 2) standing out.

Galway, unlike Mayo, managed to get a great kick from their bench. In the same period as noted above they got shots from P Cooke x2, S Kelly, E Brannigan and T Flynn after he came back on. Another player who stood out was Ian Burke. In his ~20 minutes on the pitch he was central to 1 – 02 of Galway’s late scoring providing a primary assist on three shots and was also the link man for Heaney’s goal.

Kickouts

Despite the intensity of the game, the nature of the teams, the pre-game talk about David Clarke’s kickouts, Galway’s league “form” in terms of eschewing short kickouts, this being the first televised Championship game under the new kickout rule – the kickouts were quite boring! The kickout team won 83% of the game’s kickouts. 62% (26 of 42) of kickouts were short with only one being won by the opposition.

The red card played into this. Nine of Galway’s eleven second half kickouts went short to the left as Mayo dropped off. Looking at Mayo’s kickout chart it is perhaps surprising that Galway didn’t make hay on Mayo’s 2nd half kickouts. First half (black on the chart) were pulled mainly to Clarke’s left – Galway could easily have pushed up hard against 14 in the second half but didn’t manage to in any effective manner.

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2018 Division 1 Review

April 27, 2018

The 2018 league saw the continuation of Galway’s upward curve as well as perhaps a chink in the Dublin armour as they lost a regular league game for the first time since March 2015. As will be outlined below Galway played the league differently to everyone else and make an interesting hook when reviewing various metrics; they have thus been added to the recent “Big Four” when reviewing how individual teams perform.

A few of the metrics were introduced in the Week4 review (here) so this review can be seen as an extension of that piece now that we have more date.

Possessions
In boxing they say that styles make fights. In football team set ups and tactics make games. Dublin v Donegal, at 103 possessions during the game, had 26 (34%) more possessions than Dublin v Galway in the league final.

Below are the top and bottom five individual team possessions recorded throughout the 2018 league

Galway continues to play a different game to everyone else. Of the 36 individual team outings (two each per the 18 TV games) Galway’s volume of possessions only once came close to the average of 45.2 a game when they recorded 44 against Monaghan. Otherwise their remaining four fixtures all ranked in the bottom five in terms of possessions. Only in the aforementioned Monaghan game did they have more possessions than the opposition – in that instance two. In the other four games they lost the possession battle by 3, 6, 7 and 8 respectively.

Whilst the spread of possessions at 26 (max = 103, min = 77) would appear to be wide it is actually more condensed than the 2017 Championship when the spread was 34 (113 possessions in the Galway v Mayo game and 79 in the Carlow v Dublin game). Yep that’s the same Galway one competition and about six months removed. I am currently finding it very hard to reconcile the Galway of 2017, which was involved in games with 113 and 110 (QF v Galway) possessions, with that of the 2018 league where the possession count never topped 86!

As well team possessions we also have the number of successful passes within each possession. This can be used as a proxy for that dreaded word – transition.

Dublin’s method of continually probing whilst stretching teams wide has been readily commented upon and it shows up here. They own six of the 11 sequences where there was a minimum of 20 player touches. Those possessions and their outcomes are listed below.

After first producing this table I was asked if it was meaningful that only four of these possessions led to a score. I don’t believe so (a) as the volume is too small to make any concrete statements on and (b) the intention wasn’t always to score – some of these were teams playing keep ball to wind down the clock.

Whilst the above table is “interesting” it doesn’t provide any usable insight. That will come. For instance; once enough data is gathered we can see whether moving the ball through multiple players or the quick strike is more productive. Which teams play fast on the counter – and which teams do not. Until then – we’ll have to do with the “interesting” table!

Another way to use the possession data is to see where the possession originated from and overlay shot data to see how effective teams are depending on where the move starts

At a league wide level

– just under half of all possessions originate from kickouts (34% on your own 15% on the opposition’s)

– 46% come from turnovers (17% inside your own 20m line, 16% between the 20m and 45m lines with the rest picked up higher up the pitch outside your own 45)

– the remainder coming from restarts and shots gone awry (short, blocked and picked up, off the post etc.).

Just knowing that alone you can see why kickouts are such a focus. But should they be? Teams shoot as frequently on their turnovers as they do on their own kickouts. Despite, notionally, teams not being as set when they turn over the ball inside the opposition’s 20m line they allow shots less often than on short kickouts. Dropping the ball into the keeper’s hands is not the mortal sin we have been led to believe ….

But averages simplify the process completely. Some teams are better at transitioning from a kickout – others from turnovers. The below table shows the shots per possession, by where the possession originated from, during the 2018 league

Surprisingly Dublin didn’t excel anywhere and were (relatively) poor on their own kickout. Galway – as is necessary given their low possession game – were above average in all phases. A measure of their efficiency – they won four of the ten restarts and scored 0 – 04; they regained the ball 5 times from shots dropping short, coming off the post etc. – they scored 0 – 05.

Offensive Production

A few things that jump out

– Average Conversion Rate at 55.7% is a 3.3% increase on the 53.9% recorded during the 2017 Championship. There are many reasons as to why this might be but it is just worth noting for a rising ship should lift all boats.

– Dublin did not produce more shots than the opposition (Tyrone actually produced an extra 2.5 shots per game – small sample size alert – whilst only Mayo produced less shots per possession) but were head and shoulders above everyone else when it comes to shooting accuracy. Noteworthy, however, that this was just a continuation of their 2017 form when they recorded a 62.3% Conversion Rate.

– Galway have been very accurate but in a different way to Dublin. Dublin were 60% from play whereas Galway were 52%. But Galway had a significantly greater volume of their shots skewed towards the higher percentage deadballs (26% of Galway’s shots were from deadballs as against 18% of Dublin’s). If the frees dry up, or McHugh’s radar is off, can they generate enough shots from play to overcome their low possession and average Conversion Rates?

– Mayo struggled offensively throughout the league. Their shots per game and their accuracy were both well below the league average. They will be fervently hoping that come the Championship they will be back up to their 2017 levels when they produced 0.63 shots per possession, with a 54% Conversion Rate, across ten games.

Another aspect of attacking play is the frequency that teams go for goal. We all know that goals can inflict monumental damage no matter when they occur (Dublin in the 4th minute against Tyrone in the 2017 semi-final?) but knowing and doing are different things. Do teams go for goal at different rates?

Anyone surprised to see Dublin be so far ahead of the opposition on the frequency of their goal attempts? Me neither. Though I am somewhat surprised to see just how bunched the rest of the teams were. That gap, and bunching, was not evident during 2017 (below). The differing quality of opposition – as opposed to the league when everyone’s opponent is of a comparable standard – feed into the higher rates observed in 2017.

Player level

SHOOTING FROM PLAY

The average Conversion Rate for all attempts from play is 47%. There are reasons why a particular player’s results might vary from this (shooting more against better teams, close in shots versus those from the wings etc.) but it is a very useful yardstick. In that context Dublin’s trio of Kilkenny, Scully and Basquel are off the charts. I don’t care if all shots were taken against beaten dockets (they weren’t) or if there was absolutely no pressure (there was) – that is incredible shooting.

Considering he is Donegal’s main man, and has the added responsibility of taking the frees, McBrearty’s numbers are no less stellar. Defenders know he is getting the ball, they know he is shooting off his left (15 of the 16 point attempts were off his left), yet he still produces.

Comer’s returns look unusual in that he has a very high Conversion Rate but has below average Expt Pts. The simple explanation for this is his poor returns on goal attempts. He had four shots at goal across the five TV games scoring 0 – 03. This helps his Conversion Rate enormously (75%!) but harms his Expt Pts return as he’d be expected to score 1 – 02 from those four attempts.

DEADBALLS

It is a rare enough deadball table that shows Dean Rock comprehensively outplayed but Barry McHugh did just that during this league campaign. Brennan & Clifford also had better Conversion Rates than Rock but their Expt Pts mark was very similar to his showing that they converted slightly easier frees more often.

McHugh’s shooting was not only more accurate (90% Conversion Rate vs 83% for Rock) but also much better in terms of Expt Pts (+2.4 vs +1.1) indicating he converted much harder frees at the same, or a better, rate. Given the aforementioned lack of possessions Galway have a higher need to squeeze as much out of each one as possible. They did this throughout the league in no small part due to McHugh’s proficiency.

Mayo’s deadball woes were very evident throughout the whole campaign. As a team they were 69.5% (0 – 32 from 46) on deadballs leaving 0 – 05 behind them when compared to what the average Conversion Rates on those 46 attempts would be. This was very similar to the 2017 returns where they returned 69.4% (0 -50 from 72) and an Expt Pts mark of -5.36.

ASSISTS

We have started to introduce the idea of Expt Pts for assists and below is a plot for the 20 shooters listed above. It is important to note that for this metric the more games you play the higher your Expt Pts on assists will be as unlike Expt Pts for shooting there is no negative return. You assisted a shot; the outcome is irrelevant. A “per 70 minutes” metric would be much better and this is what will be produced during the 2018 Championship

That being said Fenton remains an absolute beast – he is no midfielder. Rather he is a master puppeteer centre half forward laying off ball to the shooters and/or converting at a ridiculous rate himself.

Despite the above notes on the volume impact we can see the affect Comer and Clifford had throughout the league. Their shooting was by no means stellar but their involvement in setting up teammates was excellent as measured by the impact of their assists. Comer’s direct running plays a part here – Galway took a shot directly from 11 possessions in which Comer was fouled, the next highest was 5. Granted there is huge discrepancy in the volume of minutes played but that is stark.

Defensive Production

Dublin allow more shots, on a per game and a per possession basis, than the other big teams which, when you consider their recent dominance and the fact they won the league is a remarkable thing. But even more remarkable is the poor Conversion Rate from Dublin’s opposition. The average is ~56%; Dublin’s opponents are at ~47% whilst no one else dips below 53%. Why would this be?

We have never been able to concretely attribute poor offensive numbers to either good defending or poor attacking. To date we have had to assume it is a mixture of both. But there are some obvious things we can look at when one teams’ numbers are so out of step with the norm.

Frees; Frees are converted much more readily than attempts from play. If the ratio of frees faced by Dublin is vastly different than that of other teams this would affect the overall Conversion Rate. It is different but not vastly; 22% of the shots faced by Dublin were frees as against 24% for everyone else. That equates to about 0.25 frees per game which isn’t really worth a whole lot in terms of Conversion Rate divergence. Dublin’s opposition converted frees at 73% – the league as a whole was 77%. Small gains but nothing earth shattering.

From play; So if it is not frees then it must be from play. The league average conversion rate on point attempts was 49% (the 47% mentioned earlier also includes goal attempts); Dublin only allowed 39%. That old chestnut – excellent Dublin defending or poor attacking? It is not strong Dublin defending per se – I chart the pressure applied to each shot and the Dublin defence applies “strong or severe” pressure to the shooter at a league average rate (44% for the league, 42% for Dublin). There is something in where Dublin’s opposition shoot from however; against Dublin 47% of the point attempts come from the wings between the 20m & 45m lines – the league average is 38% and if we remove Dublin that drops to 36% for the other six teams. So in a sense it is Dublin defending. We have seen that they allow more shots per game but they “let” you shoot from more disadvantageous regions – this would also feed into why their pressure % is not as high as expected.

Playing Dublin; But then again we have another overriding theme – the pressure of playing Dublin. When we restrict the pressure index to central shots only Dublin are relatively poor – only 31% of opponent’s shots centrally were taken under strong or severe pressure as against the league average of 44%. Low volumes but still! The kicker is that 53% of these central shots against Dublin were converted as against 63% for the rest of the league. We cannot place this performance on Dublin defending – indeed the opposite is true. The Dublin pressure is less intense. Teams missed the simplest of shots (centrally and under no pressure) at a higher clip.

Enough of Dublin! The conversion rate of Tyrone’s opponents is almost comically high. I double checked just to be sure. In Tyrone’s three games Dublin hit 68% of their shots, Monaghan 63% and Kildare 62%. It is only three games, and the comparable 2017 return was a combined 48% (five games) so I’m sure Mickey Harte and the backroom team are not overly concerned.

Kickouts

On the whole all teams are winning a lower percentage of their own kickouts when compared to the 2017 Championship campaign (73% won in 2017, 66% won in 2018) with none of the highlighted Division1 teams bucking this trend. Part of the reason for this is that the volume of short kickouts has dropped (a consequence of the new rule – either directly or indirectly as teams kicked longer in anticipation of the press that will surely come during the Summer) from 47% in the 2017 Championship to 40% in the 2018 League. Teams win their own short kickouts at a 94% clip so if there are significantly less of them the overall win rate will suffer. There was also a drop in the percentage of kickouts past the 45m line won by the kickout team – from 56.9% to 54.5%. Small enough but when you combine the two – a greater volume of longer kickouts with these longer ones won less frequently – we get a decent drop in the win rate.

Outside of the win rates it is interesting to see who is the most productive. Dublin are generally considered Kings of the kickout but in terms of net effectiveness they were only above average in this league campaign whilst Tyrone actually outperformed them in 2017. Mayo were very good on their own kickout during the league – they will be hoping that their overall Conversion Rate picks up so that they can build on this strong platform.

As is becoming a theme Galway was the outlier. Their net returns on kickouts are very low when compared to the other big guns – with one of the main reasons being that they continue to shun the short kickout. In their five TV games they went short on 27%. Mayo were 55%, Dublin were at 47% with Kerry and Tyrone at 41% apiece.

Volumes become low when we begin to segment like this so the percentages become less reliable however given that they are going short at a lower rate this allows the opposition to “tee off” on their longer ones. When they went past the 45m line Galway won 50% of their kickouts; the comparable figure was 65% for Dublin and 57% apiece for Kerry and Mayo.

2018 Division 1 Overview – post Rd4

March 8, 2018

Below is a quick overview of some of the more interesting numbers coming out of this year’s league. When listing individual teams, under any specific metric, note that it will be confined to those teams with at least three games played (see NOTE1)

Possessions

Team Possessions

11 games covered which equates to 22 returns – of which Galway have the three performances with the least amount of possessions. Not just the three lowest though – their two games against Donegal and Mayo are a full six possessions lower than the next lowest recorded by any other team. Intriguingly it is not that they are completely slowing games down and “dragging” the opposition down with them. They have easily lost the possession battle in all three games; by totals of 6 (v Kerry), 7 (v Mayo) and 8 (v Donegal).

Player possessions

That impression you have of Dublin dominating possession? Yeah it is not merely an impression. Of all team possessions with 20 or more player possessions (essentially player touches or strings of passing) Dublin have six of the top 11 and are the only team to top 30 player possessions in the one move.

Offensive production

Team

Perhaps surprisingly Dublin are not the most prolific offensive team in terms of output. They are below the average in the number of shots per game and shots per possession they attempt. What they lack for in quantity they more than make up for in quality however. They have a wonderfully high Conversion Rate on the shots they do take. Alloy this Conversion Rate, with the high volume of possessions, and you get your high scores.

Galway are highly proficient when they attack (high shots per possessions and Conversion Rate) but as noted above their (current) weakness could be the inability to create enough shots, through low possession counts, should the radar be off.

Donegal are shooting from everywhere with near on 30 shots per game – but their relatively low Conversion Rate is indicative of the fact that a lot of these are from “outside” the shooting zone.

Kerry’s new forward unit with O’Sé, Burns & Clifford are chugging along nicely whilst Mayo are struggling.

Player – shooting

The above table shows all players with at least 8 shots from play (see NOTE2).

Brannigan is currently on fire scoring 2 – 06 from his 10 shots as is McBrearty’s left peg (all 13 shots are point attempts with the left). Noticeable how these two are then followed by a squadron of Dublin attackers. This is to be somewhat expected given Dublin’s 65% Conversion Rate as a whole but it is still striking when you see that they have five of the top7 shooters by Expt Pts.

Player – assists

So this is new. I have started to track assists as another tool to view the front 8. This is somewhat subjective as a number of shots will come from players themselves making the breakthrough thus not producing an assist; or a defender might foul the ball thus providing the opposition with a shot from a free (does the player who induced the foul get an assist?); or the last pass may be an incidental popped hand pass (see NOTE3). As with any new metric there’ll have to be an element of trust on this one!

Unlike the shooting, which can have a positive or negative Expt Pts depending on whether the shots were converted, assists can only have a positive Expt Pts as the Expt Pts will relate to the point attempt rather than the shot outcome. But what we can do is plot the Expt Pts for shooting versus the Expt Pts for assists and get a more complete picture of a player’s offensive involvement

The above chart shows the shooting/assist Expt Pts interplay for those players listed previously with at least 8 shots from play. Where you want to be is in the top right quadrant (highlighted by the green circle) with a high positive Expt Pts for shooting (thus being very accurate) and a high Expt Pts for assists (thus showing a high level of attacking involvement).

Can we consider Fenton a midfielder? These offensive numbers are off the chart – high volume of shots, with high accuracy and high assists production. On his assists he has won three frees that led to Dean Rock attempts at goal, set up Kilkenny for his goal against Tyrone and also provided the assist for seven point attempts. Phenomenal.

McBrearty has two less assists than Fenton (9 v 11); he also has won three frees (that he himself took) but has set up two goal attempts and four point attempts.

Given his accuracy from play (0 – 09 from 13 point attempts) and the fact that he is Donegal’s main free taker (0 – 17 from 20; 85% Conversion Rate and +0.8 Expt Pts) it is some feat to also be so high on the assist chart. He is a very different player to Fenton but currently no less phenomenal.

The only problem with the first chart is that it hides the “non shooters”. Purely listing by the volume of assists we see the likes of A O’Shea, P Conroy and S O’Sé start to rise to the top.

Defensive production

Again perhaps surprisingly Dublin do not show up as best in class here. They allow more shots per possession than anyone else which, allied to their more open games, leads to more shots allowed per game than anyone else. What is noticeable however is the low quality of the opposition’s shooting (Conversion Rate at a very low 45%).

This low Conversion Rate can undoubtedly be attributed to excellent defending (more pressure on the shooter and/or teams taking shots from less favourable positions) but there must also be a mental aspect to this – teams forcing attempts knowing they have to keep up.

The argument against this is perhaps Galway. Their defensive numbers are very similar to Dublin’s yet it would be hard to argue that teams are under the same mental pressure when facing Galway as they are when facing Dublin.

I would contend however that Galway defend differently – tighter, more aggressive – and it is this that gives them the same defensive edge that Dublin seem to gain from their opponent’s mentality. Still it is definitely something worth looking at after the league – do teams shoot differently against Dublin as opposed to against anyone else?

On the offensive summary we commented on Kerry & Donegal’s higher numbers which was a nod to the fact that they had a good balance in attack (Kerry) or a defined game plan (Donegal could be deemed “shoot on sight”). They are both struggling on the back end however.

Kickouts

When looking at these tables it is again important to reference NOTE1 below – any changes may be as a consequence of natural differences between league and Championship rather than wholly attributable to the changes in the kickout rules.

Having said that there has definitely been a change in kickouts with the proportion of kickouts going short (landing inside the 45m line) dropping from 48% in the 2017 Championship to 37% this league campaign. That’s dramatic enough and the sample size – at 28% of the 2017 Championship games – is representative. Come the end of the league we can expect the proportion of short kickouts to have dropped by c10%.

We have seen Marks increase but not to any great degree. Instead we are back to the future where breaking ball is becoming more important. I define such kickouts as “contestable” (outside the 45m line and not claimed through a Mark – see NOTE4).

Kickout teams have increased the proportion of “contestable” kickouts they win but in both the 2017 Championship & 2018 League campaigns teams only manage to win c50% of their own “contestable” kickouts.

There are some interesting titbits looking at kickouts by team

Galway weren’t as fond of the short kickout as others in 2017 but have almost eschewed it completely so far with only 14% going short (remember the average is 38%). Given that the kickout team gets the ball ~95% of the time when it goes short this also explains why they are losing the possession battle as noted earlier (as does the fact that they are below average in winning their own “contestable” kickouts).

Donegal’s drop off is as pronounced (60% of kickouts in 2017 Championship went short versus 25% in the 2018 League) however this could be attributed to a change in philosophy under Declan Bonnar as much as anything else.

Dublin’s short ones have dropped off completely (66% in ’17 down to 44% thus far) – getting ready for the Summer perhaps when they expect a high press from the opposition? Also noticeable that despite their athleticism, and Cluxton’s radar like aim, they are only average on “contestable” kickouts.
Mayo & Kerry appear to have completely ignored the new rule (playing possum and not showing their Summer hand?). Kerry have been very good on their own kickout claiming a high of 69% of their own “contestable” kickouts.

Notes

Note1; 11 Division1 games in total. All shown on TV so any bias can be aimed at TG4 and/or EIR! Only Division1 game not completed thus far is Monaghan-v-Tyrone
Where there are comparisons to 2017 Championship numbers it is worth noting that we have no real previous comparisons between League and Championship campaigns. There has always been the sense that the League will be different but we just don’t know (I have been particularly lazy in not doing league campaigns before!).
This point, that there may be a natural difference between League & Championship, is particularly important when we come to kickouts as we have the additional overlay of the new kickout rules. Just because numbers change here does not mean it is as a direct result of the law changes – there may also be a natural difference between League & Championship outputs.

Note2: As an aside this shows the problem with judging players through their shooting. Even the most prolific shooter – McBrearty at 13 shots in three games – has a very small sample size

Note3; I have ~84% of shots not having an assist.

Note4; acknowledging that not all kickouts past the 45m line are contested – nor indeed that all Marks are un-contested. Still – it’s an easy label.

Expected Points (Expt Pts); numbers to use

January 25, 2018

What is Expt Pts (Expected Points)?
Expt Pts is very loosely aligned to Expected Goals (xG) in soccer. You take every shot and assign it a value linked to the likelihood of its success based on the observed historical averages.

Essentially you track every shot and once you have enough data points you work out the average return for each shot. The average then becomes the “expected” and you are up and running (worked example and current outputs below)

Restrictions
Before we set out I am acutely aware that Expected Points is not the answer to anything. It is a tool to quickly highlight if there might be issues. In its current form it is very raw. We know from other sports that the game state is very important (teams chasing a lead in soccer tend to have more shots for instance) whilst the quality of opposition can also be a factor (football outsider’s DVOA v VOA). As such the values herein will be referenced as “Raw Expt Pts”. Other variables need to be overlaid onto the raw averages, whilst tighter sectors also need to be worked upon, to elevate it from its raw state.

These deficiencies are known and acknowledged. But as a quick reference point it is still a better guide to a teams’ returns than pure Conversion Rates – or worse still a count of the number of wides (don’t get me started!)

Working out the average
Unlike soccer those working in the GAA do not have a company, such as Opta, collating shot location data – it has to be done manually. The area on the pitch from where shots emanate from is also much greater.

Rob Carroll over at gaelicstats has produced a detailed return graph showing how often shots are converted from various pitch co-ordinations. The Expt Pts herein uses a more simplistic sectoral approach. Whilst Rob’s shot location chart is much more granular we will run into sample size issues were we to use something akin to it. Instead I started tracking shots using the below grid to (a) ensure I overcame any sample size issues and (b) it enabled me to use the pitch markings so as to be consistent with the shot location seeing as I was doing it manually off TV pictures (the picture quality of which can vary)

As well as shot location the type of shot is noted – 45, free, point attempt from play, sideline, penalty – as well as whether it was a point attempt or a shot on goal.

So we end up with three questions that need to be accounted for on every shot – location (which is then converted into one of the above segments), type and whether it is a goal attempt.

The type is fixed and whilst there is some subjectivity on the location generally speaking we have a lot of latitude given the larger segments we are working with. There is even less subjectivity on whether a player is going for goal though you will occasionally need to be a mind reader!

Expected Points
Fine. I have the above tracked for a game and realise its limitations – now what? Now you start to (a) produce data and (b) use it to review. Below is the Raw Expt Pts return for every combo mentioned above (pitch position, shot type and goal attempt or not).

Should you wish you can start to use these immediately as they are based on a dataset that comprises well in excess of 4,000 shots. That dataset comprises entirely of intercounty Championship games but I have used the outcomes on league & club games as a starting point and taken the results with this in mind.

Take a point attempt, from play, from sector 4. The Raw Expt Pts for every shot from this sector is 0.39. Every shot is thus expected to produce 0.39 points. Now we know the binary outcome for this shot is either a score (1) or not (0). Thus if the shot is converted the Expt Pts outcome is 1 (scored 1 point) minus 0.39 (the expected value) for a return of +0.61 (1 -0.39 = 0.61). If the shot is missed, for whatever reason, the Expt Pts outcome is -0.39 (0 – 0.39 = -0.39).

Do this for every shot using the appropriate “Raw Expt Pts” value. You can now add up an accurate, appropriately weighted, value for each shot.

Concrete example
Below is the Mayo shot chart from the 2017 All Ireland defeat to Dublin.

Mayo’s Raw Expt Pts come in at +1.84 which means that, at a macro level, they scored about two points more than they should have (were expected to) going on how often inter county teams historically converted those attempts. Their shooting was very good.

Breaking the shooting down we can see that the “very good” shooting was not universal. Two goals attempts returning 1 – 00 is just above what is expected. 21 point attempts returning 0 – 12 (57%) with a +2.39 Expt Pts is exceptional … but the excellent shooting was restricted to the central Sector 5 channel. Deadballs were poor.

By using the Expt Pts – with all its inherent flaws – you can quickly highlight areas that need addressing (or alternatively you can get bland results across the board and move on to something other than shooting). Its real power comes in over longer timeframes where the returns from multiple games can be reviewed.

Build upon the data and you can get a sense of the team’s relative strength/weaknesses/tendencies. Do it for the opposition and you start to build up a picture of the defence.

2017 Expt Wins

January 22, 2018

So in what is now becoming an annual exercise let’s review the 2017 season through the prism of Expected Wins (Expt Wins).The 2015 and 2016 versions of this article can be found here and here

For the uninitiated Expt Wins uses bookmaker’s odds (note 1), as a sort of independent arbiter, to see which teams over (or under!) performed versus what was expected on a game by game basis. It is a much better fairer view than sheer win percentages given (a) how relatively short the season is for most teams and (b) how uneven the Championship can be in terms of the quality of teams facing off against each other.

Table 1; 2017’s best and brightest

Unsurprisingly the top10 is peppered with teams that were promoted. This makes sense as for the majority of teams the league makes up at least two thirds of their season.

Carlow had an excellent season – but it was no fluke; they were also top5 in 2016. Over the past two seasons they have won 11 games when they were only expected to win ~7.7. And they managed to top the 2017 table despite losing as 1/16 home favourites against London. 1/16, without accounting for the bookmaker’s margin (see note1), implies a 94% win probability. Win that game and their “above Expt Wins” total would be twice that of second placed Louth. That loss is the shortest price loss in the database and must be one they desperately want back. There is no guarantee that Carlow would have gained promotion had they beaten London – as Wexford no doubt would have put greater emphasis on their final two games – but they must be absolutely kicking themselves every time they think of that game. And yet – they still topped the 2017 table despite this loss.

Now I am by no means an expert on the ins and outs of Louth football – and you have to think they have a good ‘un in Pete McGrath – but you have to feel for Colin Kelly. Back to back promotions. A 59% win rate over that period which lands them 5th on that metric behind the likes of Dublin, Tyrone, Kerry and Kildare (themselves aided by back to back promotions) and along with Carlow the only team to finish in the top5 Expt wins both years.

The two Championship campaigns were poor in comparison (played 6 won 3 with three loses of 4, 6 and 9 when stepping up against Derry and Meath) but still … be careful what you wish for.

In 2016 Tyrone and Cavan were in the top10 following successful promotions from Division2 and the trend holds true for Galway and Kildare. Division2 is always very tight – just under half (27 of 56) of all games in the last two years had a zero or one point handicap. Extend that to two points and 80% of the games are covered. Win enough games to gain promotion in these tight contests and you are well on your way to outperforming expectations for the season.

Table 2; 2017’s laggards

This is a mixed bunch of
1. Division4 teams who struggled to register wins and who are perennially down the bottom of these rankings – Limerick, Waterford, Wicklow
2. Teams that had a disastrous season – Cavan, Laois, Derry
3. Very good teams that didn’t get the job done enough – Kerry & Mayo
4. Cork!

Taking the four cohorts in order

1. The worst team in 2017 was (subjectively) Wicklow but no matter how bad you are when you play your peers in the league you are always given “some” chance. Wicklow’s seven league appearances saw them chalked up at odds of 8/11, 3/1, 5/6, 10/3, 11/2, 6/5 and 6/1. When we remove the bookmaker’s margin that equates to an expectation of two wins. And that’s for the “worst team”. Limerick’s odds were 8/13, 11/10, 13/8, 1/10, 8/15, 11/8 and 1/10 which comes out at just over four wins.

No matter how poorly you are viewed under Expt Wins you will always be expected to notch up at least two wins and maybe four or five … if you struggle to win games full stop you will always be down the bottom end of this table.

2. All three of Cavan, Laois and Derry were relegated and whilst combined they won 4 of 10 Championship games three of those victories came against Division4 teams when they were heavily favoured. At a very high level this cohort win the games they are expected to win, lost the ones they were expected to lose and came out the wrong side of way too many 50:50 calls

3. Mayo being so low on the table is easy enough to explain; in the three games that they drew Mayo were 1/5, 1/6 and 23/10 – those three games alone account for their negative Expt Wins. Kerry are slightly different. They may have finally managed to beat Dublin in the Division1 final but outside of that they failed to win half their games – with three of those games coming against Mayo when a good favourite (2/5, 1/2 and 8/13). They were almost prohibitively favoured at 1/20, 1/5 & 1/6 in the three Championship games that they won. That mixture (winning when big favourite, losing/drawing when favouritism is less obvious) is a recipe for a poor Expt Wins season

4. Cork. Ah Cork. For the second year in a row they appear in the bottom5 but can you imagine how poor they would look had Waterford managed to tack on one more point when Cork were 1/50? Cork were middle of the pack on win ratio (winning 41% of their games) but were overturned by Tipperary as a 7 point favourite in the 2016 Championship whilst also losing at odds of 1/3, 4/11 and 4/11 over the two league campaigns. They never won a game as underdog to balance these losses.

Is it predictive?
Although there are outliers – notably Carlow, Louth and Cork – I would lean towards no. There is just too much volatility as teams yo-yo up and down the table; Kerry from 27th in 2015 to equal 6th in 2016 and then back down to 28th in 2017; Cavan from 9th to 31st, Armagh from 32nd to 5th. Good luck trying to pick which of this year’s top5 will stay there!

Note1; calculating Expt Wins

Using the All Ireland final as an example. Paddy Power’s odds for the game were Dublin 4/9, Mayo 3/1 with the draw being 9/1. All that these fractional odds are is another way of expressing probabilities. To work out the probability any odds equate to you use the following formula (B/ (A+B)). For Dublin’s 4/9 the B here = 9 and the A = 4 so the probability of a Dublin win = (9/ (4+9)) which equals 0.692 or 69.2%. Do this for all three odds and you get

Dublin = (9/ (4+9)) = 69.2%
Mayo = (1/ (1+3)) = 25.0%
Draw = (1/ (1+9)) = 10.0%

The total percentages add up to 104.2%. Now we know that there are only the three outcomes for any game – team1 wins, team2 wins and draw – so anything above 100% for these three outcomes is the bookmaker’s margin. To get a truer understanding of the probabilities we strip out the margin equally across the three outcomes and come up with an Expt Win for each team. Dublin in this instance = 67.8% or 0.678 (69.2%-((104.2%-100%)/3)); Mayo = 23.6% or 0.236 (25.0%-((104.2%-100%)/3))

Note2; the odds
All odds are taken from Paddy Power and tend to be taken towards the back end of the week (Friday night/Saturday morning) to let any movements settle down. It is possible that injury news etc. changes the odds between what was taken and what they were at throw in but I’m comfortable enough that this would be a rare enough occurrence not to have too big an impact.

Dublin v Mayo AI Final 2017

September 19, 2017

Unfortunately I won’t be in a position to do a half decent write up until much later in the week so below are the usual battery of stats/tables. I will do up a write up at some stage and post it here – mainly for reference when these teams meet in 2018!!!

Listening and reading to some of the coverage post the final what jumps out to me is

O’Connor’s free at the end was outside his range – see the preview. It is so harsh on O’Connor that he takes a hit for stepping up to cover his team’s deficiencies and in some way lessens what he does elsewhere – see his brilliant long range point to draw the game level at the end.

Take a look at the assists table for players who had hugely impactful, under the radar, game

Mayo’s shooting was not poor! It was better than both 2016 AI Finals … it was just that Dublin’s shooting was exceptional. At one stage in the second half they were 0 – 11 from 12 for a Conversion Rate of 92%. Collective ice in their veins.

Overview

Kickouts

Dublin attack

Shot Chart

Shooting Table

Assists

Mayo attack

Shot Chart

Shooting Table

Assists

Dublin v Mayo 2017 All ireland preview

September 14, 2017

Immediate post-game reactions and numbers from the 2016 final can be found here (drawn game) and here (replay). Both will be referenced heavily below

Dublin Attack

We’ll get into the constituent parts below but as a collective Dublin have returned a whopping 61% Conversion Rate so far in 2017. The 188 shots they have attempted has netted them 19 points more (Expt Pts +19.05) than the average intercounty team would have scored. This Dublin attack is rolling.

Point attempts from play

Table 1 in the Appendix shows the breakdown per player but as a collective over two thirds (+13.87) of Dublin’s positive Expt Pts has come from their point attempts from play. The average Conversion Rate over the past 5 years has been 46%; thus far Dublin have returned 56%. The question is not how good they are – we know they are exceptional – but whether they can maintain that level of production?

And it is an open question as we have seen this before. Coming into both the 2015 and 2016 finals Dublin’s forwards were also flying with pre final Conversion Rates of 57% in 2015 (Expt Pts +17.63) and 51% in 2016 (Expt Pts +8.25). In the 2015 final they were impressive in maintaining their high returns with a 57% Conversion Rate (0 – 08 from 14) and a one game Expt Pts of +1.57 (in poor weather it must be remembered). However in the two games against Mayo last year they stumbled to a very poor 37% (0 – 14 from 38; Expt Pts -4.72).

The question is whether this stumble was induced by facing Mayo or was it more of a Dublin blip? There is no way to categorically state either way but looking from the outside I would give Mayo a great deal of credit. Coming into the 2016 final Mayo, in their six games, had allowed a Conversion Rate of 41% (0 – 45 from 109) as opposed to the 51% Dublin had been putting up. Across the two games the 37% Dublin achieved was much more in line with what Mayo had been allowing.

We have a similar scenario this year. Dublin are flying with the aforementioned Conversion Rate of 56% but again over a nine game span Mayo’s defence have only allowed a Conversion Rate of 41% (which, as an aside, shows remarkable consistency year to year). Can Mayo repeat their 2016 trick and “drag” Dublin’s Conversion Rate down in the final?

In an effort to explain the drop in Dublin’s shooting I created a pressure index (see Note1) and noted that Mayo were consistent across the two games in applying strong or severe pressure to just under half of Dublin’s point attempts (45% in the drawn game and 44% in the replay). In 2017 – across the nine games – Mayo have applied strong or severe pressure to 46% of their opponents point attempts. This has risen to 59% in the last four games.

So we know that Dublin can shoot and that they can carry it over (2015 final) however we also know that Mayo stymied them in both games last year and that the pressure index for their 2017 season is trending upwards.

One difference, for Dublin, observed when comparing this year to the last two All Irelands is just who is taking the shots. Below are the top 5 point takers coming into the last three finals and whilst there was a change from ’15 to ’16 the new entrants then were generally known quantities in McManamon & Rock. With Connolly suspended and Brogan & McManamon mainly coming off the bench there is a newer, fresher, look to the Dublin strike force.

Mannion & Andrews are well known to the Mayo defenders at this stage but O’Callaghan – despite there being a mountain of video evidence on him – is new and may cause the Mayo defenders to sit off initially; remember it was the relatively unknown Costelloe off the bench that did the damage in last year’s replay.

Deadballs

Given their experience, both last year and in their run to the final this year, Mayo may believe that they can handle the Dublin forwards. But what they will have to be very conscious of is fouling. Rock had a poor day in last year’s drawn game (0 – 03 from 7 (43%); Expt Pts of -1.58) but was then devastating in the replay (0 – 07 from 7 with an Expt Pts of +1.58).

He, and Dublin as a whole, have maintained this form throughout the 2017 Championship returning a barely credible 94% Conversion Rate (0 – 33 from 35) with an Expt Pts of +6.43 (see Chart 1 in the Appendix).
A special note of praise for Rock here. Although he had an off day in the 2016 drawn final he has been phenomenal since basically being removed from free taking duties at the back end of 2015. In 11 Championship games since the start of 2016 he is 92% and as the below graphic shows he is not only consistent “inside” where he is 96% but also outside (75%). Not only has he accuracy but he has accuracy with length.

Mayo cannot hope that the Rock from the drawn 2016 final appears. Instead they must expect that the Rock we have seen from the start of 2016, and in the 2016 replay, shows up. They gave up seven scoreable frees in the replay; in 2017 they have given up an average of 6.6 shots at goal from frees. Unless defending a lead their target has to be to minimise Rock’s opportunities from frees to seven or less.

Goal attempts

Dublin have – surprisingly given their opposition and reputation – only been average on goal attempts. In 2015 they were averaging 6.0 shots at goal per game but had a phenomenal 60% Conversion Rate (18 – 04 from 30). In 2016 this reduced dramatically to 2.2 attempts & a 46% (5 – 00 from 11) Conversion Rate. So far this year it is back up to 5.0 attempts a game but with a basically average Conversion Rate of 36% (9 – 01 from 25). In the 2015 final they manufactured 4 goal attempts but couldn’t convert any whilst in the two 2016 games they only created four distinct attempts at goal – but did manage to score in the most unconventional manner!

It’s all a bit of a rollercoaster. I think it is fair to say that Dublin are a lot less goal hungry than previous incarnations but this year has seen them somewhat pick up their attempts per game.

Mayo attack

Whereas Dublin are on fire Mayo have been hotter and colder, both from game to game and within games, than any other team. They returned a Conversion Rate of 41% against Galway and 71% against Cork; they scored 1 – 09 from just 12 shots in extra time against Derry after producing 0 – 01 from 15 attempts in a 25 minute spell in the second half. Against Cork they scored 0 -14 from their first 15 point attempts from play.

Mayo are the walking embodiment of the fact that you can twist stats to back up any argument

Point attempts from play

Looking at the nine games in the round (see Table 2 in the appendix) however we can say that their point taking has been just above average (50% Conversion Rate; +2.21 Expt Pts). But this is a step up on their 2016 campaign (46% Conversion Rate; +1.62).

There’s a slight anomaly in the above figures in that Mayo’s Conversion Rate has increased but the Expt Pts has remained more or less static. That’s because Mayo have attempted much more shots from central locations this year compared to last year. In a most Un-Mayo like fashion they have made life easier on themselves!

If we run an imaginary line vertically from the outer edges of the D to the 45m line we create a central channel. In 2016 34% of Mayo’s point attempts came from inside this channel. In 2017 this has risen to 51%.

A lot has been made of Mayo’s reliance on Moran and C O’Connor. Between them they have attempted 32% of Mayo’s point attempts returning 34% of their scores however in truth this is not too far removed from Dublin’s spread. Dublin have relied on O’Callaghan & Mannion for 29% of their point attempts and 30% of their scores. Now the argument can be made that Dublin have more alternatives in Connolly, Brogan, Kilkenny, Rock, Andrews et al should you shut the front two down – and that’s fair – but there are only so many shots to go around. And as good a unit as Kerry’s defence couldn’t shut them down. Moran & C O’Connor took 28% of Mayo’s point attempts across the two semi-finals with a combined Conversion Rate of 72% and Expt Pts of +2.89

Another notable point re Mayo’s shooting is that the “back-up”, the next ten players by shot volume (see Table2 in the Appendix), have been as accurate as Moran & C O’Connor with a 53% Conversion Rate (0 – 55 from 104) compared to Moran/C O’Connor’s 54% (0-34 from 63). Have Mayo got two top shooters? Yes. Have they ready-made, volume based replacements if they are shut down? No. Can the workload be spread and the efficiency maintained if they are shut down? Yes.

What of the Dublin defence? Coming into the 2016 final Mayo were running at an about average Conversion Rate of 45% (Expt Pts +0.89). For the two finals their combined numbers were 0 – 14 from 31 (Conversion Rate of 45%; Expt Pts of +0.22). The sample size is small but Dublin’s defence had no real additional effect on Mayo’s efficiency – Mayo carried over their conversion rate. Where they did have an effect however was in limiting the attempts Mayo had. Coming into the 2016 final Mayo had taken 20.7 point attempts per game. In the final this dropped to 15.5.

This year so far Mayo have averaged (again with remarkable consistency) 20.5 point attempts per game. In 2016 Dublin – prior to the final – had allowed the opposition to take 16.6 point attempts per game but this has risen to 18.6 in 2017. So not only has Mayo’s efficiency on the same volume of shots increased but Dublin are allowing more shots and (in 2016 at least) didn’t have an effect on Mayo’s efficiency.

Deadballs

C O’Connor has been rock steady on frees throughout his career converting, when the pressure has been at its most intense, 86% (0-55 from 64 Expt Pts of +4.99) in semi-final and finals alone from 2012 to 2016. His range does appear to have shortened however.

The above chart shows C O’Connor’s 2017 frees in yellow and using the same boundaries as the Rock chart above we can see that O’Connor is as good as ever “inside”. He has recorded very similar numbers to Rock at 95% (0 – 35 from 37) however he has definitely struggled “outside” recording a very poor (relatively speaking) 35%.
The two black dots on the chart are Jason Doherty’s attempts in the semi-final replay versus Kerry whilst the red cross is the free that O’Connor missed at the death in last year’s replay. As discussed at the time you would not have wanted anyone else standing over that free given his performance in the most pressurised of stages previously but it was definitely on the outer edge of his range.

Given his range limitations, his record this year and how comfortable Doherty looked the last day surely there’s a case for handing over the longer range attempts?

Apart from C O’Connor’s range – which does look to have a ready-made alternative should Mayo wish to employ Doherty – another area of concern would be frees from the right. Attempts from this area are sparse in the above chart (C O’Connor handed the ball to Moran for at least one free from this area against Kerry) as you would imagine C O’Connor is only too aware of his limitations. The issue was only exasperated by McLoughlin missing his two frees from inside the 20m on the right against Derry and Sligo.

Everyone knows O’Connor doesn’t want to take frees from wide right whilst the alternative, in McLoughlin, has, being kind, been shaky. Mayo know this is a weakness. We know it. You can be damn well sure that the Dublin defence knows it too.

Goal attempts

Mayo have been slightly below Dublin in their attempts per game at 4.2 however have been ahead of Dublin with a Conversion Rate of 42% (16 – 03 from 38 attempts). In the round that’s 5.6pts per game from both for their goal attempts (Dublin 5.60, Mayo 5.67).

Kickouts

One of the most eagerly anticipated duals will be the kickouts. How successful will Mayo be at getting their, what at times look extremely dicey, short kickouts away? Will they push up on Dublin? Once won how good will each team be at manoeuvring the subsequent possession into a shot and score?

Dublin Kickouts

See appendix for raw numeric tables

To date Dublin have gone short (see Note 2) on 66% (63 from 96) of their kickouts winning them all and managing to produce a shot from 73% which resulted in 3-27. That’s 0.57 points for every kickout won. Which is incredible. The returns for all other kickouts won is 0.45 – which doesn’t account for the kickouts the lost when the ball went past the 45 – whilst Mayo are a net (unlike Dublin they have lost 9 of their own short kickouts which has resulted in the opposition getting 0 – 03) 0.33 points per short kickout.

You have to imagine that Mayo will look to disrupt this wherever they can. To date 50% of the opposition’s kickouts have gone short in Mayo games with the opposition getting 0.31 points per kickout won. Mayo have gotten their hands on 10% (12 out of 120) of the opposition’s kickouts and when they do they go for goal – scoring 2 – 03 off those 12.
In the two finals last year Dublin had a similar split to this year in that 65% of their kickouts went short but Mayo had much more success keeping Dublin to just 0.12 points per short kickout won (0 – 03 off 25). And that’s without referencing the two short ones that Mayo won.

When we compare this to what Dublin have done to date in the 2017 Championship you have to believe that whilst Mayo may not be able to stop Dublin completely, and may not be able to clamp down as rigidly as they did last year, they should at least provide a much more substantial obstacle than Dublin have faced hitherto fore.

Mayo kickouts

Across both 2016 games Mayo lost five (17%) of their 29 short kickouts against Dublin including two at the death of the drawn game that surely had a part to play in Clarke being dropped for the replay. Clarke is now firmly ensconced as Mayo’s No.1 but the short kickout roulette can still occur at any moment as they have lost 9 across six different games.

Mayo have been somewhat fortunate in that none of those 14 lost short kickouts (5 against Dublin and 9 this year) have resulted in a goal – instead 0 – 08 has come from them – but it is only a matter of time. But Mayo will continue to roll that dice, even in the face of the Dublin pressure, as it has served them well overall. Whilst not as spectacular as Dublin’s 0.57 Mayo have returned 0.39 points for every short kickout won this year.

That does rise to 0.43 for their own kickouts that they win past the 45 however they only win 63% of these – for all the anxiety they give their fans on the short ones they are still winning 90%. It’s almost a no brainer. No matter how many palpitations they give you if your returns are the same on the short ones as on the longer ones but you win more of the short ones – well you keep going short. That is until you give away the inevitable calamitous goal … let’s hope for Mayo’s sake their luck holds for one more game.


Appendix

Table 1 – Dublin point attempts by player

Chart 1 – Dublin 2017 deadballs

Table 2 – Mayo point attempts by player

Table 3 – Dublin 2017 kickout overview

Table 4 – Mayo 2017 kickout overview

Note 1 – Pressure Index explanation; this is a subjective metric where the pressure applied to a shot from play is given a range from 0 to 3. Very generally
• 0 = no pressure applied,
• 1 = very little (e.g. a player running alongside but not tackling)
• 2 = strong (e.g. on the shoulder, catching the shooters eye by flying in to tackle)
• 3 = intense (e.g. a block, delivering a shoulder just as the shot is being taken)

It does come with a warning as it is subjective but seeing as there is only one person applying the metric you would expect that there would be a level of consistency when a large enough volume of shots is reviewed.

Note 2 – Kickout definition
• Short = ball landing inside the 45
• Mid = ball landing between the 45 & 65
• Long – ball landing past the 65

Again some judgement is required for contested balls around the 45/65 but on a large enough dataset any kinks will be lost to the averages

Dublin v Tyrone 2017 AI SF

September 5, 2017

Unfortuantely I haven’t been able to get to the game and at this stage there really is nothing I can add to the commentary that is already out there.

Instead I will just leave the raw outputs here in case anyone wants them

Game overview

Dublin attack

Shot Chart

Assists & shooting overview

Tyrone attack

Shot chart

Assists & shooting overview

Kickout overview

Mayo v Kerry 2017 AI SF Replay

August 28, 2017

Styles make fights. It’s an old adage but one that has endured because there is such an element of truth in it. How else to explain away how a game between two teams differs so much from one week to the next. In the drawn tie there were a total of 103 possessions with 47 turnovers. Kerry won the possession battle 54 – 49. Here there was a total of 87 possessions – with Mayo winning that battle 47 to 40 – and 31 turnovers. There was just 9 (9!!) turnovers in the first 35 minutes.

There are many minor elements throughout a game that will lead to such variances but the main variable that changes was in how Kerry set up. They started with an extra man back to cut off the kicked ball into Mayo’s forwards. The knock effect of this was that (a) Mayo’s kickouts were less frantic and (b) Mayo countered by playing more of a possession game. Both elements ensuring there were less turnovers.

More on the kickouts later but to my mind Mayo showed their collective football intelligence by changing their style to suit the additional element of Kerry playing one back. They played a game we don’t normally associate with them – keep ball. In the drawn game they had just the four (8% of all possessions) team possessions where there were at least 12 player possessions. Only one occurred in the first half of that game. In the replay that rose to eight (17%) with five in the first half.

Now 12 is an arbitrary number used to illustrate a point but that point is further bolstered by the fact that in the seven games prior to the semi-final that percentage (of team possessions with >12 player touches) was just over 8%. Mayo changed their natural game to play what was in front of them. And executed it with intelligence and no small degree of precision.

Mayo attack

A very clinical outing from Mayo scoring 0 -04 more than would have been expected from the shots they attempted. From an Expt Pts perspective the majority of the gains came from their goal attempts where three shots produced 2 – 00. Over the two games Mayo had eight shots on goal scoring 4 – 01 with an Expt Pts of +3.22 (Note; Expt Pts is less reliable on goal attempts than point attempts – as will be seen when we come onto Kerry). Even if they don’t manage to maintain the same high conversion rate Mayo will want to carry the volume of attempts through to the final as this was a weakness against Dublin last year. Over the 140 minutes of the replay and drawn game against Dublin they only manufactured three shots at goal returning 1- 01.

Another area that Mayo will be happier with now is their deadball striking. In the first game C O’Connor hit just
25% off a very low volume (0 – 01 from four; free x3 & 1 x 45) whilst his returns for the year badly lagged previous seasons (67% Success Rate & Expt Pts of -3.87).

Here he was 0 – 06 from seven attempts (86%) though with an Expt Pts return of +0.19 he would have been expected to score 0 – 06. His one missed attempt was again outside his range in being a 45 to the left of centre.

Jason Doherty’s two points (0 – 02 from 2; Expt Pts +0.66) were excellent – especially the first free from the left as Kerry had reduced the gap to four points at that stage by scoring the previous two and would have gotten a huge lift if Mayo had missed an opportunity through their main free taker being off the field.

Given O’Connor’s long distance travails the consummate ease with which he converted the second attempt, a 45, might give Mayo management a decision to make on the longer ones come the final.

In the drawn game Mayo’s point attempts were very good returning 52% (0 – 12 from 23; Expt Pts +1.03). They stepped back ever so slightly here returning 50% (0 – 08 from 16; Expt Pts of +0.78) but not to any degree that would be alarming.

Although their shooting form has waxed and waned throughout the campaign, and indeed throughout certain games, they have been very consistent at a macro level. In the seven games coming into the semi-final they were converting point attempts at a 49% clip (Combined Expt Pts of -0.40). In the two SFs here they were a combined 51% (Ext Pts of +1.83). In the final they will be looking to hold onto this 50% as a minimum – over the 140 minutes against Dublin last year they were 45% (0 – 14 from 31; Expt Pts -0.22). Marginal gains and all but … that uplift from 45% to 51% could be the difference in a one point defeat over 140 minutes and a one point victory in 70 minutes.

Kerry’s attack

Kerry’s numbers are an absolute contradiction with a very high conversion rate at 59% but a horrible Expt Pts of -5.29. The negative Expt Pts can be entirely explained through their goal attempts. They had four separate instances where they were through on goal, producing six shots, but came away empty handed. Of the six only Peter Crowley’s attempt – immediately after Mayo’s first goal – could be considered anyway clear cut. Geaney’s movement, in such a confined space, was nothing short of remarkable for the attempt that Boyle stopped on the line but it was far from what could be described as a “gilt edged” opportunity. Similarly the three attempts around the 45th minute that Clarke, and a plethora of defenders, kept out were, in the main, instinctive snap shots. Geaney had another attempt from out wide at the death but there again there was a whole host of Mayo bodies in the way.

Looking ahead to the final this will (should!) be an area of concern for Mayo. Although the quality of attempts here was low the six shots do add to the four Kerry had in the first game. We know how devastating Dublin can be when they scythe through teams – Mayo cannot afford to offer up four/five/six shots on goal to Dublin as they did to Kerry. (On the credit side of this argument is that Mayo only faced 11 goal attempts in their seven matches pre the semi-final and four in the two games against Dublin last year)

Leaving the goal attempts to one side Kerry were an incredible 74% (0 – 17 from 23; Expt Pts +1.97) on the remainder of the shots. We have seen that Mayo – on a combined 51% – had a combined Expt Pt close to Kerry’s with a 74% Success Rate. How so? Kerry achieved their 74% on very simple shots. The complete shot chart is in the appendix but below are all their 2nd half attempts – it comprises of goal attempts, tap overs and simple frees. There is only one shot from outside ~25metres. They went for goal too soon and too often.

Kerry struggled collectively the last day on their point taking (40%; 0 – 08 from 20) but coming into the semi-final they were on fire with a combined 71%. Yes the defences they faced were of a lesser variety than Mayo’s but they really should have been in a position to back themselves and keep the scoreboard ticking over.

Kickouts

Mayo (when compared with the outputs from the drawn game) wiped the floor with Kerry. They got 15 of their 23 kickouts away short with, unlike in the drawn game, quite a number coming under little or no pressure. That first game saw them score 1 – 06 from the 13 short ones that they won. They were less productive here scoring “just” the 0 – 04 on their own short kickouts but where they really dominated was on the mid/long range.

In total there were 19 kickouts that went past the 45 – with Mayo winning 13 (six on their own kickout to just one for Kerry and seven on Kerry’s kickout to just the five for Kerry). And when they won them they went for the jugular getting nine shots off and scoring 1 – 05. That’s 1 – 09 from kickouts both days. Why the turnaround? It is very hard to say watching TV footage but there appears to have been a convergence of Kerry getting caught between roles following their decision to play with an extra back plus Mayo going back to brass tacks (if you get a chance to re-watch Peter Canavan’s piece on Sky on how simple some of the “bunched” routines were it is well worth it).

One area that might give Mayo something to ponder is the fact that Kerry moved the ball quite well from their own short kickouts. Kerry won 11 converting eight to shots and scoring 0 – 06. Or 0.55 points per kickout won. In fairness this appears to be a blip as Mayo were giving up 0.28 points per short kickout in the prior eight games this year but still there are always those edges to be gained ….

APPENDIX

Game overview

Kerry’s shot chart

Mayo’s shot chart

x = missed, disc = score, yellow = deadball, black = 1st half from play, white = 2nd half, red = goal attempt

Mayo v Kerry 2017 AI SF

August 22, 2017

Kerry’s attack

Coming into the game one of the biggest disparities was in Kerry’s Conversion Rate versus what Mayo had allowed up to that point. In their three 2017 Championship games Kerry were running at a massively impressive 67% clip (both on total shots attempted as well as on point attempts from play) whilst Mayo were giving up 49% (a meagre 39% from play). Something had to give.

Kerry ended up with 2-14, a Conversion Rate of 50% and an Expt Pts tally of +0.37; not often you would consider letting in 2-14 a good result but Kerry’s returns were essentially average. On top of the overall lower conversion rate Kerry only hit 40% (0 – 08 from 20) on their point attempts. Advantage Mayo’s defence. Mayo did however give up eight shots from frees whilst Kerry created three clear cut goal opportunities (three shots on goal and Buckley’s converted follow up). So maybe more of an honourable draw with Mayo shading it.

Again coming into the game P Geaney & J O’Donoghue were the Kerry forwards’ standard bearers taking 40% of Kerry’s point attempts with a combined 64% Conversion Rate (Expt Pts of +4.44). Mayo managed to keep a lid on them as together Geaney & O’Donoghue “only” accounted for 30% of Kerry’s point attempts though their accuracy was as good as ever (0 – 04 from 6; 67% Conversion Rate & Expt pts of +1.44). That “keeping a lid” does come with a qualifier however; 0 – 03 came directly from frees where either were fouled.

There is plenty of commentary on the merit or otherwise of placing A O’Shea on Donaghy. Looking purely at the figures coming into the game Donaghy had taken just three shots in 124 minutes of action – scoring 1-2 mind – whilst also having eight primary and three secondary assists. Here in just over 70 minutes he scored just 0 – 01 but managed three shots and as can be seen from the assists table below he was Kerry’s puppet master with six primary and two secondary assists.

Kerry assist table

Undoubtedly the three shots were from less productive areas as Donaghy roamed given that Kerry had switched away from the high ball – but that is a minimal gain. Donaghy had a hand in all three goal opportunities and was the dominant Kerry presence in the forwards.

Mayo’s attack

Coming into the game Mayo had converted 53% of their shots (49% of point attempts) whilst Kerry had allowed 47% (40% on point attempts). Here Mayo had a combined 50% with 52% from point attempts. Advantage Mayo

Moran & O’Connor’s accuracy up front was excellent scoring 0 – 07 from 8 point attempts (88% Conversion Rate with an Expt Pts of +3.21) whilst overall, when including goal chances, they produced a combined 75% Conversion Rate (1 – 08 from 12) and Expt Pts of +2.37. You will go a long way to find better returns from a front two in such a big game.

Of course (there’s always a caveat!) if O’Connor & Moran were sublime, but Mayo were more or less bang on average, that means that there were issues elsewhere. The most noticeable was their deadball accuracy. They had three frees and one 45 with O’Connor only converting 1.

This is – worryingly for Mayo – now becoming a trend. Attached are all O’Connor’s deadball attempts this year with the ones in the Kerry game highlighted in black. Previously we highlighted that O’Connor has a definite arc outside of which he is vulnerable. That arc is as evident in 2017 as it ever was.

O’Connor 2017 deadball chart

Outside of Moran & O’Connor Mayo were 33% (0- 05 from 15; Expt Pts of -2.18) which is well down on how they were doing coming into the game (49% & an Expt Pts +0.97). It is hard to see Moran & O’Connor being as productive the next day but even if they do “slack” somewhat the expectation is that the rest of the team will improve.

Areas of improvement for the replay

As already intimated Mayo will need more from the supporting cast from play whilst also getting more than just 0 – 01 from whatever deadballs they have. But there’s also the issue of their discipline. They gave up the eight shots from frees but some of those were, to use a technical term, just dumb – especially in the first half. After going ahead by 1 -01 they gave up an off the ball free just outside the D and then managed to give up an extra 13m for a free out towards the wing that brought the ball right onto the D. Two simple tap overs, lead halved and Kerry were up and running. This doesn’t account for the one where Vaughan dived at O’Donoghue’s feet from behind.

As an aside this is not the first time that 13m was tagged on to an important free – the equalising score for Cork came from a free just outside the 45 that had had 13m tagged on. Gotta cut out the dumb sh*t in the replay.

Kerry? They will be disappointed in their shooting. Dropping from 67% on point attempts in the three previous games to 40% here can be somewhat accounted for by the conditions and the step up in defensive quality however quite a bit of the drop can be credited to Kerry themselves.

Kerry pt attempts from play – pressure/no pressure

Of their 20 point attempts 45% were taken under little or no pressure (white in the above chart) with just a 33% Conversion Rate. The three converted were by P Geaney, BJ Keane and K Young (with his right!!) but it was the ones that were missed (Moran & Donaghy x2, Maher & Morley x1) that Kerry will need to tighten up on.

Kickouts

The main focus during the game was on Mayo’s kickouts where Kerry applied huge amounts of pressure pushing up on the short ones in an effort to force Mayo to go longer. When Clarke did have to go longer Kerry lorded it winning 8 of 11 (73%) that passed the 45. But the reason for Kerry pushing up so hard was evident in what Mayo did with the short ones they won. Of the 13 they got away they managed to get ten attacks, eight shots and scored 1- 06. Unbelievable returns.

Playing the short one as much as Mayo do – 109 so far in their eight games – they’ll always run the gauntlet of the calamitous one. Kerry got a point from the one short kickout they intercepted; to date Mayo have lost 9 (8% of all short kickouts taken) and given up 0 – 07. A goal will eventually come but the credit balance is such that Mayo really should just accept when it happens (though doing everything in their power to prevent it) and stick to the plan.

One point to note is how Mayo fared over the two halves. In the first half Mayo only got 46% (6 of 13) of kickouts away short but in the second half that rose to 73% (8 of 11). The high press game is very tiring and a combination of Kerry fatigue, and Mayo alertness to what they were doing, ensured a much more productive second half

Less newsworthy in the post-game reaction was how good Mayo were on Kerry’s kickouts. When Kerry went past the 45 Mayo essentially broke even (Kerry won 7 getting 5 shots; Mayo won 6 getting 4 shots from same) but they were more impressive in what they did to Kerry’s short ones. Kerry had 11 but only converted three to a shot.

APPENDIX

Game overview

Kerry’s shot chart

Mayo’s shot chart

x = missed, disc = score, yellow = deadball, black = 1st half from play, white = 2nd half, red = goal attempt

Mayo assists