Free Taking Review

June 15, 2020

This piece started out as a simple question – who is the best free taker? Just like reviewing the impact of short kickouts however that simple question opens up differing layers of complexities. So before we can answer that original simple question we need to disentangle the complexity, by understanding the various components, and then put it all back together again. (see note1)

Historic returns
Frees (for this piece 45s are considered free kicks) have produced a relatively stable return for the past number for years though there was a step up in 2017 that has been maintained.

The numbers involved, at just under 2.5k attempts, are robust. We can be happy that the returns, whilst covering approximately one third of all Championship games, are indeed indicative of free taking in the game at the highest level.

2017 – 2019
The relative stability of the returns means that the Expt Pts methodology works well. Thus we are able to look past pure Conversion Rates and take into account the relative difficulty of various frees to see who is outperforming the average

The above table shows the returns for any player with >25 attempts recorded in Championship games from 2017. Why we chose 2017 will become apparent. We can immediately see the importance of overlaying something (in this instance Expt Pts) onto the Conversion Rate through the lens of Rory Beggan. His Conversion Rate is low as the vast majority of his attempts are from distance. But his strike rate on these more difficult attempts is such that it ensures his returns, through Expt Pts, are well above average.

But this table is incomplete. It only includes those games fully charted and in the database.

To ensure a complete picture all frees from games not in the database, for those nine players, as well as the data for another six free takers from Roscommon & Tyrone (see note2), was reviewed and backfilled

Some quick highlights
• Diarmuid Murtagh comes in with a bullet; first on Conversion Rate and an above average return
• A “big three” emerges with Dean Rock, Séan O’Shea and Beggan pulling away from the others in terms of Expt Pts
• Through this lens Conor McManus & Michael Murphy are surprisingly low on the table
• Tyrone’s issues from deadballs are evident. They have used Séan Cavanagh & Darren McCurry as well but their main strikers have been below average as a trio

Shot Charts

From 2017 onwards I started to chart exactly where point attempts were taken from as opposed to just the sector which feeds into the Expt Pts calculation. This allows us to produce individual shot maps. It has also allowed us to create zones for frees – demarcated by the blue line above- with the guideline returns being 90% for “inside” and 50% for “outside”

In this guise below is Beggan’s shot map since 2017 (yes that is the 65m coming into view!)

He immediately presents a problem (one that we only really see elsewhere with Paul Broderick from Carlow) in that his “outside” shooting is very outside. Given that all attempts from beyond the 45 are placed into three zones based on the width of the pitch no consideration is really given to angle or length. And we can’t really model the returns as there are so few to compare against. It is therefore possible (probable?) that Expt Pts is underselling his performance.

To overcome this I’ve layered another zone so that instead of just “inside” and “outside” we now have “inside”, ”outside” and “ultra” (open to better names!!!). The “inside”/”outside” demarcation was subjectively arrived at after reviewing games. The below “ultra” outline is similarly subjective in nature. It could be moved 1 metre either way. Two metres perhaps? But looking at Beggan & Broderick’s shot maps we do have to introduce the concept so the below is as good an educated guess as any as to where to apply the line.

Individual players
Using these three ranges we now have new averages – 90% for inside, 58% for outside and 34% for ultra. Using these new ranges gives us a very different view of some players

Dean Rock

Mister consistency. Rock is second on the Conversion Rate ranking and first on Expt Pts. He is not padding his stats with short range efforts either. 71% of his attempts are “inside” and, whilst above average, his returns at 93% from this zone are not earth shattering. There are plenty with similar returns. What he is very good at is knowing his range – only two from “ultra”, which were out wide rather than long, with a lot of the “outside” attempts being centrally around the 45. This all aids his excellent 78% from “outside”.

On top of the mere accuracy we must note that 38% of his attempts have come in All Ireland finals and semi-finals. Preliminary work (here) has shown that game state can have an impact on a free taker’s returns. Given the sheer number of big game he has been in it is even more impressive that he has maintained this level of consistency.

Rory Beggan

No. 1 on “outside” shooting, from those with any volume, plus maintaining an above average return on the “ultra” length (40% versus a 32% average without his attempts included). The idea of a wrong side (right footer from the right) dissipates when we are shooting from such long range distances as the narrowness of the angle of the goalposts lessens, however it is still evident in Beggan’s chart. He is deadly centrally (80%; 0-16 rom 20) but if we draw a line up from the edge of the D he is 42% (0-07 from 17) on the right and 55% (0-06 from 11) on the left.

But that is nit picking. His abilities – such length whilst maintaining above average accuracy – is unique and is a deadly weapon. Quite apart from his accuracy just the threat of him means where you foul Monaghan has to come into any opposition team talk – which gives their inside forwards that extra split second to make their runs.

Conor McManus

We can’t talk about Beggan without reviewing Conor McManus. His returns were those that surprised me the most as my go to image of him is always hitting monster points from ridiculous angles. But that image hides a lack of consistency on his free taking; 84% “inside” is poor when you consider the volume he has taken from there.

Now there are mitigating factors. There are five misses from the right (wrong side) which indicates a lack of a reliable left footer whilst the subjective placement of the “inside” line goes against him. A metre further in and five of his misses would transfer from “inside” to “outside”. On top of the five misses inside from the right there are another two “outside”.

There are also another ten misses around the 45 which, when we compare to Beggan’s success there, make no sense as to why he would be taking them. They are obviously outside his zone. But the majority of these were pre Beggan becoming who he is. Eight of those ten central “outside” misses came in the 2017 campaign. Beggan had 12 attempts in total that year. McManus has more or less relinquished those efforts from which he is weakest from.

Séan O’Shea

The GAA’s own holy trinity is completed by Séan O’Shea. His unerring accuracy “inside” gives him a path to overtaking Rock on Conversion Rates but he will want to tidy up the “outside” shooting, especially just to the right of centre, to completely pull away from the other two in Expt Pts

Paul Broderick

Perhaps the most surprising entrant; he is the only member on the list outside of perennial Division1 & 2 teams. That in itself is a testament to the volume of games Carlow have played on their recent journey as well as their willingness to let him have an attempt given his accuracy.

Comments will become repetitive as we go through the players. He knows his limitations so doesn’t take them from the wrong side. The fact that he is left footed helps as “inside” right footed free takers are easier to come by. Again when the angle widens we can see him try some “ultra” attempts from the left. Prone to lapses of concentration – two of his three misses inside are within 25m on his good side.

Diarmuid Murtagh

His accuracy is good but he has been aided by the majority of his attempts being close and central. Again like Broderick the fact he is a left footer helps as Conor Cox & Ciarán Murtagh were able, in the main, to cover his “wrong side”

Neil Flynn

Neil Flynn took over from Kevin Feely as the main free taker in 2018. Overall conversion rate looks low at 71% but as the chart above shows he is reliable with his only two misses “inside” being from (a) the wrong side and (b) a straight on attempt close to the outside range. Has a weakness from centre to right of D for up to ~10metres outside the 45.

Peter Harte

As a unit Tyrone have struggled but Harte has held his own. Again like Diarmuid Murtagh he is aided by the fact that he is, in the main, an “inside” left footed free taker so does not have to take attempts from the wrong side. Again like Murtagh the majority of his attempts are within a specific close in zone – struggles on the edge of the “Inside” zone.

Shane Walsh

The only man to take frees off both feet (white = left foot above, black = right) and it is a testament to his two footedness that he is up there. The only other player I came across with this level of two footedness was Kevin Feely. Walsh was 94% (0-16 from 17) off his left “inside” and 85% (0-17 from 20) off his right. A bit of inconsistency with close in misses whilst Galway could develop a wide/long range shooter to take some of the pressure off as he struggles wide outside

Ciaran Murtagh, Conor Cox & Conor McAliskey

Murtagh & McAliskey had four attempts between them in 2019 whilst Cox’s volume is too small to extract too much from. All three come out with average returns on Expt Pts. Once again a reminder that average here is not bad – this is average in the context of the best players in our game in possibly the era with most collective accuracy ever.

Niall Morgan

Niall Morgan has an obvious comfort zone right of centre around the 45 (81%; 0 – 09 from 11). Everywhere else he has struggles (15%; 0-02 from 13). Playing amateur psychologist Tyrone see these as shots to nothing but there are consequences to such low returns – are they affecting Morgan’s confidence? Could Tyrone have scored more than 0 – 02 if they had gone quick with these attempts? Low volumes but poor enough game management.

Michael Murphy

Michael Murphy’s overall Conversion Rate at 66% is low but the perception, or mine at the very least, is that this was ok given the volume of his long range efforts. To some extent this is true as just under half (36 of 74) of his attempts come from “inside”.

And he is as good as the next man from “inside”. But this perception hides the fact that his long range shooting has not been up to scratch. He is, or at least has shown in Championship, that wide left, when he has, from distance, to swing them in, does not suit him.

For “outside” his returns of 45% are well below the average of 57%. Even more so when compared to those of the holy trinity – Rock, Beggan & O’Shea combined for 71%; 0-55 from 77.

Cillian O’Connor

In many ways Cillian O’Connor is the hardest player to peg. And the most surprising. I wrote on this subject, in what feels like a different lifetime, back in 2016 when O’Connor came out on top. He was the Dean Rock of 2013 – 2016. But this portion of his game has obviously regressed from there.

His “inside” shooting is still as metronomic as ever with his only misses coming from the right (due to the fact that Mayo have been unable to rely on a left footed free taker) and two out wide right on the subjective partition line.

The original “inside”/”outside” demarcation was not built on O’Connor’s data but it could well have been. The minute he steps outside that range his returns begin to plummet, from 94% “inside” to 41% “outside. This is the biggest drop of any player with any volume. The cherry on top being that he has missed all six from the “ultra” range.

Mayo have to help O’Connor here. Develop a left footed free taker. Transfer those longer range attempts to someone else. His brother perhaps? If you can’t do either start going short. Do something because what has happened for the last three years hasn’t worked.

Appendix

Note1: We must also understand that there are elements not captured. The impact of weather. The differing grounds. Pressure. Taking a free one point behind in an All-Ireland final is very different than taking one when ten points up in a Leinster final. We know all of these have an impact but that impact is not measured here.
We must also always be cognoscente of the small volumes involved

Note2; Roscommon & Tyrone were chosen given their relative success in the timeframe. We had the main free takers for the other “big” teams. Both of these had made the Super8s in both years

Short Kickouts Overview

May 6, 2020

Short kickouts. The bane of every traditionalist and subject of more opprobrium than steps, refereeing inconsistencies and red card appeals. Yet their prevalence continues to grow increasing from 46.7% of all kickouts in 2017 to 50.0% in 2019. That equates to a quarter of all possessions in a match.

So why, given that opprobrium, do teams persist with them? And do they work?

 

Why go short?

Short kickouts give a team possession (see Note1). And possession has been King of late with the average number of team possessions during a match dropping from 99.4 a game in 2015 to 90.3 in 2019. A reduction of ~9% over the past five years

The points per possession (ppp) by various kickout lengths also show that short kickouts far outstrip the returns for kickouts past the 45 (see Note2)

 

Short kickouts guarantee you possession in a game where possession is rarer; deny the opposition a scoring opportunity by kicking to a contest further out the pitch, whilst also being very productive compared to other kickout types. Why wouldn’t you go short?

Because that narrative is too simplistic. Incredibly so. A high proportion of short kickouts are conceded by opposing teams either through physical restraints (we know that no team can constantly press on the kickout) or for tactical reasons. Therefore basing efficiencies on whether a team gathered possession is too limited. It is what happens post gathering the kickout that determines how effective the routine has been.

(The best case scenario would be to know what percentage of possessions, emanating from short kickouts, were gathered versus differing defensive set ups. If a team defending the kickout drops you would expect the attacking team to take the easy option and roll a short one out every time. But it should be harder to score. If teams press up the proportion of short kickouts will drop as teams look to outkick the press. But we don’t have this granularity – see Note3 (more on what we do have later))

Here we look to introduce a new concept similar to the advantage that a server has in tennis (stay with me here!!). There is an excellent, if slightly out of date, article breaking down the nuances of the server’s advantage in tennis – https://www.tennisabstract.com/blog/2011/08/17/how-long-does-the-servers-advantage-last/ – but to quote that article

“… at some stage in the rally, the server’s advantage has disappeared. Four or five strokes in, the server may still be benefiting from an off-balance return. But by ten strokes, one would assume that the rally is neutral-that the advantage conferred by serving has evaporated

The same rationale can be applied to possessions in football. At some stage the advantage of having a possession from a kickout, such as the ability to bypass a defensive shield or use a pre-set move, disappears. The type of possession moves from a kickout into what one might dub a transition phase and any scores from this (transition) phase should be removed from kickout returns.

How do we determine that inflection point? That point when a possession moves from “kickout” to “transition”? One way would be time – how long a possession lasts. Another is how many passes are in a possession (see Note4)? And it is the latter that we are going to use here. I have collected the number of individual player possessions, within a team possession, for a number of years now which we can use as a proxy for passes. The breakdown of player possessions per short kickout gathered are shown below

 

Half of all short kickout possessions end after six individual player possessions. How they ended (shot, turnover, end of half etc.) is not a consideration at the moment. That will come later. The tennis paper had a range over which the advantage of the server dissipates. Following that example I have created two kickout phases – “quick” possessions where there have been 1-6 player possessions and then “medium” for 7-11 player possessions. Anything with 12+ player possessions is deemed to have moved to the transition phase – any outcomes, given how long the defending team has had to set up, cannot be attributed to the kickout (see Note5). All scores emanating from short kickouts will be attributed to these three components – quick, medium and transition. It is up to the reader whether they want to put the middle portion – “medium” – into the kickout numbers or the transition phase. I have placed them within the kickout phase.

 

Short kickouts

So what happens on short kickouts? The team taking the kickout gathers possession 94.1% of the time. We will parse those below but for now, and the remainder of this piece, we will treat the 5.9% of short kickouts where possession was lost as one homogenous group. On these the opposition scored 0.67 points per possession (ppp)

That led to a shot

The first demarcation on short kickouts is whether the possession was progressed to a shot. In our sample (96 Championship games from ’17 to ’19 and in excess of 2,200 short kickouts) this happened 58% of the time.

There are five outcomes from any shot; a score, the ball goes wide, the ball drops short and the opposition gains control, the half ends, or the shooting team regains possession (blocked shot regathered, or the ball goes out for a 45). The breakdown, for these five outcomes, are laid out below

 

With a score, a wide, the end of the half or the shot regained the kickout possession has definitively ended. We can take the outcomes from these kickouts and determine our points per possession (ppp) metric. The question then becomes what we do with the 11% of turnovers within “quick” & “medium” (we already have determined that “transition” possessions are no longer considered within kickout returns). Should any scores off these turnovers be netted against the scores from the short kickouts?

My instinctive answer to this is yes – but only where the score is off a quick counter attack i.e. a shot is produced, after a kickout, with one to eleven player possessions (“quick” & “medium”), the shot drops short, or is blocked, and the original defending team now scores off one to six player possessions (“quick”). Why only “quick”? It is undoubtedly a subjective viewpoint but in the main with player possessions of 1-11 the original attacking team should be more or less set defensively. When the ball is turned over the impact on the defensive shape, from the kickout, will be very quickly remedied.

If we do this the ppp table for shots from a short kickout looks like this

 

No shot

To understand the effectiveness of any kickout strategy you have to take account of the scores the opposition managed to attain from the possessions they gathered. We have produced these numbers for (a) where the kickout team lost the kickout and (b) where the kickout team managed a shot from the subsequent possession. What of the instances where the kickout team didn’t manage a shot?

Again there are four main outcomes here; there was no shot because the ball went out for a kickout (without a shot), the half ended or the ball was turned over either inside, or outside, the opposition’s 45

 

Again “transition” possessions, where the kickout team had the ball for 12+ individual player possessions before losing the ball, are discarded. Possessions that ended at half time or where the ball trickled out over the end line without a shot are also discarded.

So the question becomes which of the turnover possessions, and scores from same, we take account of? A bit of subjectivity is required again. Personally I believe all turnovers, off short kickouts, where the ball was picked up outside the defending team’s 45 should still be considered as an extension of the kickout possession. And all scores off those turnovers should be netted against the short kickout outcomes (these are denoted in green above; see Note6).

For those where the turnover was picked up inside the defending teams’ 45 (denoted in orange) we have already set the rules – only those where the then defending team scores on a quick counter are considered. Our ppp outcome for these now looks like

 

We have now calculated all the component parts; a breakdown of kickout percentages, how long teams held onto the ball for after gaining possession, how many possessions were progressed to a shot, how many were turned over, what score came off all our various components.

A team takes 200 kickouts with the returns from same following the outcomes outlined above. What happens?

 

The kickout team ends up scoring 0-57 whilst the defending team scores 0-26 … a net 0.156ppp in the kickout teams’ favour. Still good. Still positive. But much closer to the net ppp in the original table above for mid-range kickouts.

By team

Using the new methodology how do individual teams perform on short kickouts? Unsurprisingly Dublin are way out in front aided by a double positive – they have gathered possession more often than anyone else (98.4% of the time) and are also just more clinical on their shots in general.

 

Tyrone do well here, in the main, as they are very good at getting the short ones away. They are second on the list gathering possession 97.9% of the time.

Kerry and Mayo hurt themselves here somewhat. The opposition has gathered possession 9.1% (Kerry) and 8.1% of the time – compared to 1.6% & 2.1% for Dublin and Tyrone – leading to them leaking a combined 0-15 here. This compares to the gold standard of Dublin; on their 251 short kickouts they have only ever given up 0-02 from directly losing the possession and one of them was in the 68th minute when they were 9 points ahead against Galway in the 2018 AI semi-final (the other was Donegal in the 2018 Super8 game)

 

 

Note1: when talking about kickouts the term “won” is commonly used – “a team won 50% of its own kickouts”. I use the term myself; I interchange “won” & “gained possession”. But I shouldn’t. We need to move away from viewing kickouts as being won or lost as “won” indicates that the kickout was positive. But a team can win a kickout fortuitously (keeper kicks to a 1-v-3 for the opposition … but they all clatter into each other leaving his one player with the ball. This is a positive outcome on a terrible kickout). We need to think of kickouts in terms of gaining/losing possession as opposed to being won or lost.

Note2: this table is very simplistic. It nets, by length, the points scored on kickouts where possession was gathered versus points scored on kickouts where possession was lost.

Note3; partly due to time constraints on my part. But mostly due to the camera work of the various TV operators. Quite apart from the fact that one camera view is used for the vast majority of the game, so defensive shape cannot be determined, the operators tend to miss a number of kickouts due to the speed with which keepers get the ball away.

But even if we can’t see the exact defensive shape we can make some rudimentary notations as to how the ball was received. That was what I had started to do during the aborted 2020 league campaign. In the 11 games reviewed 72% of short kickouts were received uncontested thus further validating the need to go beyond whether the possession was gained to justify the tactic.

Note4; neither option – time nor number of passes – are fool proof. Any defending team can interrupt the possession by fouling and thus slow the possession down sufficiently to force it into the transition definition even if the time on the ball, or the number of passes, was relatively low.

Note5; these breaks are subjective. There is probably a statistical method available to split these groupings more accurately but my background is not academic enough to perform that. So we will, reluctantly, go with the gut feel based on the chart

Note6; we can tie ourselves in absolute knots here about what cohorts to include/exclude. But the volumes are small – 275 short kickouts ended up with the ball being turned over outside the opposition’s 45. Only 16 of these had 12+ player possessions. For simplicity’s sake they are all treated as one.

Derry v Down 1994 Ulster

April 23, 2020

This is the third game in the historic series (the 1985 All Ireland final between Kerry & Dublin can be found here whilst game4 of the 1991 Leinster series between Dublin and Meath can be found here) and a few observations highlighted in those games still hold true.

The game was different. The component parts – kickouts, fielding, shooting – were the same, and the current metrics we have for measuring them are probably a fair comparison, but the overarching principles that underlined how teams approached the game were different. Very different. Possession was not as important as it is now – clearing your lines was the first thought. This led to a lot more contested balls which in turn nullifies some of the metrics (points per possession, Attack Rates) we now view a game through (see note1).

In this game there were 113 team possessions with 31% of those possessions having just one player control the ball. 60% had no more than two players control the ball. No team possession had more than seven individual player possessions. This was very similar to that aforementioned 1991 game where there were 114 total possessions with 32% having one player possession, 63% having two player possessions and only one possession in the whole game having more than six individual player possessions (incidentally that was Kevin Foley’s goal!).

Compared to recent years? The four finals in the last three years have averaged 91 total possessions with 7% involving one player, 21% involving no more than two players and a whopping 35% with seven or more players controlling the ball. The game was different.

When Down had the ball

Overall Down had three fewer possessions throughout the game but managed to produce three more shots. (Incidentally that is now a clean sweep in these historic games for the team losing the possession count but winning the game). In and of itself this tells us something about that Down forward line; when they got the ball they were able to manufacture a shot. Again for the four finals in the last three years the Shot Rate (getting a shot off from possessions inside the 45) was 79.5%. Down produced a Shot Rate of 89% here.


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

That Shot Rate was somewhat inflated by the sheer volume of deadball attempts – eleven in total (10x frees and 1x 45). Eleven is high both when compared to current trends (last two years have seen an average of 6.4 deadballs per team per game) and historically. The four teams in the previously mentioned historic games averaged 8.0 shots from deadballs per team. Greg McCartan had an off day from the ground returning 0-04 from 10 which is about 0-03 below (Expt pts -2.96) what the modern free takers would be expected to return (see note 2)

Given the shots they attempted Down were expected to score 1-18 (Expt pts of 21.5). We have touched on the poor returns from deadballs above but their shooting from play was more or less in line with modern returns (1-10 from 21; 52% Conversion Rate & Expt pts -0.74). They had three clear cut goal chances, which, incidentally, were their last three attempt from play, returning 1-00 leaving a stat line of 56% (0-10 from 18) and Expt Pts of -0.23 for point attempts from play. This is good shooting in an All-Ireland final (point attempts from play were 53% for the four finals from 2017) and, as we will touch upon below, was greatly aided by their decision making.

Mickey Linden was exceptional scoring 0-06 from 8 (Expt pts +1.41). Three with the right, two with the left and one fisted effort … all after missing a very simple fisted point with his first attempt. In the first half he was 0-05 from 7 whilst also being directly involved in the build up to two further shots. Derry got to grips with him in the second half, ostensibly by moving McKeever across to pick him up, however he was still pivotal getting out in front and shifting the ball with quick hands for McCabe’s goal and also letting the ball into the forward line for the Whitnall attempt that was pulled wide.

Part of Linden’s success was his link play with Aidan Farrell. Farrell, as the starting target man, “only” came away with 0-01, however he was the primary assist on six Down shots in the first half including 0-03 of Mickey Linden’s haul. In a nod to his flexibility, and ability, he was then brought further out to field to try and stymie the influence Gilligan & Tohill were having there.

McCabe must go down as one of the most impactful substitutes. He was only on the pitch for 10 minutes but was centrally involved in all three of Down’s goal attempts, which were condensed into a four minute period from the 63rd minute, whilst also shifting the ball to Whitnall who was then fouled for the last score of the game. Incidentally there is a great interview with him from 2019 here

When Derry had the ball

Derry were not as efficient as Down, either in terms of manufacturing shots from attacks (a shot rate of 78% versus 89% for Down), nor in converting those shots (a Conversion Rate of 45% versus 53% for Down).

Derry’s deadball returns were below what was expected (50%; 0-04 from 8 Expt pts -1.60) but not as poor as Down. Their goal attempts (1-01 from 2) also returned more than Down’s did. Which all leads to a very poor day on their point attempts.


Disc = score, X= miss; black = point attempt from play 1st half, white= 2nd half

Derry’s point attempts are outlined above. The majority of them came from “outside” where their accuracy fell apart in the second half; they missed all seven after going 0-03 from 5 in the first half. In fact when we compare the Down shots from play, versus the Derry ones, we can see a clear distinction.


Disc = score, X= miss; black = Derry point attempt from play, white = Down

A lot of Down’s comparative accuracy can be attributed to where the shots came from. The aforementioned decision making. Expanding the inside/outside zone (granted I have made this fit the argument but still …) Derry had 10 shots from outside the bulk of Down’s shots and scored just 0-02 from those 10 attempts. Inside both teams were more or less as accurate as each other; both returned 56% (Derry 0-05 from 9 and Down 0-09 from 15). Down’s chances were just heavily weighted to the more favourable scoring opportunities.

No one had a “Mickey Linden” day for Derry but Joe Brolly was very good. Not only did he convert both his attempts but he was also the primary assist in seven more shots including winning three frees and setting up McCusker for the goal

Kickouts

Generally speaking Derry dominated the kickouts. They gained 11 extra possessions (27 won versus 16 for Down) on the 43 kickouts without the volume being skewed towards them. They won 64% of their own kickouts (14 of 22) but also 62% of Down’s (13 of 21). They were dominant. Using current rules I had them claiming seven Marks, to Down’s three, with Gilligan & Tohill bagging three apiece (hence why Farrell was moved out)

But they didn’t turn this dominance into a scoreboard effect. Derry scored 0-05 directly off the kickout possessions won, which results in 0.19 points per possession (ppp). Down scored 1-05 from the 16 kickouts they won for 0.50 ppp

Unlike the modern game short kickouts were not really a “thing” with only five (12%) of the 43 kickouts dropping short of the 45. For context in the last four All-Ireland finals 58% of kickouts went short.

The kickout rules were different back in 1994. If a kickout was taken after a score it was taken from the 20m line. Otherwise it was taken from the edge of the small square. This had a huge variance on the length of the kickout and from Derry’s perspective the outcome. Below is their kickout chart with those kickouts post a score in white.


Disc = Derry gained possession, X= Down gained possession; white = after a score, black= after a wide

You can see that all bar three taken post a score made it past the 65 – basically onto Gilligan & Tohill – with two dropping just short of the 65. Derry dominated around the middle winning 10 of 14. But when the kickout was taken from the edge of the square Down managed to win 4 of 7 … three of these seven, circled in red, came in the last six minutes two of which led to the McCabe goal chances. Looking at the length of these three kickouts compared to the other four is it possible that the sheer volume of long kickouts emptied McCusker’s leg?

Note1
As an example of the differing emphasis there were 29 possessions started outside both team’s 65s in this game compared to an average of 7.75 over the past four All Ireland finals

Note2
This is another area, along with the possession count, that the modern day game distances itself from these historic games. And puts the accuracy of modern day free takers, such as Dean Rock and Séan O’Shea, into context. In the three historic games reviewed so far the teams combined for a deadball return of 49% (0-25 from 51). The average from the past five Championships was 72.6%. Rock, in the most pressurised of games, is running at 73% in All Ireland finals.

The three historic games’ deadballs are below. Now they have taken more long range pot shots than you are likely to see today but as a rule of thumb the target for current free takers is 85-90% “inside” and 50% “outside”. These historic returns are below expected on the “inside” (82%; 0-18 from 22) but well behind on the “outside” (24%; 0-07 from 29)

Ballyboden St. Endas v Kilcoo 2019 All Ireland Club Final

January 8, 2020

A high level overview shows an incredibly close game that, on chances alone, Ballyboden edged. They had 21 shots, with an Expected return of 0 – 14; Kilcoo produced 20 shots expected to return 1 – 10. They were created off very similar Attack Rates (78% apiece), Shot Rates (68% v 69%) and Conversion Rates (52% v 50%).

And yet Ballyboden were scrambling at the end trying to claw back a five point deficit with ten minutes to go. How did Ballyboden return a similar Conversion Rate to that of Kilcoo, off roughly the same number of shots, but find themselves in that hole? In large part due to their shot type.

Ballyboden shooting

Disc = score, X= miss; yellow = deadball, red = attempt on goal, black = point attempt from play 1st half, black = 2nd half

13 (10x frees and 3x 45s) of Ballyboden’s 21 shots were deadballs. That accounts for 62% of all their attempts which is an incredibly high volume; both in absolute terms and as a percentage of a teams’ total shot count. In the four provincial finals the next highest was seven shots from deadballs for Padraig Pearses in the Connacht final which accounted for 41% of all their shots.

Given this high volume Ballyboden had to ensure accuracy on their deadballs to keep the scoreboard ticking over. Instead they were poor scoring just 0 – 07 (54%; Expt Pts of -2.43).

Looking at the shot chart calling that 54% poor would seem harsh as they scored 0 – 07 from the nine attempts closer to goal and missed the four “50:50” chances from around the 45. But if these were true “50:50” chances then the average for the four would have been 0 – 02. To not get any of them is very poor especially as all four were taken with the benefit of a noticeable wind.

That brings up another quirk in the Ballyboden game – their lack of long range shooting. With that wind in the second half the furthest they attempted a shot from was c25 metres. In the first half they only had one shot (from play) from outside the 20m line. They were very conservative in their shooting.

Compare that to Kilcoo

Kilcoo shooting

With the wind in the first half Kilcoo had ten shots with nine of them coming from “outside”. The tenth was Johnston’s goal which was worked off a turnover high up the pitch.

Kilcoo only managed to score 0 – 02 from those nine point attempts so it was not necessarily a very accurate ploy (22% Conversion Rate; Expt pts -1.76) but it is in stark contrast to how Ballyboden used the wind. The old Wayne Gretzky adage of “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” comes to mind.

Of course, the other difference with Kilcoo’s shooting was their goal attempts. Kilcoo created three scoring 2 – 00. Ballyboden only had the one shot at goal which was a tight angled attempt that ensued from a scramble deep into injury time.

Kilcoo were very good in this aspect in the Ulster final as well meaning that they have scored 4 – 01 from just seven attempts on goal in two games. This is well above what would be expected. Can they maintain this in the final? Generally, you would expect their returns on goal attempts to revert to the mean but that’s in a long run of games. Nothing is set for just one game.

Kickouts

Possession from kickouts was a wash. Both teams lost one short kickout whilst the possession was evenly split on those that landed past the 45 (Kilcoo won possession on 11 to Ballyboden’s 10). No great split by keeper either; Kilcoo won six of Ballyboden’s 13 kickouts past the 45 with Ballyboden winning four of Kilcoo’s eight

One slightly strange aberration was that Kilcoo didn’t manage a shot from any of the five Ballyboden kickouts they won. This wasn’t an apparent issue in the Ulster final against Naomh Conaill, when they scored
0 – 02, off two shots, from four Naomh Conaill kickouts. But one of those shots came from a short one that went wrong. Over their last two games that is seven opposition kickouts past the 45 they have claimed – but only produced one shot from same. If they get a toe hold in the final through Corofin’s kickout they’ll have to do more.

Ballyboden St. Endas v Éire Óg 2019 Leinster Club Final

December 10, 2019

When reviewing games here we rarely reference the weather (except for last year’s Ulster club final) – mainly because the games covered are intercounty Championship played in the best of weather on (mainly) perfectly maintained pitches. This wasn’t the case here. There was a very strong wind down the pitch, the rain came and went throughout the game leading to a greasy ball and the ground was dead and heavy. All of which led to difficult handling conditions, placing numerous players under huge pressure, as well as changing the normal shooting zones.

A quick visual on how the conditions affected the game – below are the shots from play with the wind (white) and without (black).

Against the wind the furthest score was c25m from the goals. Only one shot was from further than 30m out. This in turn compresses the area that needs to be defended and can lead to more turnovers if the attacking team don’t stand off stringing a series of non-threatening passes together.

With all that said above are the numbers. There were only 31 shots in the game (the Munster final had 45, Ulster 37 and Connacht 36) with a total of 60 turnovers (Munster x43, Ulster x33 and Connacht x34) and 88 possessions (Munster x81, Ulster x69 and Connacht x68). The usual metrics of Shot Rate, Attack Rate and points per possession really don’t stack up.

That’s not to say the high turnover volume was purely down to the conditions. There were 24 turnovers higher up the pitch outside each teams’ respective 45 which is indicative of excellent tackling and physical aggression without cynicism. That lack of cynicism is further evidenced by the fact that there were just five shots at goal from frees throughout the whole game.

When Ballyboden had the ball

Ballyboden may not have taken many shots but they handled the conditions, shooting wise, better than Éire Óg did; they were 70% (0 – 07 from 10) on point attempts from play as against 43% (0 – 06 from 14) for Éire Óg. They also managed to eke out the only shot on goal.

Conal Keaney was evergreen scoring on all three attempts and also setting up another shot.

When Éire Óg had the ball

Éire Óg struggled to use the wind in the first half. They had a purple patch around the 10th minute when they scored 0 – 03 from three in sixty seconds. But outside that they didn’t have another shot in the first 20 minutes and then finished the half with nothing from four attempts.

The accuracy didn’t improve against the wind in the second half scoring another 0 – 03 from seven shots from play whilst another two opportunities went abegging with forced free kicks.
Séan Gannon was immense scoring 0 – 02 from 3 as well as providing the primary assists for another four shots.

Kickouts

Just a quick note on Éire Óg’s kickouts.

black = 1st half, white = 2nd half

They had just the four kickouts in the first half and, with the wind, went long(ish) on all of them winning possession on three. Against Portlaoise their mid to long kickouts broke 50:50 (won five, lost five). All good.

Against the wind they had seven kickouts but lost five; including two of the last three that led to Ballyboden points at the death. Could they have changed up those last few? Should they have? Not once did they go short. Ballyboden did so on three of their six against the wind. In the semi-final Éire Óg went short six times so it was in their locker. But having said that they did win a long one immediately after going a point behind but then kicked the ball away. Who is to say the outcome would be any different if they did go short? And there was a subtle change; their first four against the wind went mid to right and after losing three they went mid left with the last three. It just didn’t work.

Kilcoo v Naomh Conaill 2019 Ulster Club Final

December 5, 2019

Kilcoo on the ball

Kilcoo’s start, up until the second goal which put them six points clear, was as clinical a display as you will find.

That is an 86%** Conversion Rate (2 – 10 from 14 shots – above) with 0.82 points per possessions. Everything was working; Conor Laverty was immense leading the line being directly involved in seven of those 14 shots. Darryl Branagan had scored 1 – 01 and was involved in the build up to the other goal. Everything was working; they scored immediately off a turnover inside Naomh Conaill’s 45, off a Naomh Conaill short
kickout that went awry as well as getting shots off after stringing 28 & 30 passes together.

**Technically it is 79% as Eugene Branagan’s point in the 12th minute was pushed over by McGrath

And then it wasn’t. From the Branagan goal in the 38th minute to his relieving point in the 59th Kilcoo only managed one shot. And that was again from Branagan. Indeed, from that second goal Kilcoo only managed three shots in total with Darryl Branagan taking two. The other was the breakaway in injury time where Ward tried to lob the keeper from 40 metres. No midfielder or forward had a point attempt for the guts of 30 minutes

The visual impression from the TV pictures (always the worst methodology from which to draw sweeping statements!) was that they went into their shell in that 20 minute period between the Branagan scores. Do the numbers support that?

Post the second goal they lost the possession count 12 – 8 after winning that particular battle 22-19 up to that point. Part of this reversal was the fact that Naomh Conaill got their hands on two of Kilcoo’s seven kickouts whilst Naomh Conaill held onto their only two. Nothing untoward there – except for what that means on turnovers. Kilcoo were 5 – 4 ahead on kickouts but 3 – 8 behind on turnovers. In 30 minutes, from the 10th minute to the 2nd goal, Kilcoo gave up a measly three turnovers. Then they gave up eight in 20 minutes.

Now part of all this is undoubtedly regression to the mean. No club team can keep the numbers Kilcoo were producing going. Part was undoubtedly Naomh Conaill stepping up. Desperation at going six behind propelled them forward. Given their travails in Donegal finals over the past few years they are far from meek lambs.

But part is also a change in how Kilcoo played and used the ball. Again, anecdotally Laverty seemed to be on the ball around the 45 and 65 a lot more in the closing 15 minutes. They also used the ball differently. The proportion of individual possessions inside and outside the 45 changed. It was roughly 3.8:1 (213 individual possessions outside the 45 to 56 inside) in the dominant period up until their 2nd goal. But thereafter it was 5:1; 100 possessions outside the 45 to 20 inside. They slowed up the delivery, invited Naomh Conaill on, and turned it over with less of a focal point up top.

Naomh Conaill on the ball

Naomh Conaill’s method of attack was very different to Kilcoo’s. Whereas Kilcoo were using Laverty at the head of the attack, alongside some hard running from Darryl Branagan and the Johnstons, Naomh Conaill much preferred the high ball into the full forward. Whilst an undoubted tactic and given the trend towards ball retention in recent years one, especially at club level, that defences are not used to dealing with, it is also quite volatile. How often does a high ball in result in a clean catch? In a goal? In a score from a flick on or a subsequent scramble?

The type of attack is not something I have tracked. Not because it is unimportant but mainly because we are viewing games on TV from one main camera angle. What happens pre the ball coming in (no. of forwards v defenders, the runs being made, has the full forward boxed out the full back etc.) is very hard to determine. So, the numbers here stand on their own without any context of what we would expect to happen.

Naomh Conaill launched ten high balls, on nine separate possession, into the square. Some were better than others but in the main they were on point into the square. Of those ten they manufactured four shots and scored 0 – 02 though the Expt Pts on those four shots was +3.14.

We know that “good” attacks will return 0.35 – 0.40 points per possession (ppp). On their high balls Naomh Conaill returned 0.20ppp but this was in part down to poor execution. They should have returned 0.31ppp which isn’t far off the average. That Expt Pts is very high for just four shots – and is part of the thought process behind using the high ball. You’ll get less shots but the ones you do get should be (will be?) much easier.

On the 26 possessions where they didn’t launch a high ball, they had 16 shots (a shot 62% of the time vs 40% on the high balls) scoring 2 – 07 or 0.50 ppp. The Expt Pts on these 16 shots was +9.98 or 0.38ppp
A muddled enough picture. Naomh Conaill definitely got more (much more) on those possessions they didn’t launch in. But a large part of that was from excellent shooting (+3.02 on Expt Pts on non-high balls v -1.14 on the high balls). When we look at the Expt Pts for both the gap is much narrower (0.31ppp for high balls vs 0.38ppp for non-high balls).

And this is where the volatility comes in. Naomh Conaill got less shots but one of them was a goal attempt from the edge of the small square which was blasted over. You get the sense that to make the constant frequent high ball tactic work you need a goal.

Portlaoise v Éire Óg 2019 Leinster Club SF

November 29, 2019

Portlaoise really struggled offensively in the second half. They only managed seven shots, five from play, and whilst many will look to attribute this to (a) having a man sent off and (b) then chasing a goal this somewhat conceals how they were going. Up until Lillis’ red card the shot count in the second half was 8 – 4 in Éire Óg’s favour whilst they were 0 – 05 to 0 – 01 ahead on the scoreboard.

It is hard, from a purely numeric perspective, to know how much opprobrium to heap on an attack when there is a poor offensive display or, conversely, how much praise should be heaped on the defending team. But from Éire Óg’s perspective there are some things we can elicit. Like their discipline; both in terms of shape and tackling.

Up until the red card Portlaoise had 33 possessions. Of those 15 had at least a double digit volume of passes yet in these 15 possessions Éire Óg only gave away one shot from free, didn’t cough up a goal chance and only allowed 0 – 01 from nine point attempts. Portlaoise couldn’t break them down, got frustrated by Éire Óg’s shape and tenacity, and started taking poor options (0 – 02 from 12 “outside” below)

Éire Óg did what was required up front. Missed a penalty but converted their other two goal chances. Recovered from some shaky frees in the first half to score 0 – 04 from six. 41% (0 – 07 from 17) on point attempts.

Despite scoring 2 – 11, which is an excellent score at this time of year, this was achieved through volume rather than accuracy. Their attacking play complemented their excellent defensive play rather than trumping it.

Therein Darragh O’Brien was quietly excellent. He may not have shown up on the scoreboard (0 – 01 compared to Chris Blake’s 1 – 04 for example), but was exemplary in the No.11 position with a very impressive eight primary assists.

Kickouts

This was in interesting battle throughout the game. Above is Portlaoise’s kickout chart. They were able to get them away into the left full/half back pocket relatively easily. One went out over the sideline but nothing much came of it. This is Brody’s natural pocket (when he opened his body and went to his right Blake caught it short of the 45 and scored a point) and was more or less given to Portlaoise. But they were then not able to use it.

Portlaoise got their hands on 14 short kickouts. All bar one were roll outs into the D or into that pocket. Portlaoise were only able to progress four to a shot. The possession on five didn’t make the Éire Óg 45 whilst another four saw just one player control the ball inside that 45. Éire Óg just suffocated them as they progressed up the pitch.

On the flip side Éire Óg really struggled on their kickout in the first half.

An over simplification for sure but they had two kickouts in that half; long mid-right into a contest on the 65 and onto the 45 by the sideline to the keeper’s left. 7 of their 10 first half kickouts went into these two areas with Portlaoise getting their hands on five.

Truth be told Portlaoise didn’t produce enough to put the Éire Óg keeper under pressure in the second half but when he was called upon (even before the Lillis red card reduced Portlaoise’s options) he changed it up avoiding the two first half pockets and dropping the ball into an area between the 45 & 65 to his left. They won 3 of 4 here and also picked up two short ones. Portlaoise were never able to put them under the sort of intense pressure that produced in the first half where they won four out of five Éire Óg kickouts racking up 1 – 02

Corofin v Padraig Pearses 2019 Connacht Club Final

November 27, 2019

Nothing spectacular from Corofin. 1 – 00 from their two attempts at goal; 0 – 03 from four frees and 0 – 07 from 13 on point attempts. Expected to score 13 points. Scored 1 – 10. All in all, an average enough outing.

I imagine Pearses will be annoyed with their days work. They missed two relatively straight forward central frees which were somewhat cancelled out by a converted 45. But that 45 aside they skied a very good one on one goal chance and converted just 0 – 03 from 8 point attempts.

Those numbers don’t take into account their very slow start. It was the 12th minute before they controlled the ball inside Corofin’s 45 with a Niall Daly point attempt. It was the 19th minute before a Pearses player completed a pass from within the 45 by which time they had only controlled the ball twice inside the 45 (alongside Daly’s shot Carey attempted a free out on the sideline after getting fouled).
And yet for all that after 40 minutes it was 0 – 06 apiece and Pearses were 13-12 ahead on the shot count.

Reading way too much into it Corofin let Pearses hang around despite their terrible (metric wise) start but once Pearses drew level they upped it a gear, scored 1 – 02 in five minutes, allowing Pearses just one possession in that time, and then saw out the game.

Corofin shooting

Corofin were their clinical selves “inside” scoring 1 – 07 from just nine shots with the missed attempt being a contested fisted goal attempt from a dropping diagonal ball.


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

The flip side is that their “outside” shooting was quite poor; 0 – 02 from 8 from play.

This may just be a blip – not only in terms of Conversion Rate but also volume. They were 0 – 03 from just five attempts “outside” against BallintubberBallintubberBallintubber and in their devastating 1st halves against Dr Crokes and Gaoth Dobhair (below), at the end of last year’s campaign, attempted just 5 of 26 shots from “outside”

When it matters, they don’t do “outside” shooting.

Corofin’s range of attacking players was again on display here. From their 15 shots from play they had 11 different shooters. Padraig Pearses had five (and only one was not named Daly!).
Ian Burke’s quick hands were on full display again – giving the pass inside for Liam Silke’s goal and also providing the primary assist on four other point attempts.

Kickouts

Nothing much there to be honest. But we now have two Corofin games where we can overlay their kickouts.

30 kickouts in the two games with Corofin winning possession on 77% (23 of 30). One third (10) have gone short (which is below intercounty rates) with Corofin getting their hands on all of them.
Of those that have gone past the 45 Corofin have won possession 60% of the time (12 – 8). This is good – for intercounty Championship games the kickout team wins x% of kickouts past the 45. Looking at the kickout map they prefer hitting the wings in and around the 65 – and avoid the dangerous middle between the 45 & 65. They don’t rely on Marks – only the one across the two games

Corofin v Ballintubber 2019 Connacht Club SF

November 13, 2019

In many ways the game was similar to the 2018 Connacht final (review here) in that the overall numbers (possessions, shots, Conversion Rates) were quite close but Corofin never really felt in any trouble. The below is an extract from that 2018 game

But the main reason for their easy third was due to a devastating 15 minute spell from the 33rd minute onwards. In that period Corofin had 16 possessions taking eleven shots … and scoring 1 – 08 (Conversion Rate of 82% with an Expt Pts +3.06).

Corofin had less of a surge in this game but they again showed their clinical nature in the third quarter scoring 1 – 04 from just 5 shots (Expt pts of +3.53) enabling them to ease out to a six point lead after 45 minutes. Ballintubber showed great battling qualities to get within one heading into injury time but the damage had been done.

In another way this game was very different from 2018. The 2018 version was a veritable turnover fest with 90 total possessions of which 58 (64%) were turnovers. Both teams were very careful with the ball here producing just the 63 total possessions in total of which 28 (44%) were turnovers. Both teams played “keep ball” for long periods with 20 of the possessions having a string of at least 10 passes.

That volume of possessions is not just low compared to the 2018 game but very low full stop. On a straight line conversion to a 70 minute intercounty game (they are not the same thing with injury time etc. but this is just for illustrative purposes!) those 63 possessions grade out at 74. The average intercounty Championship total in 2018 & 2019 was 90. In 150 games since 2015 only one game – Fermanagh v Monaghan in 2018 – came in at lower than 74. This was a possession game brought to the extremes.

 

Corofin’s defense

Much has been made (both by myself and others) of the Corofin attack. It wasn’t at full throttle here (50% Conversion Rate from play; 1 – 05 from 12) though the depth of their attack can be gauged by the fact that (a) their three goal shots didn’t come from the vaunted forwards but instead Kieron Molloy & Liam Silke and (b) Gary Sice was 0 – 03 from 3 on frees in 2018 but didn’t take one here when they went 0 – 05 from 5.

Instead of focussing on the attack it is work taking a quick look at their defence through the lens of Ballintubber shooting.

Ballintubber’s slow build up would appear not to have worked. Corofin were able to maintain as clean a “D” as you are likely to see allowing no shot at goal and just two attempts from the very outer edge of the shooting arc.

But the slow build up is not the sole reason for this paucity of close shooting. In the 2018 game (shot chart below) only three Ballintubber shots were taken close to goal despite it being a very different type of game.

In ~130 minutes of high level club football Corofin were able to keep Ballintubber to one goal attempt, did not allow a shot from a free from closer than 35 metres, and only allowed six of 28 point attempts (21%) from “inside”.

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