Donegal V Mayo preview

Unfortunately due to Sky+ gremlins I don’t have Mayo’s Connacht final success charted leaving only their quarter final & semi final wins for comparative purposes. I have all of Donegal’s games charted but in the interest of keeping everything as even as possible I will only look at their QF & SF wins.


Team Possessions Shots Shot Rate Scores Success Rate Return Vs Expected
Donegal 64 51 80% 29 57% +3.80
Mayo’s opponents 65 50 77% 27 54% -1.94
avg (for 2gms) 70.8 54.3 76.7% 28 51.6% 0.00

On the basis of the last two games that’s an even match! Donegal have had the ball inside the opposition’s 45 a little less than average however their use of the ball has been above average; they get more shots off (80% shot rate) and are more successful than the average team in converting those shots (57% success rate).

Mayo’s defence have been just about average however when we look at the splits for shots from play there appears to be something happening.

From play

Team Shots Scores Success Rate Vs Expected
Donegal 36 18 50% +2.55
Mayo’s opponents 33 12 36% -3.12
avg (for 2gms) 40.6 18.9 46.6% 0.00

Mayo’s two opponents, Down & Dublin, had very poor returns for their shots from play. Actually the shooting from play against Mayo in these two games was atrocious. Is this due to excellent Mayo defending or poor opposition shooting? If it is Mayo’s defending then there are two possible ways that this will manifest itself; either through where their opponents were taking shots or whether their opponents were unduly pressured when taking a shot.

If anything the below table shows that their opponents took more shots closer in to goal (segment 8) than the average.

% of shots by pitch segment

Segment 1 – 3 4 & 6 5 7 & 9 8
Donegal 3% 36% 31% 19% 11%
Mayo’s opponents 3% 39% 15% 9% 33%
2012 average 2% 35% 23% 16% 24%

During 2012 61% of all shots were pressured; in the QF & SF Mayo pressured 51% of their opponents’ shots.

Taking the two together we can only assume that the poor shooting from play had little to do with excellent Mayo defending but rather poor opposition play. They won’t get this from Donegal (as can be seen from their returns from play). If Down & Dublin performed even to an average standard then Mayo’s defensive returns would look a lot worse than Donegal’s attacking returns.

One interesting piece is where Donegal shoot from. As shown in the above Table they shoot from directly in front of goal (segment 8) a lot less frequently than other teams. They tend to take a lot more of their shots from in front of the posts further out (in sector 5). The returns would appear to point to this being a deliberate ploy – maybe to get their shots off with less pressure. 50% of their shots from play were pressurised (as against the aforementioned 61% average)

From deadballs

Player (totals) Shots Scores Success Rate Vs Expected
M Murphy 8 5 63% -0.11
C McFadden 7 6 86% +1.36
Mayo’s opponents 17 15 88% +1.18
avgs (for 2gms) 13.7 9.1 66% 0.00

Donegal’s deadball shooting has been very good all year though Murphy did dip in the last two games. Mayo have a tendency to foul within shooting range giving an extra 1.6 shots a game away from deadballs – given Donegal’s general levels of accuracy they will need to be much more disciplined in the tackle once they get inside the 45.

Donegal’s excellent shooting from play, aligned with Mayo’s lack of pressure on the shooter and their propensity to give away scoreable frees, gives the advantage to Donegal


Team Possessions Shots Shot Rate Scores Success Rate Return Vs Expected
Mayo 87 70 80% 41 59% +4.24
Donegal’s opponents 73 52 71% 23 44% -1.24
avg (for 2gms) 70.8 54.3 77% 28 52% 0.00

This is more promising for Mayo. Their attacking numbers are excellent – it is hard to add any insight to them. They get a lot of possession and use the possession effectively & efficiently.

As the year has progressed we have seen some of the commentary around Donegal’s defensive tactics soften however they are still an extremely difficult team to break down. They set up their ‘shield’ just behind the 45m line and don’t give away fouls. You have two choices – through them and get a pressurised shot off or shoot from outside the shield. Interestingly teams did shoot from outside the shield as 51% of shots from Cork & Kerry came from segments 4 & 6

Segment 1 – 3 4 & 6 5 7 & 9 8
Mayo 0% 30% 22% 17% 31%
Donegal’s opponents 2% 51% 18% 13% 16%
2012 average 2% 35% 23% 16% 24%

The below table shows that the tactic paid off – to an extent. Despite taking shots from much harder angles the returns were more or less average. Donegal will let you have the hard shots – it’s a case of whether you can convert enough of them. To date Mayo have not had to take these shots – preferring (or being allowed) to get much closer to goal before pulling the trigger. This is the conundrum for Mayo – play their game and move the ball into traffic inside the 21m line or take what Donegal gives them and shoot from afar. Mayo’s ball striking to date would appear to suggest that they have the forwards to take what Donegal gives them.

From play

Team Shots Scores Success Rate Vs Expected
Mayo 54 28 52% +2.71
Donegal’s opponents 45 19 42% +0.07
avg (for 2gms) 40.6 18.9 47% 0.00

Where Donegal come into their own is their discipline in the tackle – they appear to have taken the name of the blog to heart! In the SF & QF they only gave their opponents 6 shots from frees (1 deadball was a 45m) and one of those frees only became a shot after the ball was brought forward 13m for back chat to the referee. So that’s 5 frees committed in two games whilst the opposition was in scoring range – brilliant concentration & discipline.

From deadballs

Player Shots Scores Success Rate Vs Expected
C O’Connor 15 12 80% +1.29
E Varley 1 1 100% +0.24
Donegal’s opponents 7 4 57% -1.31
avg (for 2gms) 13.7 9.1 66.2% 0.00

Mayo’s excellent shot returns in the QF & SF would intimate that they have the ball strikers to take what Donegal give them. The extent to just how good their shooting will have to be will be driven by Donegal’s discipline in the tackle. If Donegal only give 3 scoreable frees to Mayo, as they have done to Cork & Kerry previously, then there will be nothing easy won – and the pressure will ratchet. If however Donegal revert to average and allow O’Connor to put a few easy points on the board then Mayo’s ability to score from play will keep them in the game.

Players with >=3 shots from play

Shots Scores Success Rate Vs Expected
C McFadden (Donegal) 10 5 50% +0.81
M Conroy (Mayo) 10 4 40% -0.59
A Dillon (Mayo) 8 7 88% +3.66
K McLoughlin (Mayo) 6 4 67% +1.06
C O’Connor (Mayo) 6 2 33% -0.89
E Varley (Mayo) 5 3 60% +0.73
J Doherty (Mayo) 4 2 50% +0.08
K Lacey (Donegal) 3 3 100% +1.76
M Murphy (Donegal) 3 1 33% -0.20
M McElhinney (Donegal) 3 1 33% -0.24

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2 Responses to “Donegal V Mayo preview”

  1. Thursday Says:

    […] further along the spectrum from melody to mathematics, the excellent Don’t Foul has a stats-based analysis of various factors in the contest. The figures presented in this analysis show that while Donegal give very little away in terms of […]

  2. Padraig Says:

    Superb effort. There’s massive room for a systematic and scientific approach to Gaelic football and it’s brilliant to see someone utilize it so well.

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