Deadball accuracy has increased – why?


  • There was an increase in deadball accuracy during 2014 from 67% to 73%
  • This increase was not influenced by a change in the mix of deadballs attempted but rather a jump in the Success Rate of free kicks from 70% to 76%
  • This increase occurred despite the fact that the volume of free kicks attempted outside the 45 rose.
  • The increased accuracy was noted in all sectors inside the 45

How was the increase achieved?

Since starting the blog one of the main findings has been the deadball accuracy is quite predictive. Deadballs returned Success Rates of 66.6% & 67.1% for the past two years. I rarely reference 2010, the year I started tracking performance, but even then the returns for deadballs was 66.3%.There have been some fluctuations in the Success Rates for various types – 45s, frees, penalties & sideline attempts – but overall you could set your watch by it.

Except this year something different happened. The Success Rate for deadballs, from 25 games, was 72.9%. This is surprising for two reasons – the first being that there was any deviation from 67% and the second that the deviation veered towards the positive. Throughout the year it appeared that more frees were taken from outside the 45 (Niall Morgan, Rory Beggan, Michael Murphy et al) which are the most difficult to convert. If this were the case surely the overall returns should have decreased?

Table A; Success Rates by Deadball Type

2012 2013 2014
% of all deadballs Success Rate %of all deadballs Success Rate %of all deadballs Success Rate
Free kicks 85% 71% 84% 70% 85% 76%
45s 12% 40% 13% 50% 10% 52%
Penalties 1% 100% 2% 67% 3% 82%
Sidelines 1% 50% 2% 33% 2% 17%
Total 32% 85% 28% 85% 31% 94%

Although there is fluctuation in the Success Rates for Sideline attempts and penalties this is almost entirely due to low sample sizes – there is a combined 38 instances of these deadball types over the three years.

There has been an increase over the years in the Success Rates for 45s but the big jump occurred between 2012 and 2013. The accuracy increased slightly again in 2014 but not in any way that would change overall percentages.

So that leaves free kicks. The volume of free kicks per game has dropped (13.1 in 2103 to 11.4 in 2014) but as a total of all deadballs it has remained rock steady at 84-85%. What did change in 2014 was the accuracy. 76% of all frees were converted in 2014 compared to 71% and 70% in 2012 & 2013.

Table B; A yearly breakdown of free kicks

2012 2013 2014
% of all deadballs Success Rate %of all deadballs Success Rate %of all deadballs Success Rate
Outside the 45 13% 43% 11% 43% 15% 35%
Between the 21 & 45s 55% 68% 61% 67% 54% 77%
Inside the 21 32% 85% 28% 85% 31% 94%

The Success Rates for 2012 & 2013 were remarkably similar. So much so that it didn’t even enter my thought process that it could be a coincidence. I took the year on year similarity as evidence that deadball accuracy was a very predictable entity. The 2014 returns show us that it is not.

As had been expected the volume of frees taken outside the 45 increased (from 11% last year to 15% this). The fact that the Success Rate decreased is probably a function of just how far out some of those frees were. Michael Murphy tried some absolute monsters this year.

The real change however is in the accuracy from 45 metres in. Using the tried and trusted Sector approach all frees inside the 45 were further subdivided into 6 Sectors.

GAA pitch
Where was the increase achieved?

Table C; Success Rates for free kicks, by sector, inside the 45

Sector 2012 2013 2014
4 65% 52% 72%
5 82% 83% 87%
6 56% 61% 68%
7 73% 86% 89%
8 94% 88% 100%
9 75% 75 86%

A couple of things to note here

  • All six sectors produced returns above anything recorded in 2012 or 2013. There was not one particular facet of free taking that helped increase the overall accuracy. It was an overall general rise in standards.
  • The two sectors that showed the biggest improvement on 2013 were Sectors 4 & 8. These are two of the top three sectors for where the volume of frees were taken. Increase accuracy in the sectors with the greatest volume and you’ll have the greatest impact on overall numbers.
  • A Success Rate of 100% in Sector8 was aided by the fact that none of the frees were a desperate last minute shot for a goal. In 2013 four such attempts were missed – the Success Rate without these would have been 94%. Similarly there was one goal attempt in 2012 which was missed – without that the Success Rate would have been 96%. So whilst 100% is obviously impressive it is not *that* unexpected.

Note – all the above metrics are for Championship games shown on TV (25 games for each of the three years) and exclude any extra time within these games for ease of comparison.


5 Responses to “Deadball accuracy has increased – why?”

  1. Aaron Clogher Says:

    Hi there, I’m not sure if replying to a wordpress post will get to you or not, but worth a try! I’m just wondering if you’ve compiled any data over the years on the levels of fouling (and more particularly cards) against teams in games? I’ve had it put to me by a non-GAA coach in recent days that surely if Yellow cards don’t carry and don’t add up then the optimum situation for a team to finish a game would be for each of the fifteen players to end the game on a yellow card. (And this guy isn’t involved in Ulster football! 😉 Anyway, any figures you might have on this would be very interesting, I guess the question I’m looking to answer would be what is the optimum level of discipline in order to achieve the desired result? And, do less/ more successful teams pick up less/more or less cars than average? Look forward to hearing from you, leep up the good work! Regards, Aaron

    Date: Wed, 22 Oct 2014 22:05:57 +0000 To:

  2. dontfoul Says:

    First up I have nothing on fouls or cards – apart from teams having an attempt for a score from frees.

    Whilst I understand the idea behind the “optimal” strategy it won’t work because of the efficacy of free taking. If you continually foul then you’ll give away scoring chances. To stop giving away scoring chances you would have to foul in the opposition’s half – but that would necessitate rotating your players up the field to get your yellow in the correct areas of the pitch. Which would completely destroy your own shape.

    And that doesn’t even touch on the implications of a greater risk the team runs of a red card – or even multiple red cards.

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    […] Some of the more seasoned observers will note the increase in the deadball Score Rate. One of the central planks of the data to date is that your deadball strikers will return a 67% Success Rate. Even 2010 returned a 66.3% Success Rate. This has jumped to 73% this year – for more detail on why this is please see here […]

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    […] of the main findings from the 2014 review – expanded upon here – was the fact that deadball accuracy jumped after three years of remarkable consistency […]

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    […] and 2016 was no different. Slight uptick but nothing exceptional. We looked at the 2014 increase here and, at the time, attributed it to better accuracy for closer in […]

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