An Ode to Cillian O’Connor’s right foot

Originally this was going to be a follow up to the deadball accuracy piece in which I would highlight any interesting tidbits that had popped up whilst reviewing the past three years. Instead it is going to be an ode to Cillian O’Connor.

Attached below is the chart I initially posted on twitter (@dontfoul) showing the accuracy for the players with the ten most attempts since 2012.


Player deadball


O’Connor came out on top in terms of Success Rate. But he did so whilst also attempting the most deadballs. He had volume on top of his accuracy. He also maintained this accuracy in some of the most highly pressurised situations. In the three year span that the returns covered Mayo have appeared in 13 TV games with three quarter finals, four semi finals and two finals amongst them. Most impressive.


Deadball accuracy v2


What is even more impressive is the fact that O’Connor has recorded the highest weighting in this interval as well. He is not just tapping over simple 14m frees to maintain his Success Rate. His weighting reflects the fact that he is converting frees of an above average difficulty at an above average frequency (as a counter point note Bernard Brogan – a well above average Success Rate but a barely positive weighting – he is merely converting the frees that an average free taker would convert but because of Dublin’s volume of attacks he gets to take more frees).

It is not just volume that is leading to a higher weighting either. On current trajectories only Cluxton is in line with his weighting. So how has he done it?


Deadball Type Attempts Scores Success Rate Average Weighting
inside 20m 24 23 96% 88% +2.64
20m to 45m 35 30 86% 71% +5.375
outside 45m 3 0 0% 40% -1.210
total 62 53 85% 72% +6.803
45s 7 4 57% 47% +0.630
Penalties 3 3 100% 82% +1.778


O’Connor’s accuracy is above the average in all three of the deadball categories – frees, penalties & 45s – that he has attempted. His weighting has been aided by converting three penalties (for a longer explanation on why penalties have such high weighting see here) but on the flip side he has attempted three frees from outside the 45 for which he patently does not have the “legs”. As an illustration see a chart of all his deadballs, excluding penalties, this year.


x = missed, disc = score,black = free, white = 45


O’Connor’s only missed two frees from inside 40 metres in 2014 and one of those was the desperation goal attempt in the semi final replay at the end of extra time. His accuracy from c40 metres in is genuinely exceptional.


Tags: , , ,

5 Responses to “An Ode to Cillian O’Connor’s right foot”

  1. Daragh O Conchuir Says:

    This is brilliant.

    Tell me, have you ever thought of evaluating criteria for a player of the year taking in what constitutes the necessary skills of each position – using your weighting system basically. Using stats. Surely, the man who gets the scores isn’t always the player of the year? Or at least, there is a corner-back or full-back or defensive midfielder or defensive half-forward out there who is amongst the most influential footballers in the country, fulfilling his role just as importantly as the corner-forward at the end of all the moves or sticking his 30m frees.

    Has intrigued me for a few years now. I think it was McGeeney first put it into my head when he wondered allowed why defending was not considered a skill and good defending was considered something that had to be made more difficult.

    That made me think about how so many post-match opinions are based on perception and that this goes right the way through to the end-of-season awards and general considerations about the best players of all time etc. And the defenders that gain a profile, generally are of the overlapping, scoring type, rather than the ones that actually stop their men from scoring…

    Anyway, got that off my chest. This is great work, well done. DOC

    Daragh Ó Conchúir Editor Irish Racing Yearbook 19 Ardevan Grove Monasterevin Co Kildare +353(0)45 529102 +353(0)83 3338836 Skype: Daragh71 Twitter: @RebelDevil71

    2012 McNamee Award for National Media 2008 McNamee Award for Best GAA Publication

  2. dontfoul Says:

    Thanks for that – means a lot.

    I completely agree with the premise. Defending is an art, a skill that should be lauded as loudly & as frequently as attacking play is. I would have paid good money to watch a camera solely on Keith Higgins as he marked O’Donoghue in Mayo’s two semi finals.

    Generally I think what you suggest can be done but it would take an enormous amount of time. You would have to be almost full time at it to not only track every attribute in a game (tackle, quality of passing, tracking back etc.) but to also then try and understand what that data means.

    Statistically evaluating defending in a dynamic game is very, very difficult. How do you compare a defender attempting a tackle versus those that are short handed at the back and instead stand up the forward buying time? Not that it can’t be done but it is very tricky. Football Outsiders haven’t really done it in NFL – which is light years ahead of GAA in terms of data. Not sure I’ve seen a good soccer version either.

    This is why the weighting works (accepting its faults) in an attacking sense – there is one specific player you can attribute the accuracy to. When McCaffrey attacks up the wing, and a team counter attacks into his space, is that a negative on him or is there a set plan to cover that space? Who do you attribute the “mistake” to?

    That’s not to say it can’t be done. Or that it isn’t worth exploring. I’d love to give it a go – when the GAA look to get their stats strut on I’ll be in the front of the queue 🙂

    Until then however there is enough low hanging fruit (possession origination, turnovers etc.) that we know nothing about to keep chipping away at.

  3. Cavan V Monaghan 2015 Ulster Championship | dontfoul Says:

    […] the off season we showed that McManus’s conversion rate was second only to Cillian O’Connor over the previous three years. It would appear he will […]

  4. Dublin V Fermanagh 2015 All Ireland QF | dontfoul Says:

    […] one, in the now 4 years we have data for, comes near this level of accuracy. B Brogan had historically struggled on frees and whilst Rock’s accuracy has undoubtedly added an […]

  5. Dublin V Mayo 2015 All Ireland SF | dontfoul Says:

    […] But it wasn’t just during the game – Dublin were forewarned of O’Connor’s accuracy (see here). He was by far the most prolific, and accurate, deadball striker over the past three […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: