All Ireland Preview – Kerry

In the first piece we looked at what Dublin have done with the ball this year and in turn what we can expect from them in the final. Now we turn to Kerry. One point to note is that unlike Dublin, where we have a fairly well set pattern of play, Kerry’s four televised games have been quite dispirit; the drawn Cork game was in a downpour, the quarter final against Kildare was a non-event and the semi-final was played against a defensive wall. Kerry’s numbers are, I believe, much more open to interpretation than Dublin’s.

Possessions & Attack Rate

Team Possessions Attacks Attack % Shots Shot % Scores Success % Weighting
v Tyrone 51 43 84% 31 72% 18 58% +1.71
v Kildare 60 43 72% 33 77% 23 70% +8.86
v Cork – replay 52 34 65% 24 71% 12 50% -0.17
v Cork 41 32 78% 26 81% 17 65% +4.05
Avg 51.0 38.0 75% 28.5 75% 17.5 61% +3.61

Kerry have averaged 51 possessions over their four games but that has swung wildly from 41 in the rain affected drawn game with Cork to 60 in the hammering of Kildare. It would be nice to have a wider sample size (or even a small stable one) but the volume of possessions is something that we only begun to chart this year. What Kerry have done is won the possession battle in each game – 1 (v Cork – drawn game), 3 (v Cork – replay), 11 (v Kildare) & 6 (v Tyrone).

Dublin have allowed an average of 49 possessions in their six games and have also managed not to lose the possession battle in any of them – 18 (v Longford), 2 (v Kildare), 16 (v Westmeath), 4 (v Fermanagh), 0 (v Mayo) & 5 (v Mayo – replay). Something will have to give.

The problem is that we don’t really have enough data points to make a concrete prediction but with an average of 51, and Dublin coughing up 49, the 50 to 51 range (Mayo achieved 51 possessions in the drawn game against Dublin) would appear to be in reach.

So how do Kerry give themselves the best opportunity to create possession superiority? My belief is that they cannot play a high intensity game as that is Dublin’s natural habitat and the looser the game the more shots Dublin’s forwards will get. Kerry will look to use their footballing abilities to reduce turnover volumes and stem Dublin’s possessions; the one boon that Kerry will have in this area is their ability to hold on to the ball and not give up turnovers. In the drawn Cork game Kerry went 25 minutes giving up just the one turnover; in the second half of last year’s final they only coughed up six turnovers – one of which was a shot.

So whilst the 50/51 possessions is achievable I think it will be more in the 47/48 range as Kerry look to control the game’s tempo.

Kerry have converted 75% of their possessions into an attack. Against Tyrone that return was 84% but that was against a team which withdrew into a defensive shield behind the 45. Their returns in the other three games were 78%, 65% and 72%.

Dublin allow the opposition to convert 79% of their possessions into an attack which is quite a bit higher than Kerry’s average – especially if we remove the Tyrone game. Assuming Kerry try to control the tempo by holding the ball, an Attack Rate close to 80% should be achievable. High yes but the Tyrone & Kildare games shows it is well within reach as do the Dublin returns and the expected “keep ball” mentality.

So we have Kerry tagged for 48 possessions and an 80% attack rate which equates to 38 attacks.

Shot Rate & Shot Conversion

Kerry have manufactured a shot on 75% of their attacks with Dublin allowing the opposition to get a shot 79% of the time. Again assuming Kerry play “keep ball” an argument could be made that Kerry’s shot rate will be closer to the 79% than the 75% as they constantly probe looking for an opening. We’ll plump for 78%.

So that gives us 30 shots (48 possessions * 80% Attack Rate * 78% Shot Rate) which isn’t out of line with previous games – 31 (v Tyrone) & 33 (v Kildare) – but is higher than they have averaged (28.5) this year. As a counter Kerry averaged 32.8 shots per game in their 2014 campaign.

Kerry’s shot ratio has been 67% point attempts, 21% deadball attempts & 12% goal attempts. Stretch that across 30 shots and you get 20 shots from play, 6 deadball attempts and 4 goal shots

Shot Type

Deadballs
Kerry have had a Success Rate of 67% (18 from 24) from deadballs with a combined weighting of +3.04. A 67% Success Rate is bang on average, and thus nothing to hang your hat on, but the weighting indicates that the frees they have converted were in fact quite difficult. Using an expected points model they have scored 0 – 03 more from deadballs than would be expected.

Unlike Dublin Kerry are well served here with O’Donoghue, P Geaney & Cooper all able to take close in frees, or deputise, for Sheehan whilst Moran can try some long range bombs if required.

Six deadball attempts fits in with Dublin’s pattern of play as well. To date their opposition has attempted 39 shots, 6.5 a game, from a free or a 45. This includes the drawn Mayo game where they were undoubtedly spooked by A O’Shea’s physicality and gave away eight scoreable frees (& a penalty) to a renowned free taker. I point this out because Dublin will be well aware of Kerry’s prowess with the deadball – as they were with O’Connor – but it may not matter if their undisciplined streak reappears.

Goal attempts
Using this year’s averages we are crediting Kerry with getting four shots at goal. To date they have averaged 3.5 per game however that average includes the Kildare game where they manufactured eight goal shots. In the two Cork games they created 4 & 2 goal chances respectively whilst they didn’t have a shot at goal in the semi-final. This might give rise for concern except that when we broaden the sample size, to include the 2014 season, we see that four is in fact their average over the last two seasons; in 2014 their attempts at goal were 4, 4, 3, 5 & 4.

Dublin have only allowed eight goal attempts all year which at 1.33 a game, is far removed from the four that we are expecting from Kerry. Undoubtedly the opposition’s set up has played into that low return – Westmeath & Longford didn’t have one attempt between them – but still; four could be a stretch

Point attempts
Overall Kerry’s point taking has been very good; a 55% Success Rate (42 from 76) with a combined weighting of +6.63. Unlike Dublin they do not have any stellar performers with different players stepping forward in different games; P Geaney in the semi-final & S O’Brien in the quarter final for example. The problem is the Jekyll & Hyde nature of their returns with poor shooting in the Cork replay, average returns against Tyrone and excellent to stellar performances in the drawn Cork game and the Kildare QF. We had something similar in last year’s final when, despite winning, Kerry were a paltry 17% (4 from 23) with a weighting of -5.603 when going for a point from play. Needless to say that cannot be repeated.

Conclusion

So pulling it all together. Kerry will score 0 – 05 from their six deadballs. At 83% that is much higher than their current rate but I expect the majority of Dublin’s fouls to be committed in closer to goal. As stated four goal shots will be a stretch. After writing a paragraph explaining why it *can* be four I am going to give Kerry three goal attempts with them converting the average of ~34%.

That leaves 21 point attempts. Although Kerry are currently running at a 55% Success Rate that can be clipped down to the ~52% range on account of the occasion and the fact that the 55% includes the non entity of a game against Kildare.

So there you have it. Kerry score 1 – 16 and we have a draw (Dublin’s predicted score is 2-13). What it show more than anything however is the very tight margins involved in this game where a percentage or two swing, in any number of categories, could be the difference.

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