Cavan v Armagh 2016 Ulster

For those new to the blog, or who haven’t been here for a while, please find a refresher on the definitions and how the numbers are compiled here

Team Possessions Attacks Shots Scores Exp Pts
Cavan 43 36 30 2 – 16 18.30
Armagh 45 36 28 0 – 14 16.93

Possessions, attacks, shots & Expt Pts were all very similar yet Cavan had this game wrapped up in the 57th minute when Campbell’s penalty was saved and Séanie Johnston scored on the subsequent possession. How so?

Armagh’s shooting

The first port of call is Armagh’s relative under performance on the scoreboard. They left the guts of 1-01 behind them when Campbell missed a 13m free in the first half and that penalty in the second. The chances of scoring 0 – 00 from those two shots is ~0.3%. 0.3%!!

Of course this means that excluding these two misses (I know you can’t but bear with me!) Armagh’s shooting was satisfactory. From the remaining 26 shots Armagh had an Expt Pts return of 13.47; they scored 0-14. Their deadball striking was very good (once we have removed the missed 13m free!) with 9 shots producing a score of 0 – 08 off an Expt Pts tally of 6.59. From play their returns were 0 – 06 scored from 16 shots (Expt Pts of 6.88).

Therein lies the real problem. Although Armagh had 16 shots from play they were, in the main, long range efforts. Something very similar occurred in last week’s game between Derry and Tyrone. Armagh had little or no penetration and thus momentum was difficult to (a) build or (b) maintain. They would get within touching distance of Cavan but fall away again as the shot selection was too difficult. As an illustration below is Armagh’s 1st half shooting from play

Armagh from play 1st half

You couldn’t have a cleaner, more impressive chart if you were Cavan. Armagh just could not get inside at all. That changed to some degree in the second half but the damage was done – they were chasing the game with absolutely no goal threat (indeed outside the penalty Armagh didn’t have a goal attempt all game).


Cavan had two goal chances and converted both. Their point taking was also very efficient. From play they were 0 – 11 from 21 shots (Expt Pts of 9.66) whilst also returning 0 – 05 from deadballs (7 shots; Expt Pts 4.97). A repeatable performance? There was nothing to suggest otherwise. There was no real shot concentration in any one area, no over reliance on frees whilst the conversion rate for shots taken under pressure at 60% (6 from 10) was better than those taken without any pressure applied – 45% (5 from 11).

It was a good performance but what caught the eye more, looking ahead to Tyrone, was what Cavan did, or more accurately did not do, from a defensive perspective. Yes they protected the D but there was a vulnerability down the centre.




Above are two instances where Armagh have an overlap straight through the heart of the Cavan defence. In the first Mackey (22) is drawn towards Grugan (10) leaving both Mallon (5) and Forker (6) completely isolated at the top of the D. In the second Campbell shoots but if he slips the ball inside McKenna (21) is standing all on his own at the top of the large rectangle. Snapshots to be sure – and any team can look exposed with an instantaneous snapshot – but these were not the only examples. Twice Armagh won easy frees in the first half when running straight through the middle. Given Tyrone’s style I can see Donnelly, Harte et al looking to drive through the 45 the next day.


One topic that generated a lot of discussion was Armagh’s kickout strategy. A lot was made of the late switch in the Armagh goalkeeper and the impact this had on the outcome. Firstly Armagh “won” 83% of their own kickouts. This however included 20 that went short (or appeared to go short*); strip these out and Cavan edged the Armagh kickouts 5-4. This is by no mean disastrous nor even out of kilter with the norm.

Armagh scored 0 – 07 from the possessions they obtained from their own kickout and coughed up 0 – 03. That 0 – 03 is generally fine but appeared to be much more as the game was progressing as a result of (a) two quick back to back Cavan points in the first half giving the impression of a large scale issue and (b) the commentators continually referencing Armagh’s kickout problems**.

It wasn’t their own kickout that was the problem. It was Cavan’s. Cavan had 17 kickouts and only one of these went short – an unusual stat in and of itself. Of the remaining 16 Armagh only “won” two. Considering all 16 were contestable – landing outside the 45 – this is a very poor return. Whereas Armagh had a net result of 0 – 04 on their own kickouts (0-07 scored versus 0 – 03 conceded directly from the kickout) Cavan had a very comfortable net return of 1-05 in their favour on their own kickouts.

Armagh had a fairly average day on their own kickouts – nothing destructive. Cavan however had a day of days on theirs.


A quick note on Campbell. He had 14 shots in total with an Expected Return of 10.13 and the return of 0 – 08 shows an absolute mixed bag. His day will be remember for the penalty & missed 13m free however outside of those he was excellent converting 67% (8 from 12) and scoring +1.33 above Expected.
14 shots is the joint highest recorded by any one player in a Championship game***. The others to reach 14 were Séan Quigley against Laois in 2014, Martin Dunne for Cavan against Armagh in 2013 and Conor McManus in Monaghan’s defeat to Dublin in 2014.


Shot Charts

Cavan’s shooting
Cavan shooting (V Armagh 16)

Armagh’s shooting
Armagh shooting (V Cavan 16)
x = missed, disc = score, yellow = deadball, black = 1st half from play, white = 2nd half, red = goal attempt


*You can always tell when RTE are not in control of the production. You will rarely miss anything in a game when they are in charge – here there were numerous kickouts not shown. I counted nine in total. Normally this isn’t really an issue as the camera will catch where the ball lands, or we’ll return to the game with a back advancing after obviously taking a short kickout. Here though we missed complete possessions! Where there were gaps in the game a level of judgement had to be overlaid on the data.

** as an aside one of the best pieces of advice I was given was to watch the game with the sound off. This emanated from amateur boxing where you begin to focus on the footwork rather than the punches the commentator calls. Similarly in horse racing your eyes get drawn to places other than the front of the race. If you are interested in analysis record the next GAA game and watch without the commentary on. As the game progresses pick 3 or 4 things you notice that teams/players are doing and which you feel are important. Watch the game back and listen to the commentary. Are your items picked up? Are they emphasised? Does the newspaper and forum chatter revolve around what you saw or what the commentary told the audience to see? This is not a go at commentators – theirs is a very hard job (to do well). But what they observe live can set an agenda that has nothing to do with what won/lost the game.

*** ~95% of TV games from 2012 – 2016 included. There will be instances where players have taken more than 14 shots but they will have been in non TV games

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2 Responses to “Cavan v Armagh 2016 Ulster”

  1. Martin carney Says:

    Very fair points about commentary. Have done it for years and realise that it can be hard to get things right at times. Observations re BBC production on the money. Great guys, very helpful but from a commentary point of view often ‘shooting in the dark’ when it comes to anticipating what is due to happen.
    Like yourself I always watch sport without sound. Try to form my own views and not become directly influenced by the commentary.
    I only came on your website recently and I want to wish you continued success with it.
    Martin Carney

  2. Cavan v Tyrone 2016 Ulster | dontfoul Says:

    […] attempt. Tyrone ran down the throat of Cavan but this “soft” center was identified in the Armagh game where on more than one occasion there were Armagh men standing on their own centrally in front of […]

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