Dublin v Mayo 2017 All ireland preview

Immediate post-game reactions and numbers from the 2016 final can be found here (drawn game) and here (replay). Both will be referenced heavily below

Dublin Attack

We’ll get into the constituent parts below but as a collective Dublin have returned a whopping 61% Conversion Rate so far in 2017. The 188 shots they have attempted has netted them 19 points more (Expt Pts +19.05) than the average intercounty team would have scored. This Dublin attack is rolling.

Point attempts from play

Table 1 in the Appendix shows the breakdown per player but as a collective over two thirds (+13.87) of Dublin’s positive Expt Pts has come from their point attempts from play. The average Conversion Rate over the past 5 years has been 46%; thus far Dublin have returned 56%. The question is not how good they are – we know they are exceptional – but whether they can maintain that level of production?

And it is an open question as we have seen this before. Coming into both the 2015 and 2016 finals Dublin’s forwards were also flying with pre final Conversion Rates of 57% in 2015 (Expt Pts +17.63) and 51% in 2016 (Expt Pts +8.25). In the 2015 final they were impressive in maintaining their high returns with a 57% Conversion Rate (0 – 08 from 14) and a one game Expt Pts of +1.57 (in poor weather it must be remembered). However in the two games against Mayo last year they stumbled to a very poor 37% (0 – 14 from 38; Expt Pts -4.72).

The question is whether this stumble was induced by facing Mayo or was it more of a Dublin blip? There is no way to categorically state either way but looking from the outside I would give Mayo a great deal of credit. Coming into the 2016 final Mayo, in their six games, had allowed a Conversion Rate of 41% (0 – 45 from 109) as opposed to the 51% Dublin had been putting up. Across the two games the 37% Dublin achieved was much more in line with what Mayo had been allowing.

We have a similar scenario this year. Dublin are flying with the aforementioned Conversion Rate of 56% but again over a nine game span Mayo’s defence have only allowed a Conversion Rate of 41% (which, as an aside, shows remarkable consistency year to year). Can Mayo repeat their 2016 trick and “drag” Dublin’s Conversion Rate down in the final?

In an effort to explain the drop in Dublin’s shooting I created a pressure index (see Note1) and noted that Mayo were consistent across the two games in applying strong or severe pressure to just under half of Dublin’s point attempts (45% in the drawn game and 44% in the replay). In 2017 – across the nine games – Mayo have applied strong or severe pressure to 46% of their opponents point attempts. This has risen to 59% in the last four games.

So we know that Dublin can shoot and that they can carry it over (2015 final) however we also know that Mayo stymied them in both games last year and that the pressure index for their 2017 season is trending upwards.

One difference, for Dublin, observed when comparing this year to the last two All Irelands is just who is taking the shots. Below are the top 5 point takers coming into the last three finals and whilst there was a change from ’15 to ’16 the new entrants then were generally known quantities in McManamon & Rock. With Connolly suspended and Brogan & McManamon mainly coming off the bench there is a newer, fresher, look to the Dublin strike force.

Mannion & Andrews are well known to the Mayo defenders at this stage but O’Callaghan – despite there being a mountain of video evidence on him – is new and may cause the Mayo defenders to sit off initially; remember it was the relatively unknown Costelloe off the bench that did the damage in last year’s replay.

Deadballs

Given their experience, both last year and in their run to the final this year, Mayo may believe that they can handle the Dublin forwards. But what they will have to be very conscious of is fouling. Rock had a poor day in last year’s drawn game (0 – 03 from 7 (43%); Expt Pts of -1.58) but was then devastating in the replay (0 – 07 from 7 with an Expt Pts of +1.58).

He, and Dublin as a whole, have maintained this form throughout the 2017 Championship returning a barely credible 94% Conversion Rate (0 – 33 from 35) with an Expt Pts of +6.43 (see Chart 1 in the Appendix).
A special note of praise for Rock here. Although he had an off day in the 2016 drawn final he has been phenomenal since basically being removed from free taking duties at the back end of 2015. In 11 Championship games since the start of 2016 he is 92% and as the below graphic shows he is not only consistent “inside” where he is 96% but also outside (75%). Not only has he accuracy but he has accuracy with length.

Mayo cannot hope that the Rock from the drawn 2016 final appears. Instead they must expect that the Rock we have seen from the start of 2016, and in the 2016 replay, shows up. They gave up seven scoreable frees in the replay; in 2017 they have given up an average of 6.6 shots at goal from frees. Unless defending a lead their target has to be to minimise Rock’s opportunities from frees to seven or less.

Goal attempts

Dublin have – surprisingly given their opposition and reputation – only been average on goal attempts. In 2015 they were averaging 6.0 shots at goal per game but had a phenomenal 60% Conversion Rate (18 – 04 from 30). In 2016 this reduced dramatically to 2.2 attempts & a 46% (5 – 00 from 11) Conversion Rate. So far this year it is back up to 5.0 attempts a game but with a basically average Conversion Rate of 36% (9 – 01 from 25). In the 2015 final they manufactured 4 goal attempts but couldn’t convert any whilst in the two 2016 games they only created four distinct attempts at goal – but did manage to score in the most unconventional manner!

It’s all a bit of a rollercoaster. I think it is fair to say that Dublin are a lot less goal hungry than previous incarnations but this year has seen them somewhat pick up their attempts per game.

Mayo attack

Whereas Dublin are on fire Mayo have been hotter and colder, both from game to game and within games, than any other team. They returned a Conversion Rate of 41% against Galway and 71% against Cork; they scored 1 – 09 from just 12 shots in extra time against Derry after producing 0 – 01 from 15 attempts in a 25 minute spell in the second half. Against Cork they scored 0 -14 from their first 15 point attempts from play.

Mayo are the walking embodiment of the fact that you can twist stats to back up any argument

Point attempts from play

Looking at the nine games in the round (see Table 2 in the appendix) however we can say that their point taking has been just above average (50% Conversion Rate; +2.21 Expt Pts). But this is a step up on their 2016 campaign (46% Conversion Rate; +1.62).

There’s a slight anomaly in the above figures in that Mayo’s Conversion Rate has increased but the Expt Pts has remained more or less static. That’s because Mayo have attempted much more shots from central locations this year compared to last year. In a most Un-Mayo like fashion they have made life easier on themselves!

If we run an imaginary line vertically from the outer edges of the D to the 45m line we create a central channel. In 2016 34% of Mayo’s point attempts came from inside this channel. In 2017 this has risen to 51%.

A lot has been made of Mayo’s reliance on Moran and C O’Connor. Between them they have attempted 32% of Mayo’s point attempts returning 34% of their scores however in truth this is not too far removed from Dublin’s spread. Dublin have relied on O’Callaghan & Mannion for 29% of their point attempts and 30% of their scores. Now the argument can be made that Dublin have more alternatives in Connolly, Brogan, Kilkenny, Rock, Andrews et al should you shut the front two down – and that’s fair – but there are only so many shots to go around. And as good a unit as Kerry’s defence couldn’t shut them down. Moran & C O’Connor took 28% of Mayo’s point attempts across the two semi-finals with a combined Conversion Rate of 72% and Expt Pts of +2.89

Another notable point re Mayo’s shooting is that the “back-up”, the next ten players by shot volume (see Table2 in the Appendix), have been as accurate as Moran & C O’Connor with a 53% Conversion Rate (0 – 55 from 104) compared to Moran/C O’Connor’s 54% (0-34 from 63). Have Mayo got two top shooters? Yes. Have they ready-made, volume based replacements if they are shut down? No. Can the workload be spread and the efficiency maintained if they are shut down? Yes.

What of the Dublin defence? Coming into the 2016 final Mayo were running at an about average Conversion Rate of 45% (Expt Pts +0.89). For the two finals their combined numbers were 0 – 14 from 31 (Conversion Rate of 45%; Expt Pts of +0.22). The sample size is small but Dublin’s defence had no real additional effect on Mayo’s efficiency – Mayo carried over their conversion rate. Where they did have an effect however was in limiting the attempts Mayo had. Coming into the 2016 final Mayo had taken 20.7 point attempts per game. In the final this dropped to 15.5.

This year so far Mayo have averaged (again with remarkable consistency) 20.5 point attempts per game. In 2016 Dublin – prior to the final – had allowed the opposition to take 16.6 point attempts per game but this has risen to 18.6 in 2017. So not only has Mayo’s efficiency on the same volume of shots increased but Dublin are allowing more shots and (in 2016 at least) didn’t have an effect on Mayo’s efficiency.

Deadballs

C O’Connor has been rock steady on frees throughout his career converting, when the pressure has been at its most intense, 86% (0-55 from 64 Expt Pts of +4.99) in semi-final and finals alone from 2012 to 2016. His range does appear to have shortened however.

The above chart shows C O’Connor’s 2017 frees in yellow and using the same boundaries as the Rock chart above we can see that O’Connor is as good as ever “inside”. He has recorded very similar numbers to Rock at 95% (0 – 35 from 37) however he has definitely struggled “outside” recording a very poor (relatively speaking) 35%.
The two black dots on the chart are Jason Doherty’s attempts in the semi-final replay versus Kerry whilst the red cross is the free that O’Connor missed at the death in last year’s replay. As discussed at the time you would not have wanted anyone else standing over that free given his performance in the most pressurised of stages previously but it was definitely on the outer edge of his range.

Given his range limitations, his record this year and how comfortable Doherty looked the last day surely there’s a case for handing over the longer range attempts?

Apart from C O’Connor’s range – which does look to have a ready-made alternative should Mayo wish to employ Doherty – another area of concern would be frees from the right. Attempts from this area are sparse in the above chart (C O’Connor handed the ball to Moran for at least one free from this area against Kerry) as you would imagine C O’Connor is only too aware of his limitations. The issue was only exasperated by McLoughlin missing his two frees from inside the 20m on the right against Derry and Sligo.

Everyone knows O’Connor doesn’t want to take frees from wide right whilst the alternative, in McLoughlin, has, being kind, been shaky. Mayo know this is a weakness. We know it. You can be damn well sure that the Dublin defence knows it too.

Goal attempts

Mayo have been slightly below Dublin in their attempts per game at 4.2 however have been ahead of Dublin with a Conversion Rate of 42% (16 – 03 from 38 attempts). In the round that’s 5.6pts per game from both for their goal attempts (Dublin 5.60, Mayo 5.67).

Kickouts

One of the most eagerly anticipated duals will be the kickouts. How successful will Mayo be at getting their, what at times look extremely dicey, short kickouts away? Will they push up on Dublin? Once won how good will each team be at manoeuvring the subsequent possession into a shot and score?

Dublin Kickouts

See appendix for raw numeric tables

To date Dublin have gone short (see Note 2) on 66% (63 from 96) of their kickouts winning them all and managing to produce a shot from 73% which resulted in 3-27. That’s 0.57 points for every kickout won. Which is incredible. The returns for all other kickouts won is 0.45 – which doesn’t account for the kickouts the lost when the ball went past the 45 – whilst Mayo are a net (unlike Dublin they have lost 9 of their own short kickouts which has resulted in the opposition getting 0 – 03) 0.33 points per short kickout.

You have to imagine that Mayo will look to disrupt this wherever they can. To date 50% of the opposition’s kickouts have gone short in Mayo games with the opposition getting 0.31 points per kickout won. Mayo have gotten their hands on 10% (12 out of 120) of the opposition’s kickouts and when they do they go for goal – scoring 2 – 03 off those 12.
In the two finals last year Dublin had a similar split to this year in that 65% of their kickouts went short but Mayo had much more success keeping Dublin to just 0.12 points per short kickout won (0 – 03 off 25). And that’s without referencing the two short ones that Mayo won.

When we compare this to what Dublin have done to date in the 2017 Championship you have to believe that whilst Mayo may not be able to stop Dublin completely, and may not be able to clamp down as rigidly as they did last year, they should at least provide a much more substantial obstacle than Dublin have faced hitherto fore.

Mayo kickouts

Across both 2016 games Mayo lost five (17%) of their 29 short kickouts against Dublin including two at the death of the drawn game that surely had a part to play in Clarke being dropped for the replay. Clarke is now firmly ensconced as Mayo’s No.1 but the short kickout roulette can still occur at any moment as they have lost 9 across six different games.

Mayo have been somewhat fortunate in that none of those 14 lost short kickouts (5 against Dublin and 9 this year) have resulted in a goal – instead 0 – 08 has come from them – but it is only a matter of time. But Mayo will continue to roll that dice, even in the face of the Dublin pressure, as it has served them well overall. Whilst not as spectacular as Dublin’s 0.57 Mayo have returned 0.39 points for every short kickout won this year.

That does rise to 0.43 for their own kickouts that they win past the 45 however they only win 63% of these – for all the anxiety they give their fans on the short ones they are still winning 90%. It’s almost a no brainer. No matter how many palpitations they give you if your returns are the same on the short ones as on the longer ones but you win more of the short ones – well you keep going short. That is until you give away the inevitable calamitous goal … let’s hope for Mayo’s sake their luck holds for one more game.


Appendix

Table 1 – Dublin point attempts by player

Chart 1 – Dublin 2017 deadballs

Table 2 – Mayo point attempts by player

Table 3 – Dublin 2017 kickout overview

Table 4 – Mayo 2017 kickout overview

Note 1 – Pressure Index explanation; this is a subjective metric where the pressure applied to a shot from play is given a range from 0 to 3. Very generally
• 0 = no pressure applied,
• 1 = very little (e.g. a player running alongside but not tackling)
• 2 = strong (e.g. on the shoulder, catching the shooters eye by flying in to tackle)
• 3 = intense (e.g. a block, delivering a shoulder just as the shot is being taken)

It does come with a warning as it is subjective but seeing as there is only one person applying the metric you would expect that there would be a level of consistency when a large enough volume of shots is reviewed.

Note 2 – Kickout definition
• Short = ball landing inside the 45
• Mid = ball landing between the 45 & 65
• Long – ball landing past the 65

Again some judgement is required for contested balls around the 45/65 but on a large enough dataset any kinks will be lost to the averages

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One Response to “Dublin v Mayo 2017 All ireland preview”

  1. Seán Mistéil Says:

    Excellent detail and thoroughness in this analysis. Very stimulating for any reader who follows the game with a toothcomb interest! Well done!

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