2019 All Ireland Preview

As in previous years we will do a preview of this year’s All Ireland final by reviewing previous games within the year.

The methodology is roughly the same. We have four competitive games for Kerry under Peter Keane – the three Super8 games against Mayo, Donegal and Meath plus the semi-final against Tyrone. We have a lot more for this Dublin team but so as to ensure like for like comparisons I have used Dublin’s semi-final against Mayo, the two competitive Super8 games against Cork and Roscommon (no sniggering down the back) and I have replaced the run out for the reserves up in Omagh with their Leinster semi-final v Kildare (see NOTE1).

When team or player numbers are referenced, they will relate to these eight games unless specifically stated otherwise.

The commentary has a “this is what Dublin do – how do Kerry measure up/defeat them” slant to it. This is the nature of the beast when you are going for 5 in a row.

Possession – the unseen edge

I reference “the unseen edge” above because in the previous four Championship campaigns every three possessions you gather is worth 0 – 01 on the scoreboard (teams scored 0.37 points per possession (ppp)).

In their four games under scrutiny Dublin managed to get their hands on the ball 27 times more often than their direct opponents. The differences ranged from 3 more possessions against Cork (in a game with 81 total possessions) to 11 more against Roscommon (in a game with 91 possessions). If they maintain this in the final it is akin to starting 0 – 02 up.

The makeup of their possessions is interesting. Given their dominant nature (NOTE2) in these games Dublin have had 20 less possessions directly from their own kickout despite having a much higher retention rate; Dublin have retained 81.5% of all their kickouts whilst the opposition retained 70.5%.

How have they made up the deficit then if they are starting from -20 on their own kickout? One area is the aforementioned retention rates on kickouts – Dublin have gotten their hands on 36 opposition kickouts whilst only giving up 15 of their own. Thus, on kickouts in their entirety Dublin are one possession up. We’ll go onto the details later but here is where the mere fact of counting can set you wrong. Yes, their opponents have essentially broken even on kickouts against them – which is surprising given Dublin’s perceived dominance. But it is the type and ratio of kickout that is won/lost that is of vital importance.

The remainder of Dublin’s possession edge is gained on turnovers (+22) and Other (NOTE3) (+4). Dublin’s turnover differential is nearly all achieved inside their own 45. On turnovers outside their own 45, which would be deemed as the most dangerous as the opposition is caught in an attacking mindset, they are only +2 (gained 20 turnovers outside their own 45 but gave up 18 such turnovers to the opposition).

It is somewhat surprising that they gave up the ball 18 times outside the opposition’s 45. Digging a bit deeper Mayo did the damage getting their hands on such ball ten times. The other eight were split evenly (Kildare x3, Cork x3 & Roscommon x2); so, it appears to be just small sample size noise.

What of Kerry?

Unlike Dublin their games have been closer which means that they have, proportionally, taken more of the kickouts (45% in total; Dublin have taken 40%). On the surface this should help Kerry in the possession battle. But Kerry have not been as clinical in their execution either on their own kickout (Retention Rate of 77%) or the oppositions (opposing teams have retained 80%). This in turn means that whilst Dublin came out with a possession total of +1 from all kickouts Kerry come out with a -20.

The good news is that they were aligned with Dublin in pure turnover terms (+19; 89 turnovers won in the four games v 70 conceded) however were slightly ahead of Dublin in where those turnovers were won. 28 were won outside their own 45 with 19 such turnovers conceded.

Revisiting that small sample size noise from the Dublin numbers. What if Mayo’s press identified a small chink? Mayo claimed ten (five of which occurred in the first half when the game was there to be won) turnovers outside their own 45. Kerry, with the oft quoted Donie Buckley link, are not only good here but have obviously worked on what they do when they win such ball. Of the 28 turnovers up the pitch they have produced 21 shots and scored 2 – 13. Of the 21 shots 14 had six or less player touches … they look to strike hard and fast off the turnover.

But for all their good work on turnovers that kickout number of -20 is very concerning. Especially when you consider that they will be up against (a) the best kickout press in the game and (b) the team with historically the best kickout in the game. More of that anon.

When Dublin have the ball

Once Dublin get their hands on the ball what do they do with it? The simple answer is they score. The 10-84 they amassed in the four games equates to 0.58ppp. As stated previously the average for games from 2015 – 2018 was 0.37ppp (NOTE4). And the scary thing is that they are actually getting better.

Last year’s preview touched on a lot of the themes as to how Dublin had increased their Conversion Rate. It is worth re-reading now as a lot of the principles still hold through.

Goals

Dublin are the goal Kings. From 2015 – 2018 inclusive (non-Dublin) teams went for goal every 17.8 possessions. As the above table shows Dublin have, apart from the blip in 2016, gone for goal at a much more frequent clip. But they have been relatively consistent on this going for goal every c11.5 possessions. In 2019 they have obliterated this mark going for goal once every c8.2 possessions. That is a huge change in emphasis.

It is worth noting that they have not been more efficient when going for goals (NOTE5). But they don’t need to be. They are coming away with 1.50 points per goal attempt which is better than can be achieved than going for points. Con O’Callaghan has been the catalyst here with six shots himself but also being directly involved (NOTE6) in the build up to another seven attempts (3x primary assists & 4x secondary assists).

You want to stop Dublin going for goals – nail down O’Callaghan. That’s not to say he’s the only threat. The two midfielders (Fenton & MacAuley) have combined for another six attempts getting a score from each attempt (4 – 02). Only Mannion, of the main strikers, has not been productive scoring 0 – 01 from his three attempts.

To increase your points per possessions you don’t necessarily need to get better at any one thing – if you tweak the ratios to go for the more productive shot more often then you’ll increase your returns.

Point attempts from play

That tweaking of shot types, to eke out more efficiency, leads us to Dublin’s point taking. The below shot chart is taken from 2016 and contains Dublin’s point attempts for the four games from the QF onwards

Every team will have a different shooting zone (as an example I used a completely different zone when previewing last year’s final). For illustrative purposes I use the red dotted line to denote “inside” and “outside”. I’m sure internally Dublin’s is different, but we can work with this. In 2016
• Dublin had an overall Conversion Rate of 45%
• 21% of all their point attempts came from “inside”
• They produced a 76% Conversion Rate “inside” and 37% “outside”

Now let us look at the same chart for 2019

Even visually you can see the change – the “inside” is so much more populated. There are no shots inside the 20m line from out wide. But to put some comparative meat on the bone
• Dublin now have a 62% Conversion Rate
• 46% of all their point attempts were from “inside”
• They have recorded a 74% Conversion Rate “inside” and 52% “outside”

Want to improve your points per possession? Go for goals, which are more productive per shot, more often whilst maintaining the Conversion Rate. Move more point attempts “inside”, again maintaining the consistency whilst also improving your “outside” shooting.

Kerry have their big three in Geaney, Clifford & O’Brien. For Dublin this year it has been Mannion, O’Callaghan & Kilkenny. Between them they have taken 49% of their point attempts with a whopping combined Conversion Rate of 71% (0 – 30 from 42; Expt Pts of +10.15). That is amazing consistency.

Con O’Callaghan again shows up well on the point taking tables with a 70% Conversion Rate (0 – 07 from 10; Expt Pts +1.82) and 11 primary assists. Combined with his involvement with the goals and he has become a central cog in what Dublin do.

But Paul Mannion has topped him in terms of accuracy with a Conversion Rate of 76% off a whopping 21 point attempts. That despite him being Dublin’s ostensible outside shooter.

Elsewhere Niall Scully has been the assist machine being directly involved in the build up to 25 point attempts and six goal attempts

Deadballs

And just to top it all off introduce a red hot Dean Rock during the Super8s. He is 95% (0-20 from 21) on deadballs with his only miss being deep in injury time against Mayo out wide left just to kill the clock.

On Rock. In the lead up (QFs, Super8 & SFs) to the AI final in the last three years he has been imperious recording a 92% conversion rate (0 – 36 from 39) on frees with an Expt Pts tally of +4.81. He has dropped off in the finals however returning just a 73% Conversion Rate with an Expt Pt of -0.20.

He is the best free taker bar none. He has shown his metal in 2017 when slotting the winning point deep into injury time. But he is human and has shown it previously when we enter the finals.

What of the Kerry defence?

Have we seen anything from Kerry to show that they can disrupt this process?

In the four games under scrutiny they have only allowed eight shots at goal including two penalties. That is an excellently frugal one attempt every c23 opposition possessions. If Kerry can keep Dublin to their pre 2019 standards of 1 goal attempt per every 11.5 possessions that should see Dublin at 4 shots at goal (assuming a c90 possession game). Meet somewhere in the middle of the 8.2 attempts from Dublin and 23.2 allowed by Kerry and you are at three attempts. Using Dublin’s conversation rates 3 attempts comes in at 1 – 01; four attempts and you are at 2 – 00. Any more than that and Kerry are staring down the barrel of a defeat.

Dublin have attempted 23 point attempts from frees or one every 8.6 possessions. Kerry have allowed the opposition to take 24 shots, or one every 7.7 possessions, at goal from frees. These 24 included three from outside the 45 (2x M Murphy, 1x C O’Connor). Whilst Rock is capable of slotting these over he knows his range and generally doesn’t take them from out there. Removing these three longer ones reduces the rate to one every 8.8.

All other things being equal you want to avoid giving Dublin, and Rock these easy points. Foley, Murphy & Crowley will need to be cognoscente of their tackling as they have given away four shots at goal, from fouling, apiece. On top of that O’Callaghan is the most fouled player for Dublin (he’s won 6 shots at goal from frees – the next best is 2).

Stop Dublin going for goal. Especially O’Callaghan. But don’t foul him. No problem!

That leaves us with Kerry defending point attempts. At a macro level this has been very poor this year. Opponents have converted 66% (0 – 45 from 68) of all point attempts from play scoring in excess of 0 – 11 more than what those 68 shots would be expected to record.

However, when we look at the shot graph for these 68 point attempts what is striking is just how good teams have been from “outside”. Between them Kerry’s four opponents have combined for a whopping 62% (0 – 24 from 39) Conversion Rate “outside” which, for context, is miles ahead of Dublin’s 52%. And I can find no good reason for it other than Kerry have been on the wrong end of some excellent shooting. Will this continue in the final? Anything is possible in a one-off game against Dublin. But what it does indicate is that the Kerry defence has not been as poor – or porous – as the final scoreboard(s) indicate.

You can begin to see the bones of an argument as to why Kerry’s defence can hold Dublin. Restrict Dublin to four goal attempts (Dublin have averaged six, Kerry have given up two) with them scoring 2 – 00. A point attempt from a free every 8/9 possessions should yield Dublin 0 – 04 to 0 – 05. Give them the “inside”/”outside” ratio that they have enjoyed to date but restrict them to 19 shots (Dublin have averaged 21.5; Kerry have allowed a lower). That equates to 0 – 11 from play. You are now at 2 – 15 … possibly 1 – 16. And assuming your attack shows up you are in the game for 80 minutes.

When Kerry have the ball

So what of Kerry? Whilst not as stellar as Dublin their attacking returns have been very positive

If we assume 50 possessions each then just using the baseline metrics above Dublin come away with 24.4 scores (50*83%*84%*70%) whilst Kerry come away with 21.9 (50*83%*80%*66%). Using the points per possession its Dublin 29 points and Kerry 25 points. That’s not to say that this is how the game will end (that calculation is as rough as a badger’s a*se) but it does show that the Kerry forward line are not a million miles behind perhaps the most accurate front line of all time.

Their goal attempts – perhaps surprising given an inside line that consists of Geaney and Clifford with O’Brien on the burst from the half forward line – has been an issue, however. Not so much the execution but the volume. They have only managed nine attempts at goal over the four games which contrasts starkly with Dublin’s 24. Again, their Conversion Rate is very good (56% Conversion Rate and 1.89 points per attempt) but the volume just isn’t there. Playing it safe when in front of goal? You feel this is something that Kerry will have to up in the final. Either they have to take the two chances they get, or they have to go for goal more often and come away with 2 – 00 from four attempts rather than 1 – 01 from two goal attempts and two point attempts.

Whilst not quite in the Dean Rock mould Séan O’Shea has been very good on deadballs returning 83% (0 – 20 from 24) and scoring about 1.5points above what would be expected from his attempts. Very solid. Just like Rock he will have to prove he can do it in the white heat of an All-Ireland final.

Kerry’s point taking has been a smidgen off Dublin’s with a combined 59% (0 – 52 from 88). That is still excellent returning about 8.5 points above what was expected. But that could be even better if they were more careful on their “inside” shooting.

They’re “outside” shooting at 56% (0 – 29 from 52) is better than Dublin’s – which, as we have noted, has taken a huge leap from where they were at in 2016. It is their “inside” shooting at 59% (0 – 23 from 39) that is hurting them. It is almost as if the mind wanders when they get inside thinking the job is down. They have the outside shooting to compete with Dublin – they need to pop those easier points or alternatively turn some of those closer in shots to less secure goal attempts.

Kerry’s big three (Geaney, Clifford & Stephen O’Brien) returns are eerily similar to Dublin’s big3 attempting 49% of all of their point attempts for a combined Conversion Rate of 70% (0 – 30 from 43; Expt Pts +9.01).

Like Mannion O’Brien has been on fire with a 90% Conversion Rate (0 – 09 from 10 Expt Pts of +3.62) whilst he has been very high up on the assist chart with 16 primary assists (1x goal attempt, 9x point attempt and 6 frees won).

Dublin’s defence

Dublin have only allowed nine goal attempts in the four games tightening as they’ve gone along (3 v Kildare and Cork, 2 v Roscommon and 1 v Mayo). Stephen Cluxton has again shown just how good he is by producing five saves from those nine shots with the only ones getting past him being an outrageous piece of skill from Lee Keegan and a penalty from Luke Connolly.

Dublin have only coughed up 13 shots from frees (John Small x3, MD MacAuley, B Fenton, C O’Sullivan with two apiece) in the four games which equates to one every 13.1 possessions.

On point attempts they have allowed more or less what is expected; 20 per game with a 51% Conversion Rate allowing an Expt Pts of +0.94

All very simple and concise compared to the in-depth detail above. But only because Dublin, like on offence, do the basics very, very well. Don’t offer up the goal attempts. When tackling do so properly – or at least if you need to foul don’t do so inside the scoring zone. Only give up what is expected from point attempts.

For Kerry’s attack let us assume things stay as they are. The Dublin defence do their thing whilst the Kerry offence does theirs. Kerry will get two goal attempts (Dublin have allowed nine in four games; Kerry have attempted nine) resulting in 1 – 00. Kerry win five shots at goal from frees (somewhere between the one every 7.5 possessions that they earned, and the one every 13 possessions Dublin have allowed) scoring 0 – 04. Kerry take 21 shots from play (Kerry have average 22 point attempts whilst Dublin have allowed 20) with a Conversion Rate somewhere in the mid 50s which comes in at 0 – 11/0 – 12.

All things being equal Kerry score 1 – 15/1 – 16. Their defence stands up as previously outlined allowing 2 – 15/1 – 16. Just saying ….

Kickouts

Attempting to show how Kerry can stay in, and even win, the game is conditional on a lot of things, plausibly, going their way. Contain Dublin to four attempts at goal. Foul at a “normal” rate. Allow point attempts at a slower rate than Dublin have taken to date. Up either the goal attempt volumes or the accuracy. Outside shooting efficiency against them to regress to the mean. Maintain their high attacking efficiency.

But that is all superseded by one larger condition that also needs to break Kerry’s way. We touched on it earlier when looking at the possession volumes – Kerry absolutely need to break even in terms of possession volumes on kickouts. [A gentle reminder that they were -20 on kickout possessions compared to Dublin’s +1. Despite having more kickouts in games than Dublin]

Dublin kickouts

The kickout details for both teams are in the Appendix. Unsurprisingly Dublin have not lost a short one. I say unsurprisingly as in the eight games that comprised the QFs onwards in 2017 and 2018 Dublin lost just three short kickouts – a combined retention rate of 97.5% (retained 118 of 121).

If they get their hands on one of your short ones lookout – they got one each against Cork, Roscommon and Mayo scoring off all three. Those three equated to 7% (3 of 46) of all short kickouts faced. This success rate is a step up on previous. In the aforementioned eight games in 2017 & 2018 they got their hands on 5% of the opposition’s short ones (6 out of 103) but only came away with 0 – 02.

In the four games there have been 116 kickouts past the 45 with Dublin gaining possession 50% of the time. That may seem poor enough, but they were 63% on their own kickout and 43% on the opposition’s. Dublin may have a fearsome press, but the opposition have been getting their hands on the ball

Kerry kickouts

Intriguingly enough Kerry have also won 50% (40 of 80) of kickouts that went past the 45. They had similar splits to Dublin in that they won 58% of their own kickouts and 43% of the opposition’s.

The problem, and the fear, is that they have lost seven short ones in the four games played. Seven. Compared to Dublin’s zero. And not in any one game where they had a systems malfunction either. They have lost at least one short kickout in every game. Indeed, they lost two vs Tyrone and three vs Donegal.

As stated at the very start I was worried for Kerry winning primary possession on kickouts. I still am but if they can force the majority to go past the 45, they can break even. But if they continue to press the shorter ones (60% of their kickouts have been short) then they have a propensity to cough up the ball which will be calamitous against this Dublin team.

Prediction

I have faith in the Kerry brains trust. Although under different management they came with a plan against both the Dublin kickout in 2016 and the Donegal kickout in 2014. I believe they will lose the possession battle here by two or three, as Dublin get a few short ones off quickly, but they will avoid any obvious calamitous errors.

They will break even in terms of turnovers. The game will be a relatively open 92 possession game (Dublin games averaged 91.75 possessions; Kerry’s 93.5) with Dublin winning that battle 47 – 45. Then the fun starts. On current point per possession trajectories that has Dublin at 27 points (47 possessions x 0.58). I don’t see that – as outlined I can see the Kerry defence being stouter than anticipated. If it “drops” (drops is a relative term here!) to the 2018 level of 0.52ppp that brings them into the 2 – 18/2 – 19 realm. To get down to the projected score I have for Kerry of 1 – 16 then Dublin’s ppp needs to drop to 0.40. Which I just can’t see.

Kerry to be closer than people think but Dublin to win 2 – 17 to 1 – 16

NOTE1 By right I should have used the Leinster final v Meath as a more “competitive” game however Meath’s shooting was so poor that it would affect the overall averages. Plus Kildare went in at half time only four down, so it was competitive enough to spark the familiar second half surge from Dublin.
NOTE2 Dublin’s opponents tend to have more kickouts due to the sheer volume of shots Dublin take. You retain your own kickout at a much higher rate therefore if the opposition has a lot more kickouts they should have a higher volume of possessions from same
NOTE3 Other is defined as Throw Ins at the start of halves or shots blocked, off the post etc. regained by the attacking team
NOTE4 Remove Dublin’s returns from the equation and that drops to 0.36ppp
NOTE5 Dublin can have a higher points per attempt in 2019 compared to 2018 with a lower Conversion Rate as points scored off goal attempts are not included in the Conversion Rates but are in the points per calculation
NOTE6 Assists here are still defined by being on the ball – actual passes. Runs off the ball are probably as important – especially for goal attempts – but we’re not quite there yet.

APPENDIX
Dublin kickout data

Kerry kickout data

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One Response to “2019 All Ireland Preview”

  1. 2019 All Ireland Review | dontfoul Says:

    […] The preview of this game is referenced throughout the below and can be found here […]

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