Kilcoo v Naomh Conaill 2019 Ulster Club Final

Kilcoo on the ball

Kilcoo’s start, up until the second goal which put them six points clear, was as clinical a display as you will find.

That is an 86%** Conversion Rate (2 – 10 from 14 shots – above) with 0.82 points per possessions. Everything was working; Conor Laverty was immense leading the line being directly involved in seven of those 14 shots. Darryl Branagan had scored 1 – 01 and was involved in the build up to the other goal. Everything was working; they scored immediately off a turnover inside Naomh Conaill’s 45, off a Naomh Conaill short
kickout that went awry as well as getting shots off after stringing 28 & 30 passes together.

**Technically it is 79% as Eugene Branagan’s point in the 12th minute was pushed over by McGrath

And then it wasn’t. From the Branagan goal in the 38th minute to his relieving point in the 59th Kilcoo only managed one shot. And that was again from Branagan. Indeed, from that second goal Kilcoo only managed three shots in total with Darryl Branagan taking two. The other was the breakaway in injury time where Ward tried to lob the keeper from 40 metres. No midfielder or forward had a point attempt for the guts of 30 minutes

The visual impression from the TV pictures (always the worst methodology from which to draw sweeping statements!) was that they went into their shell in that 20 minute period between the Branagan scores. Do the numbers support that?

Post the second goal they lost the possession count 12 – 8 after winning that particular battle 22-19 up to that point. Part of this reversal was the fact that Naomh Conaill got their hands on two of Kilcoo’s seven kickouts whilst Naomh Conaill held onto their only two. Nothing untoward there – except for what that means on turnovers. Kilcoo were 5 – 4 ahead on kickouts but 3 – 8 behind on turnovers. In 30 minutes, from the 10th minute to the 2nd goal, Kilcoo gave up a measly three turnovers. Then they gave up eight in 20 minutes.

Now part of all this is undoubtedly regression to the mean. No club team can keep the numbers Kilcoo were producing going. Part was undoubtedly Naomh Conaill stepping up. Desperation at going six behind propelled them forward. Given their travails in Donegal finals over the past few years they are far from meek lambs.

But part is also a change in how Kilcoo played and used the ball. Again, anecdotally Laverty seemed to be on the ball around the 45 and 65 a lot more in the closing 15 minutes. They also used the ball differently. The proportion of individual possessions inside and outside the 45 changed. It was roughly 3.8:1 (213 individual possessions outside the 45 to 56 inside) in the dominant period up until their 2nd goal. But thereafter it was 5:1; 100 possessions outside the 45 to 20 inside. They slowed up the delivery, invited Naomh Conaill on, and turned it over with less of a focal point up top.

Naomh Conaill on the ball

Naomh Conaill’s method of attack was very different to Kilcoo’s. Whereas Kilcoo were using Laverty at the head of the attack, alongside some hard running from Darryl Branagan and the Johnstons, Naomh Conaill much preferred the high ball into the full forward. Whilst an undoubted tactic and given the trend towards ball retention in recent years one, especially at club level, that defences are not used to dealing with, it is also quite volatile. How often does a high ball in result in a clean catch? In a goal? In a score from a flick on or a subsequent scramble?

The type of attack is not something I have tracked. Not because it is unimportant but mainly because we are viewing games on TV from one main camera angle. What happens pre the ball coming in (no. of forwards v defenders, the runs being made, has the full forward boxed out the full back etc.) is very hard to determine. So, the numbers here stand on their own without any context of what we would expect to happen.

Naomh Conaill launched ten high balls, on nine separate possession, into the square. Some were better than others but in the main they were on point into the square. Of those ten they manufactured four shots and scored 0 – 02 though the Expt Pts on those four shots was +3.14.

We know that “good” attacks will return 0.35 – 0.40 points per possession (ppp). On their high balls Naomh Conaill returned 0.20ppp but this was in part down to poor execution. They should have returned 0.31ppp which isn’t far off the average. That Expt Pts is very high for just four shots – and is part of the thought process behind using the high ball. You’ll get less shots but the ones you do get should be (will be?) much easier.

On the 26 possessions where they didn’t launch a high ball, they had 16 shots (a shot 62% of the time vs 40% on the high balls) scoring 2 – 07 or 0.50 ppp. The Expt Pts on these 16 shots was +9.98 or 0.38ppp
A muddled enough picture. Naomh Conaill definitely got more (much more) on those possessions they didn’t launch in. But a large part of that was from excellent shooting (+3.02 on Expt Pts on non-high balls v -1.14 on the high balls). When we look at the Expt Pts for both the gap is much narrower (0.31ppp for high balls vs 0.38ppp for non-high balls).

And this is where the volatility comes in. Naomh Conaill got less shots but one of them was a goal attempt from the edge of the small square which was blasted over. You get the sense that to make the constant frequent high ball tactic work you need a goal.

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2 Responses to “Kilcoo v Naomh Conaill 2019 Ulster Club Final”

  1. Ballyboden St. Endas v Éire Óg 2019 Leinster Club Final | dontfoul Says:

    […] Shining a light onto GAA stats « Kilcoo v Naomh Conaill 2019 Ulster Club Final […]

  2. Ballyboden St. Endas v Kilcoo 2019 All Ireland Club Final | dontfoul Says:

    […] were very good in this aspect in the Ulster final as well meaning that they have scored 4 – 01 from just seven attempts on goal in two games. This […]

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