Archive for the ‘Club’ Category

Ballyboden St. Endas v Kilcoo 2019 All Ireland Club Final

January 8, 2020

A high level overview shows an incredibly close game that, on chances alone, Ballyboden edged. They had 21 shots, with an Expected return of 0 – 14; Kilcoo produced 20 shots expected to return 1 – 10. They were created off very similar Attack Rates (78% apiece), Shot Rates (68% v 69%) and Conversion Rates (52% v 50%).

And yet Ballyboden were scrambling at the end trying to claw back a five point deficit with ten minutes to go. How did Ballyboden return a similar Conversion Rate to that of Kilcoo, off roughly the same number of shots, but find themselves in that hole? In large part due to their shot type.

Ballyboden shooting

Disc = score, X= miss; yellow = deadball, red = attempt on goal, black = point attempt from play 1st half, black = 2nd half

13 (10x frees and 3x 45s) of Ballyboden’s 21 shots were deadballs. That accounts for 62% of all their attempts which is an incredibly high volume; both in absolute terms and as a percentage of a teams’ total shot count. In the four provincial finals the next highest was seven shots from deadballs for Padraig Pearses in the Connacht final which accounted for 41% of all their shots.

Given this high volume Ballyboden had to ensure accuracy on their deadballs to keep the scoreboard ticking over. Instead they were poor scoring just 0 – 07 (54%; Expt Pts of -2.43).

Looking at the shot chart calling that 54% poor would seem harsh as they scored 0 – 07 from the nine attempts closer to goal and missed the four “50:50” chances from around the 45. But if these were true “50:50” chances then the average for the four would have been 0 – 02. To not get any of them is very poor especially as all four were taken with the benefit of a noticeable wind.

That brings up another quirk in the Ballyboden game – their lack of long range shooting. With that wind in the second half the furthest they attempted a shot from was c25 metres. In the first half they only had one shot (from play) from outside the 20m line. They were very conservative in their shooting.

Compare that to Kilcoo

Kilcoo shooting

With the wind in the first half Kilcoo had ten shots with nine of them coming from “outside”. The tenth was Johnston’s goal which was worked off a turnover high up the pitch.

Kilcoo only managed to score 0 – 02 from those nine point attempts so it was not necessarily a very accurate ploy (22% Conversion Rate; Expt pts -1.76) but it is in stark contrast to how Ballyboden used the wind. The old Wayne Gretzky adage of “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” comes to mind.

Of course, the other difference with Kilcoo’s shooting was their goal attempts. Kilcoo created three scoring 2 – 00. Ballyboden only had the one shot at goal which was a tight angled attempt that ensued from a scramble deep into injury time.

Kilcoo 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 is well above what would be expected. Can they maintain this in the final? Generally, you would expect their returns on goal attempts to revert to the mean but that’s in a long run of games. Nothing is set for just one game.

Kickouts

Possession from kickouts was a wash. Both teams lost one short kickout whilst the possession was evenly split on those that landed past the 45 (Kilcoo won possession on 11 to Ballyboden’s 10). No great split by keeper either; Kilcoo won six of Ballyboden’s 13 kickouts past the 45 with Ballyboden winning four of Kilcoo’s eight

One slightly strange aberration was that Kilcoo didn’t manage a shot from any of the five Ballyboden kickouts they won. This wasn’t an apparent issue in the Ulster final against Naomh Conaill, when they scored
0 – 02, off two shots, from four Naomh Conaill kickouts. But one of those shots came from a short one that went wrong. Over their last two games that is seven opposition kickouts past the 45 they have claimed – but only produced one shot from same. If they get a toe hold in the final through Corofin’s kickout they’ll have to do more.

Ballyboden St. Endas v Éire Óg 2019 Leinster Club Final

December 10, 2019

When reviewing games here we rarely reference the weather (except for last year’s Ulster club final) – mainly because the games covered are intercounty Championship played in the best of weather on (mainly) perfectly maintained pitches. This wasn’t the case here. There was a very strong wind down the pitch, the rain came and went throughout the game leading to a greasy ball and the ground was dead and heavy. All of which led to difficult handling conditions, placing numerous players under huge pressure, as well as changing the normal shooting zones.

A quick visual on how the conditions affected the game – below are the shots from play with the wind (white) and without (black).

Against the wind the furthest score was c25m from the goals. Only one shot was from further than 30m out. This in turn compresses the area that needs to be defended and can lead to more turnovers if the attacking team don’t stand off stringing a series of non-threatening passes together.

With all that said above are the numbers. There were only 31 shots in the game (the Munster final had 45, Ulster 37 and Connacht 36) with a total of 60 turnovers (Munster x43, Ulster x33 and Connacht x34) and 88 possessions (Munster x81, Ulster x69 and Connacht x68). The usual metrics of Shot Rate, Attack Rate and points per possession really don’t stack up.

That’s not to say the high turnover volume was purely down to the conditions. There were 24 turnovers higher up the pitch outside each teams’ respective 45 which is indicative of excellent tackling and physical aggression without cynicism. That lack of cynicism is further evidenced by the fact that there were just five shots at goal from frees throughout the whole game.

When Ballyboden had the ball

Ballyboden may not have taken many shots but they handled the conditions, shooting wise, better than Éire Óg did; they were 70% (0 – 07 from 10) on point attempts from play as against 43% (0 – 06 from 14) for Éire Óg. They also managed to eke out the only shot on goal.

Conal Keaney was evergreen scoring on all three attempts and also setting up another shot.

When Éire Óg had the ball

Éire Óg struggled to use the wind in the first half. They had a purple patch around the 10th minute when they scored 0 – 03 from three in sixty seconds. But outside that they didn’t have another shot in the first 20 minutes and then finished the half with nothing from four attempts.

The accuracy didn’t improve against the wind in the second half scoring another 0 – 03 from seven shots from play whilst another two opportunities went abegging with forced free kicks.
Séan Gannon was immense scoring 0 – 02 from 3 as well as providing the primary assists for another four shots.

Kickouts

Just a quick note on Éire Óg’s kickouts.

black = 1st half, white = 2nd half

They had just the four kickouts in the first half and, with the wind, went long(ish) on all of them winning possession on three. Against Portlaoise their mid to long kickouts broke 50:50 (won five, lost five). All good.

Against the wind they had seven kickouts but lost five; including two of the last three that led to Ballyboden points at the death. Could they have changed up those last few? Should they have? Not once did they go short. Ballyboden did so on three of their six against the wind. In the semi-final Éire Óg went short six times so it was in their locker. But having said that they did win a long one immediately after going a point behind but then kicked the ball away. Who is to say the outcome would be any different if they did go short? And there was a subtle change; their first four against the wind went mid to right and after losing three they went mid left with the last three. It just didn’t work.

Kilcoo v Naomh Conaill 2019 Ulster Club Final

December 5, 2019

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.

Portlaoise v Éire Óg 2019 Leinster Club SF

November 29, 2019

Portlaoise really struggled offensively in the second half. They only managed seven shots, five from play, and whilst many will look to attribute this to (a) having a man sent off and (b) then chasing a goal this somewhat conceals how they were going. Up until Lillis’ red card the shot count in the second half was 8 – 4 in Éire Óg’s favour whilst they were 0 – 05 to 0 – 01 ahead on the scoreboard.

It is hard, from a purely numeric perspective, to know how much opprobrium to heap on an attack when there is a poor offensive display or, conversely, how much praise should be heaped on the defending team. But from Éire Óg’s perspective there are some things we can elicit. Like their discipline; both in terms of shape and tackling.

Up until the red card Portlaoise had 33 possessions. Of those 15 had at least a double digit volume of passes yet in these 15 possessions Éire Óg only gave away one shot from free, didn’t cough up a goal chance and only allowed 0 – 01 from nine point attempts. Portlaoise couldn’t break them down, got frustrated by Éire Óg’s shape and tenacity, and started taking poor options (0 – 02 from 12 “outside” below)

Éire Óg did what was required up front. Missed a penalty but converted their other two goal chances. Recovered from some shaky frees in the first half to score 0 – 04 from six. 41% (0 – 07 from 17) on point attempts.

Despite scoring 2 – 11, which is an excellent score at this time of year, this was achieved through volume rather than accuracy. Their attacking play complemented their excellent defensive play rather than trumping it.

Therein Darragh O’Brien was quietly excellent. He may not have shown up on the scoreboard (0 – 01 compared to Chris Blake’s 1 – 04 for example), but was exemplary in the No.11 position with a very impressive eight primary assists.

Kickouts

This was in interesting battle throughout the game. Above is Portlaoise’s kickout chart. They were able to get them away into the left full/half back pocket relatively easily. One went out over the sideline but nothing much came of it. This is Brody’s natural pocket (when he opened his body and went to his right Blake caught it short of the 45 and scored a point) and was more or less given to Portlaoise. But they were then not able to use it.

Portlaoise got their hands on 14 short kickouts. All bar one were roll outs into the D or into that pocket. Portlaoise were only able to progress four to a shot. The possession on five didn’t make the Éire Óg 45 whilst another four saw just one player control the ball inside that 45. Éire Óg just suffocated them as they progressed up the pitch.

On the flip side Éire Óg really struggled on their kickout in the first half.

An over simplification for sure but they had two kickouts in that half; long mid-right into a contest on the 65 and onto the 45 by the sideline to the keeper’s left. 7 of their 10 first half kickouts went into these two areas with Portlaoise getting their hands on five.

Truth be told Portlaoise didn’t produce enough to put the Éire Óg keeper under pressure in the second half but when he was called upon (even before the Lillis red card reduced Portlaoise’s options) he changed it up avoiding the two first half pockets and dropping the ball into an area between the 45 & 65 to his left. They won 3 of 4 here and also picked up two short ones. Portlaoise were never able to put them under the sort of intense pressure that produced in the first half where they won four out of five Éire Óg kickouts racking up 1 – 02

Corofin v Padraig Pearses 2019 Connacht Club Final

November 27, 2019

Nothing spectacular from Corofin. 1 – 00 from their two attempts at goal; 0 – 03 from four frees and 0 – 07 from 13 on point attempts. Expected to score 13 points. Scored 1 – 10. All in all, an average enough outing.

I imagine Pearses will be annoyed with their days work. They missed two relatively straight forward central frees which were somewhat cancelled out by a converted 45. But that 45 aside they skied a very good one on one goal chance and converted just 0 – 03 from 8 point attempts.

Those numbers don’t take into account their very slow start. It was the 12th minute before they controlled the ball inside Corofin’s 45 with a Niall Daly point attempt. It was the 19th minute before a Pearses player completed a pass from within the 45 by which time they had only controlled the ball twice inside the 45 (alongside Daly’s shot Carey attempted a free out on the sideline after getting fouled).
And yet for all that after 40 minutes it was 0 – 06 apiece and Pearses were 13-12 ahead on the shot count.

Reading way too much into it Corofin let Pearses hang around despite their terrible (metric wise) start but once Pearses drew level they upped it a gear, scored 1 – 02 in five minutes, allowing Pearses just one possession in that time, and then saw out the game.

Corofin shooting

Corofin were their clinical selves “inside” scoring 1 – 07 from just nine shots with the missed attempt being a contested fisted goal attempt from a dropping diagonal ball.


Disc = score, X = miss; red = goal attempt, yellow = deadball, black = point attempt from play 1st half, white = point attempt from play 2nd half

The flip side is that their “outside” shooting was quite poor; 0 – 02 from 8 from play.

This may just be a blip – not only in terms of Conversion Rate but also volume. They were 0 – 03 from just five attempts “outside” against BallintubberBallintubberBallintubber and in their devastating 1st halves against Dr Crokes and Gaoth Dobhair (below), at the end of last year’s campaign, attempted just 5 of 26 shots from “outside”

When it matters, they don’t do “outside” shooting.

Corofin’s range of attacking players was again on display here. From their 15 shots from play they had 11 different shooters. Padraig Pearses had five (and only one was not named Daly!).
Ian Burke’s quick hands were on full display again – giving the pass inside for Liam Silke’s goal and also providing the primary assist on four other point attempts.

Kickouts

Nothing much there to be honest. But we now have two Corofin games where we can overlay their kickouts.

30 kickouts in the two games with Corofin winning possession on 77% (23 of 30). One third (10) have gone short (which is below intercounty rates) with Corofin getting their hands on all of them.
Of those that have gone past the 45 Corofin have won possession 60% of the time (12 – 8). This is good – for intercounty Championship games the kickout team wins x% of kickouts past the 45. Looking at the kickout map they prefer hitting the wings in and around the 65 – and avoid the dangerous middle between the 45 & 65. They don’t rely on Marks – only the one across the two games

Corofin v Ballintubber 2019 Connacht Club SF

November 13, 2019

In many ways the game was similar to the 2018 Connacht final (review here) in that the overall numbers (possessions, shots, Conversion Rates) were quite close but Corofin never really felt in any trouble. The below is an extract from that 2018 game

But the main reason for their easy third was due to a devastating 15 minute spell from the 33rd minute onwards. In that period Corofin had 16 possessions taking eleven shots … and scoring 1 – 08 (Conversion Rate of 82% with an Expt Pts +3.06).

Corofin had less of a surge in this game but they again showed their clinical nature in the third quarter scoring 1 – 04 from just 5 shots (Expt pts of +3.53) enabling them to ease out to a six point lead after 45 minutes. Ballintubber showed great battling qualities to get within one heading into injury time but the damage had been done.

In another way this game was very different from 2018. The 2018 version was a veritable turnover fest with 90 total possessions of which 58 (64%) were turnovers. Both teams were very careful with the ball here producing just the 63 total possessions in total of which 28 (44%) were turnovers. Both teams played “keep ball” for long periods with 20 of the possessions having a string of at least 10 passes.

That volume of possessions is not just low compared to the 2018 game but very low full stop. On a straight line conversion to a 70 minute intercounty game (they are not the same thing with injury time etc. but this is just for illustrative purposes!) those 63 possessions grade out at 74. The average intercounty Championship total in 2018 & 2019 was 90. In 150 games since 2015 only one game – Fermanagh v Monaghan in 2018 – came in at lower than 74. This was a possession game brought to the extremes.

 

Corofin’s defense

Much has been made (both by myself and others) of the Corofin attack. It wasn’t at full throttle here (50% Conversion Rate from play; 1 – 05 from 12) though the depth of their attack can be gauged by the fact that (a) their three goal shots didn’t come from the vaunted forwards but instead Kieron Molloy & Liam Silke and (b) Gary Sice was 0 – 03 from 3 on frees in 2018 but didn’t take one here when they went 0 – 05 from 5.

Instead of focussing on the attack it is work taking a quick look at their defence through the lens of Ballintubber shooting.

Ballintubber’s slow build up would appear not to have worked. Corofin were able to maintain as clean a “D” as you are likely to see allowing no shot at goal and just two attempts from the very outer edge of the shooting arc.

But the slow build up is not the sole reason for this paucity of close shooting. In the 2018 game (shot chart below) only three Ballintubber shots were taken close to goal despite it being a very different type of game.

In ~130 minutes of high level club football Corofin were able to keep Ballintubber to one goal attempt, did not allow a shot from a free from closer than 35 metres, and only allowed six of 28 point attempts (21%) from “inside”.

Corofin’s attack

March 27, 2019

Corofin produced an absolutely scintillating performance in the first half of the recent club final against Dr. Crokes. I threw up a few pieces on twitter (@dontfoul) around that performance and what follows is an amalgamation of those pieces with a bit more context.

It is important to note what this is not. It is not is a critique of how Corofin play. It is a review of how they played in one half of one game.

Corofin’s shooting

The first thing that jumped out when watching the game “live” was their shooting. In that first half against Dr. Crokes they attempted 15 shots with none coming from further out than ~23m.

Corfin 1st half shooting v Dr. Crokes

That is an incredibly neat and tight shot chart. I tend to use an ad hoc arc around the D to give a visualisation of “inside”/”outside” shooting which I have overlaid on Corofin’s shots. In the Super 8s last year 45% of shots were taken inside that arc. 45%! Corofin were at 87% (13 of 15) with the two “outside” being on the edge of the arc.

Passing sequences

Taking a step back the next question is how Corofin managed to create such a neat shot chart. Below is the passing sequence for all 18 of their first half possessions and the result for same (excluding the very last move when the referee blew for half time just after the kickout was gathered).

Corofin passing sequence 1st half v Dr. Crokes

Green is a successful pass, orange is where the pass did not go where anticipated but Corofin gathered/controlled the ball and red is a turnover from a pass.

There is probably a thesis there for someone in comparing that table to other teams, be they club or county. Passes per possession, hand pass to kick pass ratio, avg. length of kick pass, quantum of attacking passes to possession retention passes etc. But from a cursory review there are a few things that jump out

• Just how much green there is and the implication of assuredness whilst in control of the ball;
• Only one turnover in the tackle
• Only four, out of 128 passes, led to a turnover

That is not to say that the other 124 passes were perfect – far from it. There is quite a bit of oIrange in there but that in and of itself was a feature. Twice shots were blocked and regathered, at least five times unorthodox passes (fist through, toe pokes, kick through – you don’t always need to “go down on it”) successfully found a Corofin player. Corofin were alert to all possibilities at all times.

Visually Corofin were in utter control and the above table is just another way to show it. And that control was achieved with a variation in both tempo and style. The first three possessions took six passes apiece, contained two outfield solos and averaged ~20 seconds on the ball. The last point was a 20 pass string with five outfield solos and consumed 72seconds on the clock.

That control was evident even with a heightened volume of kick passes. More work is (definitely) needed here but it is important to stress that it is the type of kick that is emphasised here rather than the volume.

(As an aside ….. Patricia Lynch, the current senior performance analyst for Kerry, did a notational study of passing (https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/24748668.2017.1416526) showing that from 2014 – 2016 the ratio of kick passes to hand passes was 2.5:1 (~ 72% to 28%). Eamon Donoghue (https://www.irishtimes.com/sport/gaelic-games/gaelic-football/gaa-statistics-how-much-has-gaelic-football-changed-in-the-last-decade-1.3619732) in his piece in the Irish Times post last year’s all Ireland final showed a kick pass/hand pass ratio of 75%/25%)

Corofin, at a 30% kick pass ratio, were just above these norms but their attacking kick passes were immense and it is phenomenal that they only had a 3% turnover rate on all passes when we overlay the (subjective) nature of their kick passing.

Front 6 touches

So stepping away from the passing sequences (as I said you could create a thesis on this alone) the question becomes how they create this control. They are generally on point with their passing allowing them to attack the goal and almost point-blank refuse to take unnecessary shots. Joe Brolly eulogised on their understanding of movement and space in the Sunday Game and that got me thinking re how Corofin use their front six.

Corofin front6 touches v Dr. Crokes

The above chart outlines the passing and movement on the ball of Corofin’s front six. In doing so you can see a few things that work into their game plan

• expanding it out to the full pitch it is rare for any of them to be on the ball in their own half – 5 touches between them (with Michael Lundy having four of them)
• Gary Sice (#10) is the main architect of the attacking kick; the front six had four kick passes combined from outside the 45 with all of them coming from him
• Michael Lundy (#11) preferred the right-hand side
• Michael Farragher’s (#14) natural habitat is a small rectangular box between the 13m & 20m lines in front of goal however if he collects the ball out the field he is carrying the ball directly towards the danger zone

But all that pales into insignificance when we see what the front six didn’t do. They stayed away from the No. 6 channel (yellow coloured rectangle in the above chart) altogether. Compare that to how other teams view the concept of space and where they try to get their playmakers on the ball.

Could we have seen it coming?

That first half display against Dr. Crokes was outstanding. Unfortunately (despite my endless invocations to people on Twitter to back up their data) I have lost my copy of the 2018 final v Nemo Rangers but commentary points to how they blitzed both Nemo in that final and Slaughtneil in 2016.

What I do have however is the semi-final v Gaoth Dobhair. And the comparison of the two first halves is as scary as it is striking.

Dr. Crokes v Gaoth Dobhair comparison

Part of the narrative around Corofin’s displays in the finals is that Croke Park suits them. The wide open space allows their forwards to run all sorts of angles whilst the outfield players can find space to pick a pass. Scarily Corofin were even more clinical in the first half of the Gaoth Dobhair game, down in Seán Mac Diarmada Park, than they were up in Croke Park. I mean … 2 – 07 from 11 shots in an AI semi-final.

Once again the shooting was very considered with only three shots coming from outside the aforementioned artificial zone (I wonder did Jason Leonard have to do punishment laps the next night at training for that shot out to the right ….).

Across the two halves analysed that’s 81% (21 of 26) of shots coming from “inside” with only one shot that could be considered in any way away from the arc with 35% of all attempts from play being goal attempts.

Again, a reminder that the 2018 Super8s saw 45% of shots from “inside” with 10.4% of attempts from play being goal attempts.

Passing sequences v Gaoth Dobhair

Corofin passing sequence 1st half v Gaoth Dobhair

The passing was not as slick as against Dr. Crokes in that seven passes led to a turnover but the avoidance of turnovers in the tackle is evident with just the one ball dislodged early on.

All the main ingredients for that first half performance v Dr Crokes were evident in their first half display v Gaoth Dobhair.

Kilmacud Crokes v Mullinalaghta Leinster Club Final 2018

December 11, 2018

Rian Brady scored a lucky point in the 17th minute when his long ball into the full forward line evaded everyone and bounced over the bar. But Mullinalaghta were far from lucky in this game. Yes they trailed for much of the second half but over the entirety of the game they had more shots, as well as a much higher Expt Pts return, than Kilmacud. On top of that they dominated the contested (and contestable) kickouts whilst also restricting one of the country’s foremost club teams to one shot at goal. On numbers alone Mullinalaghta deserved this victory.

If and when they ever get to review this game what will be gnaw away at Mullinalaghta is where they gave up the ball. Kilmacud got their hands on 17 possessions from their 65 upwards from which they scored 1 -04 of their 1-06. That is insanely high with the returns from the other six club games covered on the blog this year being 6, 6, 4, 9, 9, 9, 9, 0, 5, 6, 7 & 6. You sense that they will not get away with that against Dr. Crokes in the semi-final. But that’s for another day …

When Kilmacud had the ball

Kilmacud’s numbers are slightly squirrely what with a relatively low Conversion Rate (47%) but an Expt Pts of +1.21.

The dichotomy between the Conversion Rate and the Expt Pts can be explained through their goal and free attempts. Pat Burke’s effort was their only shot on goal, producing an Expt Pts of +1.19, whilst Paul Mannion scored 0 – 02 from 3 (Expt Pts of +0.13) on frees. That’s 75% (1 – 02 from 4) combined with Expt Pts of +1.32. Quite good from an accuracy perspective.

What let them down was their point attempts which returned a very low 36% (0 – 04 from 11). This was somewhat surprising as they had produced a combined 59% (0 – 22 from 37; Expt Pts of +4.43) in their two games against St. Judes and Portlaoise. As stated in the Portlaoise review we always have the small sample size caveat but Kilmacud had looked like an accurate, tidy, shooting team. It is difficult to attribute this poor shooting display to Mullinalaghta defending as seven of the eleven point attempts were taken under little or no pressure. It was just an off day.

What we can give the Mullinalaghta defence credit for is shutting down Kilmacud’s avenue to goal. In the aforementioned two games Kilmacud had ten shots at goal producing 4 – 01. It looked like we might be in for a repeat here when Pat Burke tucked away Williams’s pass in the 4th minute. But Mullinalaghta shut that forward line down thereafter and indeed were excellently set for Kilmacud’s build up play. Kilmacud had 22 possessions originating inside their own 45 (9 from kickouts, 13 from turnovers) off which Kilmacud only manufactured six shots returning 0 – 02.

When Mullinalaghta had the ball

Up until the 55th minute Mullinalaghta’s shooting was letting them down. They had 13 attempts returning 38% (0 – 05 from 13) with an Expt Pts of -2.78*. That included their only goal attempt which Brady lifted over the bar under huge David Nestor pressure.

*they were 0 – 06 in the 55th minute but Brady’s long punt into the full forward line that bounced over the bar does not count as a shot.

And then begins a sequence that will go down in club lore as Mullinalaghta scored 1 – 02 off three shots in four minutes to open up a two point lead that they never relinquished.

The turning point was the Gary Rogers penalty in the 58th minute. Penalties are relatively sparse (31 in 126 intercounty Championship games from ’15 – ‘18) in football but have a high Conversion Rate (74%; 23 from 31). What made this one slightly different was that it occurred right after Nestor had saved a last gasp penalty in the semi-final against Portlaoise (@ 14:30 here). Did that save play on either of the protagonists in this instance? Against Portlaoise Nestor saved to his right; he dived to his left this time … any reason why? Did he think his post-game comments (paraphrasing here but he said “I went to my right as at my age that’s the only way I can go”) that day would play on Roger’s mind? Did Rogers hear them?

Postscript; in the end that wondering was for nought. Rogers gave an interview to Second Captains in which he says that he did see the save against Portlaoise but took no heed of it as he is not the normal penalty taker (McGivney is but has a knee issue that prevents him from shooting off the ground) and was just concentrating on a clean contact!

Roger’s impact on the game was not solely based on the penalty. He managed six primary assists as Mullinalaghta’s link man. No other player, across either team, managed more than three primary assists.

Kickout overview

As stated Mullinalaghta stymied Kilmacud’s short kickouts allowing just one shot off the nine they won and also scoring a point off the one that went awry.

Mullinalaghta weren’t interested in short kickouts (case in point being the one they did try ending up in a throw in as the ball didn’t travel the required distance) and instead went long(er) with 6 of their 13 going past the 65m line.

Mullinalaghta were very strong here winning five of their six that went past the 65 and 68% (13 of 19) of all kickouts that went past the 45.

Appendix

Shot charts; disc = score, X = miss, yellow = deadball, red = goal attempt, black = point attempt from play 1st half; white = point attempt from play 2nd half

Kickout charts; disc = kickout team won, X = kickout team lost, black = 1st half, white = 2nd half

Mullinalaghta shot chart

Kilmacud Shot chart

Mullinalaghta kickouts

Kilmacud kickouts

Gaoth Dobhair v Scotstown 2018 Ulster Club final

December 4, 2018

In the normal course of events a review starts with a table summarising the game. That is to follow. For this game however there is a slight detour as we start out with a picture instead.

Darren Hughes had turned the ball over in the 61st minute when the game was all square. He was leading a counter attack down the right wing and receives the ball back from Heaphey who has just come on. Turning inside he sends a kick pass across the defence to Morgan who is in space (just out of frame). Instead of setting up the winning score the ball doesn’t rise off the pitch at all instead skidding away from what can only be described as a square metre of mud.

Quite obviously it is an important moment in the game but it also illustrates the conditions the game was played in. The pitch was heavy with quite a few mud patches. There were frequent bursts of quite torrential rain both before and during the game. The ball was greasy, the pitch a quagmire and the day a wet, dark, miserable Irish winter day.

This is in complete contrast to both the usual summer weather the averages for games are built upon and even the club games that have been covered on the blog this year. When reviewing the game this context must always be at the forefront.

Game Overview

The pitch took the speed out of the game.

The weather layered on top of this by forcing shots from closer in than is the norm; between the two teams there was maybe one shot from play that could be considered long range and that came in extra time (see the shot charts in the Appendix).

And to top it all off the teams were relatively conservatively set up. Add all three together and you get a grand total of 65 possessions in normal time. Compare that to the 87 in Gaoth Dobhair’s previous game with Crossmaglen or indeed the 97 possessions in the Kilmacud v Portlaoise game. The ball was hard won and it wasn’t easily given up.

Gaoth Dobhair had eight more possessions, eight more shots and a tally of just under 4.0 Expt Pts more than Scotstown in the opening 60 minutes. They lost just one of their own 13 kickouts whilst winning 75% (6 of 8) of Scotstown’s kickouts that travelled past the 45. By all known measures they really should have been out of sight … but to Scotstown’s immense credit it was Gaoth Dobhair who had to stage a comeback in the second half when they went three points down after 38 minutes.

So how can all these things (Gaoth Dobhair’s apparent dominance and Scotstown’s lead) be true? Shooting accuracy. In normal time Gaoth Dobhair returned a relatively poor 48% (0 – 11 from 23; Expt Pts of -1.62) whilst Scotstown, given the conditions, produced a quite remarkable 73% (0 – 11 from 15; Expt Pts of +2.19).

There was a trend apparent in normal time which was to prove crucial during extra time. As can be seen from the shot charts Scotstown’s shooting during normal time was from much further out than Gaoth Dobhair’s. “Much” might be a stretch but in the conditions every metre mattered.

Of Scotstown’s point attempts from play 80% (8 of 10) came from “outside” (as denoted by the dotted red line) whereas only 47% (9 of 19) of Gaoth Dobhair’s shooting was from “outside”.

When we get to extra time we see that Gath Dobhair scored 0 – 02 from their four attempts with the two points coming from right in front of goal whereas Scotstown missed their four attempts with none coming from close range. Gaoth Dobhair were able to get inside, as they had done all game, during extra time when everyone was exhausted, both mentally and physically, from the day, the pitch, the enormity of the occasion, whereas Scotstown were never able to break down the Gaoth Dobhair defence.

Details of both teams’ shooting and assists can be found below but once again it is worth highlighting Odhran Mac Niallais. He has produced excellent numbers for a putative midfielder. He topped the assists chart the last day with five primary assists against Crossmaglen and does so again here, in conjunction with M Ó Cearbhaill, on four. He also tops the shooting tables across the two games with eight point attempts combined (50% conversion; Expt Pts of +0.427). And just to top it off he is Gaoth Dobhair’s main free taker (taken 14 of 19 attempted across the three games covered).

Kickouts

Given the nature of the game what the teams did after winning the kickout is of less importance here than just winning the kickout. And Gaoth Dobhair controlled this section of the game winning 67% (12 of 18) of all kickouts that went past the 45 including 11 of 14 in normal time.

Their supremacy in this area fed in to Scotstown changing tack. Seven of Scotstown’s eleven kickouts went past the 45 with Gaoth Dobhair getting hold of six of those seven. Thereafter five of their next six went short

Appendix

Gaoth Dobhair shot chart

Yellow = deadball, black = from play in normal time, white = from play in extra time; X = missed, disc = score

Scotstown shot chart

Yellow = deadball, black = from play in normal time, white = from play in extra time; X = missed, disc = score

Gaoth Dobhair shooting table

Gaoth Dobhair assists

Scotstown shooting table

Scotstown assists

Portlaoise v Kilmacud Crokes Leinster Club SF 2018

November 30, 2018

As ever goals win games … or not. Portlaoise had two more shots than Kilmacud and also took shots that were expected, all other things being equal, to return a scoreline ~3pts more than Kilmacud. But Kilmacud ended up with 18 scores off a 64% Conversion Rate whilst Portlaoise returned 11 scores off a 37% Conversion Rate.

This was an incredibly open game with 12 goal attempts returning 4 – 04 and a phenomenal 40 shots in the first half. I think I called it “brilliantly bonkers” on twitter.

I mentioned the frantic pace at the start of Gaoth Dobhair v Crossmaglen as being unprecedented but we may need to review what the baseline for these upper echelon club games are. This game was every bit as frenetic; the first ten minutes produced 17 possessions with fifteen shots of which five were attempts at goal.

When Kilmacud had the ball


yellow = from deadballs; red = goal attempts; black = from play in 1st half; white = from play 2nd half

The most striking aspect of Kilmacud’s shooting was how close in to goal it was. 28 shots in the game with only maybe one coming from outside the optimal shooting zone … and that was from Paul Mannion who, given his form, is allowed shoot from anywhere!

They were 58% (0 – 11 from 19; Expt pts of +1.72) on point attempts from play which is very good. The Conversion Rate was undoubtedly aided by their shot selection however the positive Expt Pts shows that they were still more accurate than the norm.

At a macro level it looks like they are a very accurate team. We have the usual caveat of small sample size but this is the second recent game we have following the county final against St. Judes (didn’t do a write up but did cover the game) and they were 61% (0 – 11 from 18; Expt Pts of +2.71) on point attempts in that game.

Kilmacud had five shots at goal returning 1 – 03 which is about average. In the aforementioned game against St. Jude’s they also had five goal attempts returning 2 – 00.
Indicative of their attacking play those ten attempts at goal have been spread across five different forwards (Mullin x3, Mannion, Burke & Pearson x2 each and one from Horan)

There was nothing especially noteworthy about their free taking (0 – 03 from 4; Expt Pts of –0.65 as the one that Mannion missed was quite easy from the top of the D). Maybe Kilmacud might have a quibble at the dearth of frees as they’ve only had the five shots across the two games (four here and one against St. Jude’s) but Portlaoise and Jude’s combined for eight so there wouldn’t appear to be anything in that.

A quick note on Cunningham who was excellent as the link man. He had six primary assists in all; five for point attempts and one for a saved Mullin goal attempt.

When Portlaoise had the ball

Portlaoise had seven shots at goal one of which was the last minute penalty. Overall they come out with positive returns on these goal attempts (Expt Pts of +0.53) which is
remarkable considering the penalty save. I have penalties being converted ~80% of the time which means that a miss/save takes -2.35 off a team’s Expt Pts.

Overall Portlaoise recorded an Expt Pts of -4.66 so if their goal attempts came out more or less even then everything else must have fallen apart.

They had five point attempts from deadballs returning just 0 – 01 (Expt Pts of -2.36). Whilst two of these were 45s you would expect, in the normal course of things, Brody to have slotted one of them. Cahillane’s sole score was on the 13m line from in front of goal It was effectively a gimme (they are converted in excess of 99% of the time) so whilst one of his misses was from quite a tight angle he basically doesn’t get any benefit from the score to balance this out.

Then there was the point attempts. Portlaoise had 18 point attempts from play scoring just 0 – 06 (33%; Expt Pts of -2.83). Lillis and McCormack were the main culprits combining for 0 – 01 from 10. But more than individuals it was Portlaoise’s almost shoot on sight policy that hurt them. Below is a comparison of the two teams’ point attempts with Kilmacud in white and Portlaoise in black.

There is nothing to say you cannot convert from further out, or indeed that you cannot win by shooting over a team. But there is much greater variance in the returns from where Portlaoise attempted their points from as opposed to Kilmacud’s attempts

Kickouts

Very crudely Kilmacud followed the Dublin template with 73% (16 of 22) of their kickouts going short. They weren’t overly efficient on these however letting Portlaoise get their hands on two, scoring a goal off one and only scoring 0 – 04 from the 14 they did win.

Portlaoise were the inverse with 86% (19 of 22) of their kickouts crossing the 45. That made 25 kickouts in total crossing the 45 with Portlaoise coming out on top 14 – 11. Their poor conversion rates were evident again her however as they scored 1 – 02 from the eight shots off these kickouts whilst Kilmacud scored 0 – 06 off the 8 shots they manufactured.