Archive for the ‘Ulster SFC’ Category

Derry v Tyrone 2017 Ulster

May 30, 2017

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
Derry 44 38 26 0 – 11 13.81
Tyrone 53 49 42 0 – 22 23.59

That is as comfortable a game as a team is likely to have. Tyrone had 9 more possessions, 11 more attacks and a whopping 16 more shots than Derry. There are examples of such disparities where teams begin to rack up numbers towards the back end of a game, as the competitive edge has gone out of the encounter, but (sadly) this was not the case here. When the game was – notionally – at its most competitive in the first half Tyrone had six more attacks and eight more shots.

Derry shooting
Although each game takes on a life of its own there are some stark similarities to the 2016 meeting (see here) . Then the gap in Expt Pts was ~8.5pts. Here it was just under 10pts. Below is a straight lift from the 2016 game review …

Derry had 18 attempts for a point from play throughout the game; only two of those came from inside the prime scoring zone (extending from the D in towards the goal) with none at all in the 2nd half. Outside of this only one other point attempt came from inside the 20m line. Derry’s fundamental lack of attacking speed allowed Tyrone to set defensively which in turn aided them in repelling Derry away from the most productive shooting zones. Derry were then forced to try less productive long range efforts.

Below are the Derry point attempts from play in the first half. Their whole game shot chart is in the Appendix. You can’t keep doing the same thing over and over and expect different results.

Tyrone shooting
Tyrone had their way with the Derry defence returning a 92% Attack Rate & an 86% Shot Rate. This was off an already enlarged possession total. What will (should!) concern them however is – as ever – their shooting. A score of 0 – 22 looks very impressive but with the chances they had they should have scored more (total Ext Pts of -1.59) – the high score was as a result of volume rather than accuracy.

It could be argued that this view – that they had a poor shooting outing – is on the harsh end as the negative Expt Pts return includes their two goal attempts being blocked/saved as well as some simple frees being missed (Harte’s left footed effort in the first minute being a prime example). When we only review point attempts from play the view is somewhat rosier; 0 – 13 from 27 attempts (an average. conversion rate of 48% but a positive Expt Pts of +1.11 indicating harder shots were converted).

Dig a little deeper though and 21 of those 27 shots were taken under no – or very little – pressure (another indictment of the Derry defence). Yes the next day their frees, or goal chances, might compensate for more pressurised point attempts. But what happens in August when they don’t get a goal, get five frees instead of 11 in a game and their shooting comes under a lot more pressure?

Tyrone free taking
Free taking has been a problem for Tyrone. Over the last 3 Championships they have returned a poor 61% (0 – 39 from 64; Expt Pts -4.00).

Shots Scores Conversion % Expt Pts Vs Expt Pts
D McCurry 17 0 – 10 59% 11.24 -1.24
N Morgan 14 0 – 06 43% 7.05 -1.05
C McAlliskey 11 0 – 09 82% 7.84 1.16
R O’Neill 10 0 – 05 50% 8.15 -3.15
S Cavanagh 7 0 – 06 86% 5.22 0.78
P Harte 5 0 – 03 60% 3.50 -0.50

This 61% is in stark contrast to a combined 84% from Rock & C O’Connor over the last two years.

Against Derry they were 73% (0 – 08 from 11; Expt Pts -0.50). Again – in a game with little or no pressure – their shooting was below average. The one bright spark was Séan Cavanagh who hit 0 – 06 from7 (86%; Expt Pts +0.38). As the above table shows he hasn’t taken many frees of late but when he did he was accurate. That flowed through to this game.

As a designated starter, and given Tyrone’s travails of late, it may be best for Tyrone’s to leave him on the frees. If he does nothing more than hit average then this will be an improvement.


Derry’s shot chart

Tyrone’s shot chart

x = missed, disc = score, yellow = deadball, black = 1st half from play, white = 2nd half, red = goal attempt


Donegal v Tyrone 2016 Ulster

July 19, 2016

Styles make fights. If that is the case then, for 65 minutes, these were two counter punchers who warily circled each other with Donegal winning the first five rounds and Tyrone the next five. And then for some unknown reason they stood in the middle of the ring and threw the most spectacular haymakers at each other.

But that probably doesn’t do the flow of the game justice. Whilst Donegal were three points ahead at half time this was due, in the main, to Tyrone’s abysmal shooting.

First half

Team Possessions Attacks Shots Scores Exp Pts
Donegal 20 20 16 0 – 07 6.89
Tyrone 21 20 17 0 – 04 7.91

Donegal produced a below average Conversion Rate of 44% but were +0.11 ahead on Expt Pts. This was achieved by attempting difficult shots – two sideline balls from inside the 20m line anyone? – but converting enough to keep the scoreboard ticking over. MacNiallais nailed one from outside the 45 to add to Ryan McHugh’s three lovely righted footed efforts from out on the left. Indeed the best illustration of the difficulty of their shots can be seen in their shot chart (below) where they did not have a shot from play inside the 20m line.

Tyrone on the other hand were atrocious. It is not a word I would normally use but 0 – 04 from 17 attempts for a 24% Conversion Rate and an Expt Pt total of -3.91 is just that.

Tyrone had a nice mixture of shooting positions (four inside the 20m line, four close to or inside the D and nine
longer attempts but all inside the 45) but they had some very bad options in there; McNabb tight in the 1st minute, McShane basically a metre or two in from both the 45 and the sideline being prime examples. There was also some really poor execution; Mattie Donnelly’s pulled effort in the 23rd minute and Sludden’s central effort when under no pressure stand out in this regard. We can’t even attribute such poor returns to tenacious Donegal defending. From Tyrone’s 15 first half shots from play eight were charted as having no pressure applied to the shot.

It was just a complete systems malfunction epitomised by the fact that neither Harte nor Séan Cavanagh had a shot in the half.

And then the second half started

Team Possessions Attacks Shots Scores Exp Pts
Donegal 16 14 6 0 – 04 2.54
Tyrone 20 18 16 0 – 09 7.50

The complete systems malfunction transferred itself to Donegal. They only managed six shots in the entire half and went a full 30 minutes with just two shots attempted. Their paucity of shooting is best illustrated by the Expt Pts graph below. Just look at how flat their second half line is.

Don - Tyr Exp Pts blog version

As in the first half Donegal struggled to shoot from in close but this time there was no long range shooting to augment their poor returns. MacNiallais got another bomb from the 45 but that was it – the only other shots from more than 30metres were the two late Murphy frees and Eoin McHugh’s effort in the 50th minute. So what happened? Tyrone engaged Donegal closer to the 45 – epitomised by McMahon hounding McGrath back 20metres and then just turning around and running straight back into the goal – but Donegal also appeared to run out of ideas. Or employ a very, very risk averse shooting policy.

As part of an experiment I have been tracking how many individual player possessions there have been in every team possession. In the first half Donegal’s 20 team possessions averaged 7.7 player possessions. In the second half that jumped to 13.6 player possessions. Three separate moves had a player possession volume of 38, 29 & 24. That is a huge jump with some absurdly long periods of possession. But rather than an element of control it indicates inertia and a lack of decisiveness. Donegal continuously hand passed the ball outside Tyrone’s defensive shield but could not make an impression. For the record those three possessions with the high player possessions only produced one shot. Tyrone’s largest player volume was 13 with an average of 5.4

Tyrone’s finish

We will all be left with the memory of Tyrone’s final few shots but up until the 67th minute their shooting, whilst nowhere near as bad as the first half, was still below average. In that ~30 minute period they had a Conversion Rate of 45% (5 from 11) and an Expt Pts total of -0.59. And then they went, relatively speaking, berserk, scoring four from four. Harte & Cavanagh’s efforts were other worldly – as was Cavanagh’s earlier score from just outside the 20m line on the right touchline – but we must also remember that McCurry & McGeary were no more than five minutes on the pitch when they took their efforts.

To highlight just how good those four shots were – the average intercounty player would get four from four 2.5% of the time. And that’s without the added strain of the last few minutes in a tied Provincial final


Shot Charts

Donegal’s shooting
Donegal shooting (V Tyrone 16)

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


Players with >= 3 shots from play

Shots Scores Success Rate Exp Pts
O MacNiallais (Donegal) 4 0 – 02 50% 1.72
S Cavanagh (Tyrone) 3 0 – 03 100% 1.50
C McShane (Tyrone) 3 0 – 01 33% 1.37
N Sludden (Tyrone) 3 0 – 01 33% 1.27
P Harte (Tyrone) 3 0 – 02 67% 1.21
R McHugh (Donegal) 3 0 – 03 100% 1.11
C McAlliskey (Tyrone) 3 0 – 00 0% 1.02

Cavan v Tyrone 2016 Ulster

July 7, 2016

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 59 51 38 2 – 17 21.28
Tyrone 54 45 33 5 – 18 22.83

It is not often that we will find a team take five more shots and end up being so comprehensively defeated. This is when context is required to ensure the game flow is taken into account. From the 68th minute onwards, when all intensity had left the game, Cavan scored 1 – 05 from 8 shots with a combined Expt Pts of +4.72.

In the original game the late goal helped Cavan outperform their Expt Pts whilst Tyrone’s shooting saw them return ~3 points below expected. Show the two games back to back and we begin to get a sense of just how much Tyrone dominated – not just in terms of total scores but also in Expt Pts.

140mins Expt Pts

Peter Harte

Harte had a great game scoring 2-04 from just the six shots producing an Expt Pts total of +4.40. Within those scores there was a free on his left, two points from play, with one off either foot, and three goal attempts returning 2-01. He was also on the shoulder form McAlliskey’s 3rd goal so, being unrealistically greedy, as good as his day was it could have been even better.

Still that accuracy was good enough to place his returns 4th overall since 2012 (>100 TV games in that span).


Cavan’s defending

Tyrone had six goal shots in the replay scoring 5-01. Generally speaking that is unrepeatable however more surprising than this level of accuracy was the fact that the goal attempts did not occur in the first game when they only produced the solitary McNulty 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 goal.

Tyrone’s Deadballs

There has been some commentary on how poor Tyrone’s free taking has been. Over the three games in this year’s Championship (the two against Cavan & Derry) they returned 0 – 10 from 18 deadballs with a combined Expt Pts of -3.67. We have 3 games from their 2015 run (the Ulster game against Donegal, the QF & SF from Croke Park) where they returned 1-13 from 21 attempts with a combined Expt Pts of +0.11

Their 2016 deadball performance has indeed been very poor but do we base our view on the most recent returns or smooth it out over time? Is the 2016 form natural variance due to small sample size or the manifestation of something more serious? Only time will categorically answer that one however it is fair to say that at best their deadball striking reaches average whilst on current form it is very poor.


Tyrone have used six different players to take deadballs in that six game span. Evidence would suggest that this chopping and changing is as a result of not having any great free taker – as opposed to the poor returns being as a result of the chopping and changing – however I am not sure why Séan Cavanagh was taken off the frees. Granted we do not have the games from their qualifier run last year however he was three form three against Donegal up in Ballybofey and hasn’t taken one in the five games since. It is worth remembering that he was 67% (16 of 24) with an Expt Pts tally of -0.04 during 2013 & 2014. Average yes but looking at Tyrone’s returns of late they would take average.

Donegal v Monaghan 2016 Ulster

June 28, 2016

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
Donegal 44 39 27 1 – 11 16.86
Monaghan 47 37 26 0 – 14 15.14

At a macro level the returns for both teams are very similar with just three possessions, 2 attacks & 1 shot separating them. Nothing untoward or unexpected given the recent history of these two teams. What did differ however was just how bad Donegal’s shooting was. It was much more erratic than Monaghan’s evidenced by the low conversion rate of 44% and leaving >2.5 points behind them.

Donegal managed to create three good goal opportunities through Gillespie, McBrearty and MacNiallais. Those goal attempts returned an Expt Pts tally of +0.43. Given this was a positive, and the overall return was a negative then Donegal’s point taking is shown up as poor, bordering on feeble. Donegal scored 0-10 from 24 point attempts (42% conversion rate) with a combined Expt Pts of -3.29. Their shooting from play was below average (38% with an Expt Pts of -0.62) but not terrible – it was their free taking that really let them down.

Before we turn to Donegal’s deadballs we need to touch on Monaghan. They will be very concerned with their last quarter as, after the red card in the ~55th minute, they only managed to create two shots more than Donegal and more worryingly they only created the one shot from play in those final 20 minutes.

McManus was outstanding from frees converting 78% (7 from 9) with an Expt Pts tally of +0.93. The raw numbers do not do justice to his performance however as his 6th and 7th points were both converted from outside the 45, in injury time, whilst one of the misses was basically on the 20m flag from the right with the right foot.

Possibly of more importance for Monaghan, looking towards the replay, was the 33% conversion rate of the supporting cast. Monaghan rely on deadballs more than any team so to see K Hughes & R Beggan miss their only free – both from the right as was one of McManus’s misses – will be of slight concern to Malachy O’Rourke and his management team.

Whatever concerns Monaghan may have in this area will pale into insignificance compared with those of Donegal. McBrearty & Murphy were 45% from 11 attempts and had a combined Expt Pts of –2.53. In such a tight encounter you cannot leave that many points behind you.

On raw returns McBrearty would escape much of the blame scoring 0-03 from his four attempts however the one he missed was on the top of the D and should be converted 70-80% of the time.

Murphy was very poor scoring 0-02 from 7 attempts. There are mitigating circumstances in that two of his misses were outside the 45m line whilst a third was just inside the 45 from wide on the left. Even if you were to be generous, and exclude these three attempts, his returns were 0-02 from four with an Expt Pts tally of -0.67. Include them and the Expt Pts tally rises to -2.12.

We know Murphy is better than that. History has shown us that he is an above average deadball striker. Donegal will need him to (re)find his accuracy in the replay.

Much was made of the kickouts – especially Donegal’s – at half time in the Sky coverage. The gist being that the fact they had lost 4 of their 12 first half kickouts (whereas Monaghan lost just one of their nine) showed a poor kickout strategy.

At the time I was a bit dismissive of this as Donegal had netted 0 – 03 (Donegal scored 0-04 from the 8 they won whilst Monaghan scored 0-01 from the 4 they won) from their own kickouts whilst Monaghan had scored 0-01. However when we look at shots created from kickout possessions it was level at 5 apiece at half time. Extend that out to the 70mins and Monaghan created 10 shots from the kickouts they won to Donegal’s 7.

The loss of Durcan does appear to have robbed Donegal of some of their subtlety on kickouts and what is easily decipherable can also be easily targeted.

The Goal
Finally a quick note on the goal. Donegal had just gone down to 14 men and this was the first Donegal possession after this. Timely indeed but given the game situation it was surprising to see MacNiallais in acres of space in front of goal.
Don goal v Mon 2016
As can be seen above MacNiallais got a helping hand to create this space. Fintan Kelly (18) was marking MacNiallais (9) whilst Gillespie was also being man marked. MacNiallais got free however as Gillespie managed to step across Kelly and “help” him to the ground thus freeing MacNiallais up and giving himself a yard on his marker to receive the ball.

As Ciaran McMonagle (@CiaranMcMonagle – a good follow) said on Twitter “illegal but clever”


Shot Charts

Donegal’s shooting

Cavan shooting (V Armagh 16)

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

Monaghan v Down 2016 Ulster

June 7, 2016

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
Monaghan 51 44 37 2 – 22 22.35
Down 40 28 20 0 – 09 11.23

The overall numbers are placed here out of habit. There is next to nothing that can be gleaned from this game as a whole given Down’s capitulation from the 30th minute onwards. In that period they

* went ~40 minutes with one shot from play
* created one turnover in that time
* went ~16 minutes without controlling the ball inside Monaghan’s 45

The corollary of such an anaemic performance is how much stock can we place in Monaghan’s performance? For them it was the ultimate game of two halves

Possessions Attacks Shots Scores Exp Pts
1st half 22 19 14 0 – 09 8.66
2nd half 29 25 23 2 – 13 13.69

Monaghan were struggling early on but that struggle was not evident in their shooting. They scored 0 – 09 from 14 shots (Expt Pts 8.66) in the 1st half. Given the high conversion rate (64%) it is somewhat surprising to see that they only just outperformed their Expt Pts. This was a function of how careful they were with their shooting; only one attempt from play was from more than 25 metres out whilst all bar one of their frees were close to the 20m line. Their shooting range increased in the second half but why so conservative when the game was there to be won?

There appeared nothing claustrophobic about Down’s defending during that opening half an hour. Instead it appeared to be a reticence on Monaghan’s part. A safety first policy of ensuring the shot was on before pulling the trigger. Opening game rust? That old chestnut about how Monaghan are shorn of an attacking threat without McManus? He looked slightly off the boil here with his first touch coming in the 16th minute and his only scores from play coming in the second half when the game was done.

Monaghan Deadballs

Whilst their shooting from play may have been rusty their deadball striking was excellent. 0 – 10 scored from 13 attempts (77% Conversion Rate) with an Expt Pts of 8.01. Teams need to realise just how much of a weapon this is for Monaghan both in an attacking sense and also in keeping them in games when they are not going so well. Here they had five shots from the 18th to the 33rd minute however were able to keep the scoreboard ticking over as four of them were frees. They of course converted all four.


Shot Charts

Monaghan’s shooting

Monaghan shooting (V Down 16)

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


Players with >= 3 shots from play

Shots Scores Success Rate Exp Pts
K Hughes (Monaghan) 4 1 – 02 75% 3.05
C McManus (Monagha) 4 0 – 02 50% 1.55
D McKenna (Monaghan) 3 0 – 02 67% 1.35

Cavan v Armagh 2016 Ulster

May 31, 2016

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

Derry v Tyrone 2016 Ulster

May 23, 2016

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
Derry 46 35 27 0 – 12 12.74
Tyrone 47 36 30 3 – 14 21.36

Despite Derry being down to at least 14 men for the last 20 minutes both teams produced similar total possession, attack and shot volumes. Unfortunately for Derry that was where the similarities ended.

Over the 70 minutes Derry amassed 289 individual player possessions (instances where a Derry player controlled the ball). That equates to 6.3 players on the ball per team possession with 93, or 32%, of those touches occurring inside Tyrone’s 45. Tyrone’s 47 team possessions included, in relative terms, a mere 201 player possessions (4.3 player possessions per team possession) with 56, or 28%, occurring inside Derry’s 45.

Tyrone were much more decisive and incisive, moving the ball at speed whilst Derry were ponderous eking out the metres in a series of hand passing necklaces around the main scoring zone. Yes they had 37 (93 to Tyrone’s 56) more player possessions inside the opposition’s 45 but the quality of those possessions is borne out in the Expected Points (Expt Pts) gap. Derry manufactured three less shots than Tyrone but more tellingly the shots they did produce were expected to score in the region of 8.5 points less than Tyrone’s. For all Derry’s possession there was no bite, no incisiveness and a lack of an end product.

Scoring Zone

One of the major factors in the margin of victory (and thus the Expected Points gap) was the type of shot attempted. As a unit both teams scored close to what was expected yet Tyrone dished out an eleven point beating with only three more shots. How so?

As stated previously Derry’s attacking play was ponderous allowing Tyrone to filter back and protect the D. Derry had 18 attempts for a point from play throughout the game; only two of those came from inside the prime scoring zone (extending from the D in towards the goal) with none at all in the 2nd half. Outside of this only one other point attempt came from inside the 20m line. Derry’s fundamental lack of attacking speed allowed Tyrone to set defensively which in turn aided them in repelling Derry away from the most productive shooting zones. Derry were then forced to try less productive long range efforts. Indeed in a testament to Tyrone’s defensive solidity one of the two point attempts that came from inside the scoring zone was blocked (McFaul’s effort just outside the 20m line in the 23rd minute).

Derry shooting from play
Derry shots from play

Derry’s shooting from these long range efforts was almost exactly what was expected; 0–05 scored from 15 attempts with an Exp Pts return of 5.11 for those 15 shots, but even with elevated shooting those chances are never going to keep pace with a team scoring at the rate Tyrone were.


Tyrone had 19 attempts at a point from play with five of these coming from inside the scoring zone. Another seven were attempted inside the 20m line. Not every shot inside the 20m line is the best option – Kevin Johnston’s attempt in the first minute being a prime example – but they are an indicator of a team getting in behind a defense. After being drawn up the field in an attempt to work their way through the Tyrone defensive shield Derry were unable to counter Tyrone’s attacking speed. This was best illustrated for Ronan O’Neill’s first goal when Brendan Rodgers was dispossessed inside Tyrone’s 45. Richard Donnelly chipped the loose ball off the ground to Mark Bradley and set out in support. Seven seconds and two hand passes later Donnelly launched a pinpoint pass, from outside the 45, to O’Neill on the edge of the square. Simple, direct, accurate and with no little degree of skill involved.

Goal attempts

In addition to the more advantageous point attempts Tyrone had six shots at goal converting three whilst Derry, again despite all the possession they had inside Tyrone’s 45, only manufactured two with both coming in the goal mouth scramble at the start of the 2nd half. In total 60% of Tyrone’s shots came from attempts from play either inside the main scoring zone or in close to goal. Only 19% of Derry’s came from similar positions.

Ultimately Tyrone moved with speed and purpose and despite having so much less of the ball (in terms of player possessions), and less of that ball inside Derry’s 45, their accuracy produced easier point taking opportunities and more goal chances.


Shot Charts

Derry’s shooting
Derry shooting (V Tyrone 16)

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


Players with >= 3 shots from play

Shots Scores Success Rate Exp Pts
R O’Neill (Tyrone) 4 2 – 01 75% 3.72
D McCurry (Tyrone) 4 0 – 03 75% 1.93
D Heavron (Derry) 4 0 – 02 50% 1.41
M Lynch (Derry) 4 0 – 01 25% 1.22
S Cavanagh (Tyrone) 3 0 – 01 33% 2.50

Fermanagh v Antrim 2016 Ulster

May 17, 2016

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
Fermanagh 48 34 28 1 – 12 14.17
Antrim 41 25 23 0 – 09 13.18

Fermanagh will have areas to work on in the run up to their Ulster QF with Donegal but here, against Antrim over 70 minutes, they were by far the stronger in all the key metrics – more possessions, more attacks and more shots.

One of the areas of concern will undoubtedly be their shooting. Yes they outperformed their Expt Pts (how many points the average team would return from the shots attempted) but this was greatly aided by the conversion of their only goal chance and two magnificent sideline points. When going for a point from play they were very poor scoring on just 33% of attempts (0 – 05 from 15 shots). Outside Tomás Corrigan & Séan Quigley they were a paltry 18% (2 from 11 with a combined Expt Pts of -3.02)

Another area will be their conversion of possessions to attacks which, at 71%, was quite poor. Against Dublin last year for instance they produced, considering the opposition, a much more impressive 73%. The low attack rate may be easier to rectify than the shooting however as it was directly linked to their extremely poor opening 30 minutes in the second half. During that period Fermanagh managed only seven attacks (from 15 possessions – an attack rate of just 47%) and four shots opening up the possibility of an unlikely Antrim comeback. In the first half their attack rate was 81% from 26 possessions. Pete McGrath and his backroom team will hope the first half, when the team was at the pitch of the game, is a truer reflection of Fermanagh’s attack.


Fermanagh - Antrim Exp Pts

What of Antrim? They had an awful opening 20 minutes, as the above chart highlights, from which they were never able to recover. Three of their first four possessions saw quick, indiscriminate long balls into the forward line that did not stick. This was then followed by six scatter gun shots that failed to find the target. Only Tomás McCann’s missed free kick in the 8th minute came from anything resembling a central position. Coming out of that opening period they were already six points down and the game was effectively over as a contest.

To their credit Antrim did perform much better in the second half, scoring 0 – 07 from 12 shots (two more shots than Fermanagh and a respectable 58% Conversion Rate) but whether this was a truer reflection of Antrim, or a direct correlation to the aforementioned anaemic display of Fermanagh, only the rest of the year’s Championship will confirm.


Again looking forward to the Donegal game one area of note will be the kickouts. At a very high level Fermanagh will be satisfied with their overall returns. They won 78% (14 of 18) of their own kickouts and 39% (9 of 23) of Antrim’s. Indeed their overall possession advantage of seven is nearly all contained within their kickout success. But therein lies a concern. To attain such a healthy win percentage Fermanagh went short on eight of their kickouts but did not manage to score anything from those possessions. Indeed they only manufactured four shots. When the kickout went past the 45 the result was a less convincing 6 – 4 to Fermanagh. Antrim only went short twice; of all their kickouts that travelled past the 45 the result was 13 – 8 in Antrim’s favour.

Donegal will not go as long as Antrim did. Over the last two Championships Donegal have gone short on 29% of their kickouts. This will immediately wipe out the possession advantage Fermanagh enjoyed in this game and place more pressure on securing their own kickout. They did a very good job of that here however they will have to do more, in terms of shots and scores from these possessions, than was the case here.

Tomás Corrigan

Finally we cannot pass without mentioning Tomás Corrigan’s display. He accounted for 58% of Fermanagh’s shots but his day will probably be best remembered for the two acute sideline points mid-way through the first half. Looking at historical results the chances of converting two back to back sidelines is just under 8% but getting and converting two within 90 seconds? That is slim enough to already warrant entry into “moment of the Championship”.

And yet his contribution does not end there; he was 3 from 3 from play converting two with his left and one with the right. Outside the three sideline attempts – as well as the two converted in the first half he attempted one with the last kick of the game – he was 67% on frees scoring 0 – 04 from six attempts which is more or less in line with the Expt Pts (3.88 for the six frees combines). All round an excellent, accurate and classy display.


Shot Charts

Fermanagh’s shooting
Fermanagh shooting (V Antrim 16)

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


Players with >= 3 shots from play

Shots Scores Success Rate Exp Pts
T Corrigan (Fermanagh) 3 0 – 03 100% 1.55
T McCann (Antrim) 3 0 – 02 67% 1.93
A Breen (Fermanagh) 3 0 – 01 33% 1.21
B Mulrone (Fermanagh) 3 0 – 00 0% 1.35

Derry V Donegal 2015 Ulster Championship

June 29, 2015

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 Attack % Shots Shot % Scores Success % Weighting
Derry 43 35 81% 26 74% 10 38% -1.995
Donegal 51 40 78% 29 73% 10 34% -2.797
Avg 37.0 28.7 77.7% 14.7 51.2%

Pretty poor returns all round.

Under McGuinness Donegal were capable of these *stinkers* (Armagh QF in ’14 to name one) so in many ways I’m sure Donegal will take the win and move on. Still there will be areas that will be of concern. The first picture is taken 5 minutes in – Lynn has acres of space in the D. The defensive system completely disintegrated very early on.


Below is with five minutes to go. Donegal fell asleep as Lynch stood over a free with the game in the melting pot. They switched off expecting him to take the shot at goal but he astutely shipped it across and Derry had free men over.


Derry? In many ways they shouldn’t have been in the game as normally – given Donegal’s accuracy – if you have 8 possessions less than Donegal you’re toast. However the fact that they were in the game with ten to go will make the ending galling. Niall Holly took a shot at 65:32 that dropped short. Derry didn’t touch the ball again until 69:44 after two reckless frees allowed Donegal to chew up the clock. The clock is your enemy two points down with five to go – don’t aid the opposition in its winding down!

Shots from Play

Team Shots Scores Success % Weighting
Derry 21 7 33% -2.054
Donegal 25 9 36% -1.478
Avgs 21.4 9.7 45.3%

Poor shooting from both teams. Donegal seemed to take poor options early on with three shots being blocked (McElhinney, Macniallais & McFadden) and it never picked up thereafter. In the first half when going for a point they scored 0 – 04 from 15 attempts (27% Success Rate) for a combined weighting of -2.497. Although the volume reduced the accuracy increased in the second half; 0 – 04 from 8 shots (50%) with a combined weighting of 0.695.

Derry in many ways were the exact opposite. 0 – 03 from 7 attempts (43% Success Rate) at a point in the first half but only 0 – 04 from 12 (33%) in the second with a combined weighting of -1.471. What might have aided that negative weighting was who was shooting – the last 8 Derry shots from play came from Johnston, Heron, McKaigue, Bradley, McFaul, Holly, Johnston & MacAtamney. You give credit to players for stepping up but I’m sure Derry management would have liked to have seen Lynch, Lynn & O’Boyle chip in.

One thing that did separate the two teams was the goal. Derry had two chances – one at either end of the game and got nothing from either. Donegal also had two chances but got the goal. That goal was a beautifully measured hand pass from Gallagher to O’Reilly, which meant that he didn’t have to check his stride, *but* he was only free due to a split second decision by Duffy. As you can see below Duffy has O’Reilly but as Gallagher breaks through the centre he moves across to cover the space. Derry had a man coming in to fill that gap; had Duffy held his run with O’Reilly it is likely that Gallagher would have checked the run or popped a point.


As I say that is a split second decision that Donegal were good enough to exploit. There are hundreds of them in a game that all feed in to the result – it is just that those in the build up to a goal are magnified.

Shots from deadballs

Player Shots Scores Success % Weighting
M Murphy (Donegal) 2 0 0% -1.077
P McBrearty (Donegal) 2 1 50% -0.242
E Bradley (Derry) 3 2 67% -0.178
M Lynch (Derry) 1 1 100% +0.731
C O’Boyle (Derry) 1 0 0% -0.494
team avgs 7.2 4.9 68.7%

I guess it is kind of surprising to only have nine shots at goal from deadballs in an Ulster game. In the Ulster Championship games covered so far this year there have been 19, 21 and 10.

That number gets whittles down again when you consider that 2 of the attempts were from outside the 45, one was a 45 and one was stuck out on the sideline. Five shots from deadballs in scoreable positions is testament to the discipline of both defences.

As to the quality of the strikes? Murphy’s weighting does not do justice to the difficulty of his strikes – having said that neither were struck with any quality. The same could be said of O’Boyle’s 45 whilst Bradley’s miss from the right was poor.

Apart from Lynch’s boomer it was a poor day all round


Derry’s kickouts Won % Turned into an attack % Shot %
Derry 10 50% 7 70% 6 60%
Donegal 10 50% 6 60% 4 40%
Donegal’s kickouts Won % Turned into an attack % Shot %
Derry 6 29% 5 83% 4 67%
Donegal 15 71% 13 87% 9 60%

Donegal absolutely lorded the kickouts – in many ways it was Derry’s good fortune that there weren’t more of them! In the first half Donegal won nine of the first ten kickouts with six of those wins coming off Derry kickouts. Derry kicked their first four long but lost three. This seemed to panic them and they lost the next two very poorly; one was short and the second was mid length straight to a Donegal man. Donegal really should have been further ahead given the volume of primary possession they had.

In the second half Derry had nine kickouts. They won five but all those went short – of the four that went long Donegal won all four and scored 1 – 01.

Donegal were relatively comfortable and in the main played it safe. 13 of their 21 kickouts landed short of the 65 with Donegal scooping up the ball on 12 occasions. When they went past the 65 they lost the possession battle 3 – 5.


Team giving up the ball Pass In the Tackle from a Shot Other
Derry 11 5 4 1
Donegal 17 3 8 1

One of the problems with just reporting the turnovers is that there is no context for the negative returns (as all turnovers are viewed negatively!). Donegal had 17 missed passes but five of these were boomers onto the square – how many of those stuck? Five turnovers from five attempts is obviously poor – but was it five from five? Or five from 10?

Bearing the above point in mind Neil Gallagher was involved in seven of those passing turnovers – misplacing a kicked pass three times and losing a contested ball on four occasions. That is not to say he had a poor day but rather to highlight how central he was to what Donegal were doing.

The eight turnovers from shots is poor – and probably not something that will be oft repeated. As commented upon above Donegal had a particularly poor shooting day and you would expect this to get better as the Summer progresses.

Derry were neater though Eoin Bradley had a tough day. As well as the four shots that were missed he was involved in another four turnovers.

Shot Charts

Derrys’s shooting
Derry shooting (V Donegal 15)
Donegal’s shooting
Donegal shooting (v Derry 15)
x = missed, disc = score, yellow = deadball, black = 1st half from play, white = 2nd half from play,

Players with >= 3 shots from play

Colm McFadden was given man of the match after converting two beauties however it seems to be forgotten that his four shots previous to that were poor with 1 being blocked, two landing in the goalkeeper’s hands and one going wide. Yes his two points were impressive but after 2014 I will need more than that to be convinced he is back.

Shots Scores Success % Weighting
C McFadden (Donegal) 6 2 33% -0.203
M Lynch (Derry) 4 1 25% -0.537
M McElhinney (Donegal) 4 1 25% -0.664
O MacNiallais (Donegal) 4 1 25% -0.717
E Bradley (Derry) 4 0 0% -1.742
M Murphy (Donegal) 3 2 67% +0.768

Derry V Down 2015 Ulster Championship

June 10, 2015

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 Attack % Shots Shot % Scores Success % Weighting
Derry 45 35 78% 21 60% 12 57% -0.736
Down 44 33 75% 24 76% 11 44% -2.819
Avg 37.0 28.7 77.7% 14.7 51.2%

Despite being reduced to 14 men for 35 minutes this will surely be a game that Down will bitterly regret. They had ample opportunity to win – manufacturing four more shots – but their shooting boots were just not on. Especially from play.

Below are the outcomes from running the two team’s shots through 20000 simulations.

Outcome simulation

Down win the game 57% of the time with Derry winning 31%. It is not so much that Derry were “lucky” – this is after all why the games are played on the pitch and not on a spreadsheet – but Down will be kicking themselves. Yes being down to 14 men for the entire second half probably fed into mental & physical fatigue – reflected in poor shooting options – but even with the poor options Down should have scored 0 – 14. They *should* have won.

What of Derry? In that second half they had 8 shots from 21 possessions. Down’s 14 men had 14 shots from 22 possessions. There really is no way you should be that far behind in terms of the headline metrics playing a full half with an extra man. Just a very poor second half outing from them.

Shots from Play

Team Shots Scores Success % Weighting
Derry 11 7 64% +1.180
Down 16 4 25% -3.285
Avgs 21.4 9.7 45.3%

Neither team had a shot at goal – nor looked like manufacturing one.

As mentioned Down’s shooting from play was very poor. Kevin McKernan hit two superb points in the first half but outside of that Down were 14% (2 from 14) with a combined weighting of -4.439 including some horrendous shot selection and execution.

Lynch’s shooting was wonderful (3 from 4; weighting of +0.996) for Derry – especially those two points late in the first half that opened up the gap coming up to half time. What should be of great concern however is the fact that Derry only managed 4 shots from play in that second half. Yes they were fouled on their way through but even accounting for frees Derry only managed 8 shots in the entire second half. Against 14 men. The average is 14.

Speaking of frees … let me preface the following by stating I am not an advocate of cynical play. I’m not. It is just that I am very sensitive to last minute scores following Kildare’s collapse at home to Tyrone in the ’14 league. If you are going to attempt to stop a winning score in the final minute then Down went about it in a way designed to inflict most damage on themselves.

The first picture below shows the pitch opening up after Bradley shrugged off the trailing Down player. Given that Down were willing to take a black card later in this move anyway then it was most advantageous to take it here – out the pitch where they still have a chance to regroup. That Down player just had to get Bradley to the ground when you see the wide open spaces in front of him.

Derry 1


The second picture is taken a split second before the foul that led to the black card and ultimately the winning point. You couldn’t do it at a worse moment. You are beaten – by taking the player down you actually increase the chance of Derry scoring as they have a free that is converted at ~94%. Also, and almost more importantly, you waste a precious minute as the ref issues the black card and the opposition settles over the free. Just let the Derry man shoot – there’s less probability of a score plus you get an extra minute to get the equaliser.

Exhausted players making split second decisions at the death I know but that’s when you have to be at your sharpest mentally.

Shots from deadballs

Player Shots Scores Success % Weighting
M Lynch (Derry) 5 2 40% -1.501
E Bradley (Derry) 4 3 75% -0.015
B Heron (Derry) 1 0 0% -0.400
P Devlin (Down) 8 6 75% 0.069
D O’Hare (Down) 1 1 100% +0.397
team avgs 7.2 4.9 68.7%

Watching the game it felt that every other shot was a free and up until ~53 minute it was. At that stage there had been 19 shots from play and 16 from frees. The volume of shots did not exceed those from play until the 33rd minute.
Still that relative lull in the last 20 minutes only places this game on a par with Cavan – Monaghan this year for the second most shots from frees in a game – the *honour* of that title still lies with Meath – Tyrone in 2013.

As noted above Lynch as excellent from play but his deadball shooting was poor missing one from the middle in two “gettable” shots from the wing in either half.

On paper Devlin had a good day getting 0 – 06 from frees however his weighting shows that given where the attempts originated he was bang on average. His high tally had more to do with volume of shots rather than deadly accuracy on his part.


Derry’s kickouts Won % Turned into an attack % Shot %
Derry 17 74% 14 82% 9 53%
Down 6 26% 3 50% 3 100%
Down’s kickouts Won % Turned into an attack % Shot %
Derry 7 37% 7 100% 4 57%
Down 12 63% 10 83% 7 58%

As with other Ulster games we missed a number of instances where the ball landed so I’m loathe to read too deeply into how teams went about securing possession. I’m sure my need to see the kickout battle is not the producer’s target audience but man I really don’t need to see any more lingering shots of managers prowling the sideline – or the subs bench – when the game is on. Anyway ….

Pretty even all told. Derry won six more possessions but that is because they had four more kickouts. When you look at the percentage of kickouts converted to shots all 4 instances have a return in the mid 50 percentile

Shot Charts

Derry’s shooting
Derry shooting (v Down ) 15

Down’s shooting
Down shooting (V Down) 15

x = missed, disc = score, yellow = deadball, black = 1st half from play, white = 2nd half from play,

Players with >= 3 shots from play

Shots Scores Success % Weighting
M Lynch (Derry) 4 3 75% 0.996
K McKernan (Down) 3 2 67% +0.782