Posts Tagged ‘2018’

Clann na nGael v St. Brigids; Roscommon SFC Final 2018

October 17, 2018

The above table is split by halves however it can also be taken as a proxy for before/after the red card (in the 40th minute)

It highlights two aspects; firstly how utterly dominant Clann na nGael were post the red card but also, and probably more importantly, how this was no fluke as the platform had been laid in that opening 40 minutes when it was 15v15.

In those opening 40 minutes Clann na NGael had five more possessions and four more shots. Yes at the time of the red card there was only one point in it but that was due to excellent St. Brigids’ accuracy (83% Conversion Rate at that point with an Expt Pts of +3.57) more than anything else. Once the red card came the dam burst.

When Clann na nGael had the ball


Shot charts; disc = successful & “x” = unsuccessful. Yellow = deadball, red = attempt on goal, black = point attempt from play in the 1st half and white = point attempt from play in the 2nd half

… they were pretty devastating. 70% Conversion Rate and 0.68 points per possession are both excellent metrics. Every part of their attacking play was functioning but the game was cracked open with two goals in the 44th minute just after Brigids had levelled the game.

In total Clann had six shots at goal, with five different players having an attempt, returning 4 – 00 including the type of quick thinking from their sub Callinan for the 3rd goal (if anyone hasn’t seen it the clip is embedded here) which epitomised their all-round sharp display.

Scoring four goals means that to lose you either need to have a calamity on your remaining shooting or the opposition need to have an absolute worldly of a game. Neither happened here. Indeed the remainder of Clann’s shooting was as good as their shots at goal returning 69% (0 – 09 from 13; Expt pts +2.7) on point attempts which included two monsters from the two Shines. Donie Shine was also exemplary from deadballs scoring 0 – 06 from 8 on point attempts (including 0 – 02 from three 45s) as well as slotting a penalty. Indeed one of those misses was from the apex of the 20m line and sideline on the right with the right. Still not entirely convinced he was even going for a point with that looking at the angle!

Donie scoring 1 – 07 will rightly get the plaudits but he was ably supported on the attacking front by both Lennon & Fahy who combined for 1 – 05 from just 7 shots (86%; Expt Pts of +4.0). Apart from his shooting Fahy also had a quietly effective game as the link man providing three primary assists, setting up Dunning for the pivotal 2nd goal and winning a free for Shine to convert.

One aspect Clann may look at as they enter into the Connacht campaign was the fact that they got turned over six times outside the opposition’s 45. Brigids manufactured three shots and 0 – 02 from these six possessions but other teams will be more clinical.

When St. Brigids had the ball

In fairness to Brigids’ attacking unit they were also on point converting 87% (Expt Pts of +4.5). Their points per possession, in isolation, at 0.45 is very good. But the chasm between that and Clann’s 0.64, and the fact that they produced a lower return off an excellent Conversion Rate points to their deficiency; (a) they only scored one goal and (b) they just didn’t manufacture enough shots.

On the shot count; Brigids produced 12 fewer shots than Clann through a combination of having less possessions (33 to Clann’s 42) and a poorer Shot Rate (60% to Clann’s 82%).
They were in a hole to start with by having less possessions … they then dug further by not being able to convert those possessions they progressed into an attacking position into a shot.

Once they did pull the trigger they were every bit Clann’s equal with 71% (0 – 05 from 7; Expt Pts of +1.5) on point attempts, 1 – 01 from their two shots at goal and 100% (0 – 06 from 6) on their frees.

There just wasn’t enough shots

Senan Kilbride was very good early doors scoring 1 – 03 from 4 shots (including one free) in the first 15 minutes however the Clann defence got on top thereafter and he didn’t have another shot from play for the entire game.

A combination of the red card and Kilbride being marshalled saw Brigids attack being stifled to such an extent that they only produced two shots from play in the 2nd half

Kickouts

Clann na nGael absolutely destroyed Brigids on kickouts. The overall numbers show Clann na nGael gaining possession on 20 to Brigids 17 with the count being 12-10 on those that travelled past the 45. Nothing untoward there you might say but it was what came off the kickouts that was decisive.

Of the 20 kickouts they won Clann na Gael progressed 15 (75%) to a shot … Brigids manufactured seven shots off the 17 (41%) kickouts they won. Clann scored a barely creditable 3 – 09 directly off kickouts whilst only conceding 1 – 06.

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Dublin v Tyrone 2018 All Ireland Final

September 6, 2018

This may seem like a ridiculous statement when reviewing a game in which the four time Champions won by six points but Dublin were just better. We’ll go into the various components below but they had more primary possession, more shots and better accuracy on those shots.

More ball plus more efficiency in using that ball equates to a relatively straightforward win.

When Dublin had the ball

What makes the margin of victory more impressive was the hole that Dublin had dug for themselves. After 16 minutes they were 12 – 9 behind on the possession count, 10 – 7 behind on the shot count and four points behind on the scoreboard. They were losing the primary possession battle and returning a hitherto fore unseen 14% (0-01 from 7) Conversion Rate. This also included Dean Rock missing two frees. The same Rock who recorded an 83% (0-25 from 30; Expt Pts of +3.15) Conversion Rate on frees in All Ireland finals and semi-finals in 2016 and 2017. It is lost in the talk of five in a row but that was a dreadful start reminiscent of their start against Mayo in 2016.

Of course combining the end result with that terrible start (and it was terrible) means that when Dublin removed the handbrake post the 15th minute they then proceeded to destroy Tyrone in the following 65 minutes winning the possession battle 41 – 32, producing five (25 to 20) more shots and returning a Conversion Rate of 72% (Expt Pts + 5.24 and a points per possession of 0.54). Utterly devastating. The below time sequence chart shows the gap, in terms of score and Expt Pts, just widening from that first goal.

The controlled nature of the second half display (0–10 from 14 (71%) and winning all 16 kickouts) is very reminiscent of the 2017 final when they went 0-12 from 16 attempts (Conversion Rate of 75%) and secured all 11 kickouts. Something similar was in effect in the semi-final against Galway (time series chart in the Appendix). Had Galway taken their chances at even an average rate they would have been with Dublin well into the second half – but still Dublin powered away with excellent second half shooting.

So how did Dublin do it?

First and foremost they converted their goal chances. They had three shots at goal returning 2-00. Even when Morgan saved Costello’s attempt Rock popped up with the subsequent 45.

Speaking of Rock he had a sterling day scoring 0 – 07 from 9 including 0 – 03 from 3 from play (Expt Pts of +1.33). That is even better than the bare numbers when we consider that his three points from play came in the first half after missing those aforementioned early frees. Ciarán Kilkenny clipped over 0-03 from 5 (Expt Pts of +0.69) whilst Brian Fenton popped over his two attempts.

The Dublin shot chart is in the Appendix. The shooting wasn’t as tight as was highlighted in the preview (only 9 of the 23, or 39%, were from the artificially created central channel) but it was tight enough with next to no wild attempts. Whilst Tyrone have to be given credit for keeping Dublin outside of this central channel it is an indication of Dublin’s clinical nature that of the 14 point attempts from “outside” they converted 57% (0-08 from 14)

Not only did Fenton score 0-02 but he was also very active in the attack with four primary assists. These assists are probably more a testament to his conditioning, and relative cool, as three of them came in injury time at the end of the second half. The epitome of this Dublin team – the right option executed properly when under the twin pressures of fatigue and an opponent attempting to manufacture a comeback.

Having said all that the unsung hero for Dublin was Con O’Callaghan. He was the primary assist for seven separate shots including for Scully’s goal and winning three of Dublin’s five frees all in the first half when the game was there for the taking.

When Tyrone had the ball

In the preview it was highlighted that whilst, in the run up to the final, Tyrone’s Conversion Rates were on a par with Dublin there were reasons to believe that theirs was a false position being propped up by an unsustainable outing against Roscommon. And so it proved.

Tyrone scored 1 – 14 from attempts that the average intercounty team would return 17.22pts. The fact that every team doesn’t face Dublin when those averages are being compiled gives Tyrone some leeway – so let’s say they returned in and around what was expected. Tyrone did not lose because of their wides or due to any perceived inefficiency. Their Conversion Rate, excluding the Roscommon game, coming into the final was 52%. Their average from ’15 – ’17 was 52%. They shot 50%. It was always going to be thus.

Tyrone lost because they didn’t produce enough shots (or alternatively reduce Dublin’s volume of shots) knowing they would be up against the most efficient team we have ever seen. Or as stated in the very first sentence because Dublin are just better.

How Tyrone compiled their returns is slightly at odds with how we would expect. We knew coming in to the game that despite having four goal attempts in the recent Super8 contests against Roscommon and Dublin they were struggling to create chances. They had only manufactured three goal attempts in their three previous games against Dublin. Now we can make it four in four with two of those being penalties. They did maintain their recent fine record of converting goal chances. In the five games from the Super8 onwards they have had 10 attempts at goal scoring 8-01. That’s a phenomenal return (the average over the years has been creeping up to about 40%) but is it indicative of a too cautious approach at an average of 2.0 a game? Only taking the shot when it is absolutely on? Dublin were 4.0 a game in the same period.

Frees were an issue coming into the game (averaging out in the mid 60% range) though given Dublin’s defensive discipline there was the possibility it wouldn’t be an issue. Dublin did maintain their discipline (again only offering up five shots at goal from frees with only two in the first half) but Tyrone were excellent here converting all five using the rota of Harte, McAliskey & Lee Brennan.

So six shots at goal from frees and deadballs returning 1-05 (Dublin were 2 – 04 from 10). What let Tyrone down was their point taking. At a macro level they were 38% (0 – 09 from 24) with an Expt Pts of -1.92. Dublin ended up with 57% (0-13 from 23; Expt Pts of +1.88) despite their very poor opening.

Their two strike forwards of Bradley & McAliskey were good combining for 80% (0-04 from 5) with an Expt Pts of +1.79. Of course that means everyone else was very, very poor combining for 26% (0-05 from 19; Expt Pts of -3.44). That’s just not going to work against Dublin.

In the preview we highlighted how Tyrone’s shot location was hampering them. Here Tyrone had some poor efforts (three shots in a knot at the 20m line out by the right sideline) but overall 45% of their point attempts came from the aforementioned central channel. Right place but just poor execution; think of Lee Brennan’s snapped shot wide with his right @ 67:40, Cathal McShane @ 52:29 with his left about 16m out directly in front of the goals

Tyrone will have regrets, and thus something to build on, as their shooting was an absolute mixed back. At a macro level their accuracy was not a problem – they hit the average. But unlike previous form their free taking held up so their accuracy from point taking was an issue. But even therein their strike forwards were accurate – everyone else was very poor.

Tyrone’s shot location was another mixed bag – more shots from central locations should have helped the Conversion Rate but they had some very poor attempts from “inside” mixed in with some absolute haymakers from out wide.

Kickouts

In all the above what we have yet to touch on is just exactly how Dublin built up +6 on the possession count. And it is quite different than a “normal” Championship game.

Tyrone won the turnover battle quite comprehensively 23 – 13 which in and of itself is striking. So how do you lose a game by six points if you gain 10 more possessions from turnovers? By getting cleaned out on kickouts.

The possession count from kickouts was 36-19 in favour of Dublin. Whilst remarkable using a term like “cleaned out” may be hyperbolic as 13 of those 17 extra possessions came from short kickouts – and once again Tyrone dealt very well with Dublin’s short kickouts allowing just 0.23pts per kickout won. Tyrone allowed 0.28pts in the three games prior to the final. This is against the 0.47pts allowed by other teams in the run up to the final.

Tyrone, it would appear, can handle Dublin’s short kickouts. What we saw in the three previous games was that they couldn’t handle the longer ones with Dublin scoring 2-13 off 34 won past the 45 (0.59pts per kickout won – compare that to how they stifled Dublin on short ones). Again here Dublin scored 2-04 off just 14 won past the 45; 0.71pts per kickout won.

Apart from only breaking even (winning 8 to Dublin’s 7) on their own kickouts past the 45 the other glaring number from a Tyrone perspective is that they only got two shots from the nine short kickouts (22%) they reclaimed. This seems to have been a one off as in the three games against Dublin they created a shot on 64% (18 shots from 28) of their short kickouts

Appendix

Time series chart v Galway

Dublin shooting chart


disc = scored, x= missed, yellow = deadball, red = goal attempt, black = point attempt 1st half, white = point attempt 2nd half

2018 Division 1 Review

April 27, 2018

The 2018 league saw the continuation of Galway’s upward curve as well as perhaps a chink in the Dublin armour as they lost a regular league game for the first time since March 2015. As will be outlined below Galway played the league differently to everyone else and make an interesting hook when reviewing various metrics; they have thus been added to the recent “Big Four” when reviewing how individual teams perform.

A few of the metrics were introduced in the Week4 review (here) so this review can be seen as an extension of that piece now that we have more date.

Possessions
In boxing they say that styles make fights. In football team set ups and tactics make games. Dublin v Donegal, at 103 possessions during the game, had 26 (34%) more possessions than Dublin v Galway in the league final.

Below are the top and bottom five individual team possessions recorded throughout the 2018 league

Galway continues to play a different game to everyone else. Of the 36 individual team outings (two each per the 18 TV games) Galway’s volume of possessions only once came close to the average of 45.2 a game when they recorded 44 against Monaghan. Otherwise their remaining four fixtures all ranked in the bottom five in terms of possessions. Only in the aforementioned Monaghan game did they have more possessions than the opposition – in that instance two. In the other four games they lost the possession battle by 3, 6, 7 and 8 respectively.

Whilst the spread of possessions at 26 (max = 103, min = 77) would appear to be wide it is actually more condensed than the 2017 Championship when the spread was 34 (113 possessions in the Galway v Mayo game and 79 in the Carlow v Dublin game). Yep that’s the same Galway one competition and about six months removed. I am currently finding it very hard to reconcile the Galway of 2017, which was involved in games with 113 and 110 (QF v Galway) possessions, with that of the 2018 league where the possession count never topped 86!

As well team possessions we also have the number of successful passes within each possession. This can be used as a proxy for that dreaded word – transition.

Dublin’s method of continually probing whilst stretching teams wide has been readily commented upon and it shows up here. They own six of the 11 sequences where there was a minimum of 20 player touches. Those possessions and their outcomes are listed below.

After first producing this table I was asked if it was meaningful that only four of these possessions led to a score. I don’t believe so (a) as the volume is too small to make any concrete statements on and (b) the intention wasn’t always to score – some of these were teams playing keep ball to wind down the clock.

Whilst the above table is “interesting” it doesn’t provide any usable insight. That will come. For instance; once enough data is gathered we can see whether moving the ball through multiple players or the quick strike is more productive. Which teams play fast on the counter – and which teams do not. Until then – we’ll have to do with the “interesting” table!

Another way to use the possession data is to see where the possession originated from and overlay shot data to see how effective teams are depending on where the move starts

At a league wide level

– just under half of all possessions originate from kickouts (34% on your own 15% on the opposition’s)

– 46% come from turnovers (17% inside your own 20m line, 16% between the 20m and 45m lines with the rest picked up higher up the pitch outside your own 45)

– the remainder coming from restarts and shots gone awry (short, blocked and picked up, off the post etc.).

Just knowing that alone you can see why kickouts are such a focus. But should they be? Teams shoot as frequently on their turnovers as they do on their own kickouts. Despite, notionally, teams not being as set when they turn over the ball inside the opposition’s 20m line they allow shots less often than on short kickouts. Dropping the ball into the keeper’s hands is not the mortal sin we have been led to believe ….

But averages simplify the process completely. Some teams are better at transitioning from a kickout – others from turnovers. The below table shows the shots per possession, by where the possession originated from, during the 2018 league

Surprisingly Dublin didn’t excel anywhere and were (relatively) poor on their own kickout. Galway – as is necessary given their low possession game – were above average in all phases. A measure of their efficiency – they won four of the ten restarts and scored 0 – 04; they regained the ball 5 times from shots dropping short, coming off the post etc. – they scored 0 – 05.

Offensive Production

A few things that jump out

– Average Conversion Rate at 55.7% is a 3.3% increase on the 53.9% recorded during the 2017 Championship. There are many reasons as to why this might be but it is just worth noting for a rising ship should lift all boats.

– Dublin did not produce more shots than the opposition (Tyrone actually produced an extra 2.5 shots per game – small sample size alert – whilst only Mayo produced less shots per possession) but were head and shoulders above everyone else when it comes to shooting accuracy. Noteworthy, however, that this was just a continuation of their 2017 form when they recorded a 62.3% Conversion Rate.

– Galway have been very accurate but in a different way to Dublin. Dublin were 60% from play whereas Galway were 52%. But Galway had a significantly greater volume of their shots skewed towards the higher percentage deadballs (26% of Galway’s shots were from deadballs as against 18% of Dublin’s). If the frees dry up, or McHugh’s radar is off, can they generate enough shots from play to overcome their low possession and average Conversion Rates?

– Mayo struggled offensively throughout the league. Their shots per game and their accuracy were both well below the league average. They will be fervently hoping that come the Championship they will be back up to their 2017 levels when they produced 0.63 shots per possession, with a 54% Conversion Rate, across ten games.

Another aspect of attacking play is the frequency that teams go for goal. We all know that goals can inflict monumental damage no matter when they occur (Dublin in the 4th minute against Tyrone in the 2017 semi-final?) but knowing and doing are different things. Do teams go for goal at different rates?

Anyone surprised to see Dublin be so far ahead of the opposition on the frequency of their goal attempts? Me neither. Though I am somewhat surprised to see just how bunched the rest of the teams were. That gap, and bunching, was not evident during 2017 (below). The differing quality of opposition – as opposed to the league when everyone’s opponent is of a comparable standard – feed into the higher rates observed in 2017.

Player level

SHOOTING FROM PLAY

The average Conversion Rate for all attempts from play is 47%. There are reasons why a particular player’s results might vary from this (shooting more against better teams, close in shots versus those from the wings etc.) but it is a very useful yardstick. In that context Dublin’s trio of Kilkenny, Scully and Basquel are off the charts. I don’t care if all shots were taken against beaten dockets (they weren’t) or if there was absolutely no pressure (there was) – that is incredible shooting.

Considering he is Donegal’s main man, and has the added responsibility of taking the frees, McBrearty’s numbers are no less stellar. Defenders know he is getting the ball, they know he is shooting off his left (15 of the 16 point attempts were off his left), yet he still produces.

Comer’s returns look unusual in that he has a very high Conversion Rate but has below average Expt Pts. The simple explanation for this is his poor returns on goal attempts. He had four shots at goal across the five TV games scoring 0 – 03. This helps his Conversion Rate enormously (75%!) but harms his Expt Pts return as he’d be expected to score 1 – 02 from those four attempts.

DEADBALLS

It is a rare enough deadball table that shows Dean Rock comprehensively outplayed but Barry McHugh did just that during this league campaign. Brennan & Clifford also had better Conversion Rates than Rock but their Expt Pts mark was very similar to his showing that they converted slightly easier frees more often.

McHugh’s shooting was not only more accurate (90% Conversion Rate vs 83% for Rock) but also much better in terms of Expt Pts (+2.4 vs +1.1) indicating he converted much harder frees at the same, or a better, rate. Given the aforementioned lack of possessions Galway have a higher need to squeeze as much out of each one as possible. They did this throughout the league in no small part due to McHugh’s proficiency.

Mayo’s deadball woes were very evident throughout the whole campaign. As a team they were 69.5% (0 – 32 from 46) on deadballs leaving 0 – 05 behind them when compared to what the average Conversion Rates on those 46 attempts would be. This was very similar to the 2017 returns where they returned 69.4% (0 -50 from 72) and an Expt Pts mark of -5.36.

ASSISTS

We have started to introduce the idea of Expt Pts for assists and below is a plot for the 20 shooters listed above. It is important to note that for this metric the more games you play the higher your Expt Pts on assists will be as unlike Expt Pts for shooting there is no negative return. You assisted a shot; the outcome is irrelevant. A “per 70 minutes” metric would be much better and this is what will be produced during the 2018 Championship

That being said Fenton remains an absolute beast – he is no midfielder. Rather he is a master puppeteer centre half forward laying off ball to the shooters and/or converting at a ridiculous rate himself.

Despite the above notes on the volume impact we can see the affect Comer and Clifford had throughout the league. Their shooting was by no means stellar but their involvement in setting up teammates was excellent as measured by the impact of their assists. Comer’s direct running plays a part here – Galway took a shot directly from 11 possessions in which Comer was fouled, the next highest was 5. Granted there is huge discrepancy in the volume of minutes played but that is stark.

Defensive Production

Dublin allow more shots, on a per game and a per possession basis, than the other big teams which, when you consider their recent dominance and the fact they won the league is a remarkable thing. But even more remarkable is the poor Conversion Rate from Dublin’s opposition. The average is ~56%; Dublin’s opponents are at ~47% whilst no one else dips below 53%. Why would this be?

We have never been able to concretely attribute poor offensive numbers to either good defending or poor attacking. To date we have had to assume it is a mixture of both. But there are some obvious things we can look at when one teams’ numbers are so out of step with the norm.

Frees; Frees are converted much more readily than attempts from play. If the ratio of frees faced by Dublin is vastly different than that of other teams this would affect the overall Conversion Rate. It is different but not vastly; 22% of the shots faced by Dublin were frees as against 24% for everyone else. That equates to about 0.25 frees per game which isn’t really worth a whole lot in terms of Conversion Rate divergence. Dublin’s opposition converted frees at 73% – the league as a whole was 77%. Small gains but nothing earth shattering.

From play; So if it is not frees then it must be from play. The league average conversion rate on point attempts was 49% (the 47% mentioned earlier also includes goal attempts); Dublin only allowed 39%. That old chestnut – excellent Dublin defending or poor attacking? It is not strong Dublin defending per se – I chart the pressure applied to each shot and the Dublin defence applies “strong or severe” pressure to the shooter at a league average rate (44% for the league, 42% for Dublin). There is something in where Dublin’s opposition shoot from however; against Dublin 47% of the point attempts come from the wings between the 20m & 45m lines – the league average is 38% and if we remove Dublin that drops to 36% for the other six teams. So in a sense it is Dublin defending. We have seen that they allow more shots per game but they “let” you shoot from more disadvantageous regions – this would also feed into why their pressure % is not as high as expected.

Playing Dublin; But then again we have another overriding theme – the pressure of playing Dublin. When we restrict the pressure index to central shots only Dublin are relatively poor – only 31% of opponent’s shots centrally were taken under strong or severe pressure as against the league average of 44%. Low volumes but still! The kicker is that 53% of these central shots against Dublin were converted as against 63% for the rest of the league. We cannot place this performance on Dublin defending – indeed the opposite is true. The Dublin pressure is less intense. Teams missed the simplest of shots (centrally and under no pressure) at a higher clip.

Enough of Dublin! The conversion rate of Tyrone’s opponents is almost comically high. I double checked just to be sure. In Tyrone’s three games Dublin hit 68% of their shots, Monaghan 63% and Kildare 62%. It is only three games, and the comparable 2017 return was a combined 48% (five games) so I’m sure Mickey Harte and the backroom team are not overly concerned.

Kickouts

On the whole all teams are winning a lower percentage of their own kickouts when compared to the 2017 Championship campaign (73% won in 2017, 66% won in 2018) with none of the highlighted Division1 teams bucking this trend. Part of the reason for this is that the volume of short kickouts has dropped (a consequence of the new rule – either directly or indirectly as teams kicked longer in anticipation of the press that will surely come during the Summer) from 47% in the 2017 Championship to 40% in the 2018 League. Teams win their own short kickouts at a 94% clip so if there are significantly less of them the overall win rate will suffer. There was also a drop in the percentage of kickouts past the 45m line won by the kickout team – from 56.9% to 54.5%. Small enough but when you combine the two – a greater volume of longer kickouts with these longer ones won less frequently – we get a decent drop in the win rate.

Outside of the win rates it is interesting to see who is the most productive. Dublin are generally considered Kings of the kickout but in terms of net effectiveness they were only above average in this league campaign whilst Tyrone actually outperformed them in 2017. Mayo were very good on their own kickout during the league – they will be hoping that their overall Conversion Rate picks up so that they can build on this strong platform.

As is becoming a theme Galway was the outlier. Their net returns on kickouts are very low when compared to the other big guns – with one of the main reasons being that they continue to shun the short kickout. In their five TV games they went short on 27%. Mayo were 55%, Dublin were at 47% with Kerry and Tyrone at 41% apiece.

Volumes become low when we begin to segment like this so the percentages become less reliable however given that they are going short at a lower rate this allows the opposition to “tee off” on their longer ones. When they went past the 45m line Galway won 50% of their kickouts; the comparable figure was 65% for Dublin and 57% apiece for Kerry and Mayo.

2018 Division 1 Overview – post Rd4

March 8, 2018

Below is a quick overview of some of the more interesting numbers coming out of this year’s league. When listing individual teams, under any specific metric, note that it will be confined to those teams with at least three games played (see NOTE1)

Possessions

Team Possessions

11 games covered which equates to 22 returns – of which Galway have the three performances with the least amount of possessions. Not just the three lowest though – their two games against Donegal and Mayo are a full six possessions lower than the next lowest recorded by any other team. Intriguingly it is not that they are completely slowing games down and “dragging” the opposition down with them. They have easily lost the possession battle in all three games; by totals of 6 (v Kerry), 7 (v Mayo) and 8 (v Donegal).

Player possessions

That impression you have of Dublin dominating possession? Yeah it is not merely an impression. Of all team possessions with 20 or more player possessions (essentially player touches or strings of passing) Dublin have six of the top 11 and are the only team to top 30 player possessions in the one move.

Offensive production

Team

Perhaps surprisingly Dublin are not the most prolific offensive team in terms of output. They are below the average in the number of shots per game and shots per possession they attempt. What they lack for in quantity they more than make up for in quality however. They have a wonderfully high Conversion Rate on the shots they do take. Alloy this Conversion Rate, with the high volume of possessions, and you get your high scores.

Galway are highly proficient when they attack (high shots per possessions and Conversion Rate) but as noted above their (current) weakness could be the inability to create enough shots, through low possession counts, should the radar be off.

Donegal are shooting from everywhere with near on 30 shots per game – but their relatively low Conversion Rate is indicative of the fact that a lot of these are from “outside” the shooting zone.

Kerry’s new forward unit with O’Sé, Burns & Clifford are chugging along nicely whilst Mayo are struggling.

Player – shooting

The above table shows all players with at least 8 shots from play (see NOTE2).

Brannigan is currently on fire scoring 2 – 06 from his 10 shots as is McBrearty’s left peg (all 13 shots are point attempts with the left). Noticeable how these two are then followed by a squadron of Dublin attackers. This is to be somewhat expected given Dublin’s 65% Conversion Rate as a whole but it is still striking when you see that they have five of the top7 shooters by Expt Pts.

Player – assists

So this is new. I have started to track assists as another tool to view the front 8. This is somewhat subjective as a number of shots will come from players themselves making the breakthrough thus not producing an assist; or a defender might foul the ball thus providing the opposition with a shot from a free (does the player who induced the foul get an assist?); or the last pass may be an incidental popped hand pass (see NOTE3). As with any new metric there’ll have to be an element of trust on this one!

Unlike the shooting, which can have a positive or negative Expt Pts depending on whether the shots were converted, assists can only have a positive Expt Pts as the Expt Pts will relate to the point attempt rather than the shot outcome. But what we can do is plot the Expt Pts for shooting versus the Expt Pts for assists and get a more complete picture of a player’s offensive involvement

The above chart shows the shooting/assist Expt Pts interplay for those players listed previously with at least 8 shots from play. Where you want to be is in the top right quadrant (highlighted by the green circle) with a high positive Expt Pts for shooting (thus being very accurate) and a high Expt Pts for assists (thus showing a high level of attacking involvement).

Can we consider Fenton a midfielder? These offensive numbers are off the chart – high volume of shots, with high accuracy and high assists production. On his assists he has won three frees that led to Dean Rock attempts at goal, set up Kilkenny for his goal against Tyrone and also provided the assist for seven point attempts. Phenomenal.

McBrearty has two less assists than Fenton (9 v 11); he also has won three frees (that he himself took) but has set up two goal attempts and four point attempts.

Given his accuracy from play (0 – 09 from 13 point attempts) and the fact that he is Donegal’s main free taker (0 – 17 from 20; 85% Conversion Rate and +0.8 Expt Pts) it is some feat to also be so high on the assist chart. He is a very different player to Fenton but currently no less phenomenal.

The only problem with the first chart is that it hides the “non shooters”. Purely listing by the volume of assists we see the likes of A O’Shea, P Conroy and S O’Sé start to rise to the top.

Defensive production

Again perhaps surprisingly Dublin do not show up as best in class here. They allow more shots per possession than anyone else which, allied to their more open games, leads to more shots allowed per game than anyone else. What is noticeable however is the low quality of the opposition’s shooting (Conversion Rate at a very low 45%).

This low Conversion Rate can undoubtedly be attributed to excellent defending (more pressure on the shooter and/or teams taking shots from less favourable positions) but there must also be a mental aspect to this – teams forcing attempts knowing they have to keep up.

The argument against this is perhaps Galway. Their defensive numbers are very similar to Dublin’s yet it would be hard to argue that teams are under the same mental pressure when facing Galway as they are when facing Dublin.

I would contend however that Galway defend differently – tighter, more aggressive – and it is this that gives them the same defensive edge that Dublin seem to gain from their opponent’s mentality. Still it is definitely something worth looking at after the league – do teams shoot differently against Dublin as opposed to against anyone else?

On the offensive summary we commented on Kerry & Donegal’s higher numbers which was a nod to the fact that they had a good balance in attack (Kerry) or a defined game plan (Donegal could be deemed “shoot on sight”). They are both struggling on the back end however.

Kickouts

When looking at these tables it is again important to reference NOTE1 below – any changes may be as a consequence of natural differences between league and Championship rather than wholly attributable to the changes in the kickout rules.

Having said that there has definitely been a change in kickouts with the proportion of kickouts going short (landing inside the 45m line) dropping from 48% in the 2017 Championship to 37% this league campaign. That’s dramatic enough and the sample size – at 28% of the 2017 Championship games – is representative. Come the end of the league we can expect the proportion of short kickouts to have dropped by c10%.

We have seen Marks increase but not to any great degree. Instead we are back to the future where breaking ball is becoming more important. I define such kickouts as “contestable” (outside the 45m line and not claimed through a Mark – see NOTE4).

Kickout teams have increased the proportion of “contestable” kickouts they win but in both the 2017 Championship & 2018 League campaigns teams only manage to win c50% of their own “contestable” kickouts.

There are some interesting titbits looking at kickouts by team

Galway weren’t as fond of the short kickout as others in 2017 but have almost eschewed it completely so far with only 14% going short (remember the average is 38%). Given that the kickout team gets the ball ~95% of the time when it goes short this also explains why they are losing the possession battle as noted earlier (as does the fact that they are below average in winning their own “contestable” kickouts).

Donegal’s drop off is as pronounced (60% of kickouts in 2017 Championship went short versus 25% in the 2018 League) however this could be attributed to a change in philosophy under Declan Bonnar as much as anything else.

Dublin’s short ones have dropped off completely (66% in ’17 down to 44% thus far) – getting ready for the Summer perhaps when they expect a high press from the opposition? Also noticeable that despite their athleticism, and Cluxton’s radar like aim, they are only average on “contestable” kickouts.
Mayo & Kerry appear to have completely ignored the new rule (playing possum and not showing their Summer hand?). Kerry have been very good on their own kickout claiming a high of 69% of their own “contestable” kickouts.

Notes

Note1; 11 Division1 games in total. All shown on TV so any bias can be aimed at TG4 and/or EIR! Only Division1 game not completed thus far is Monaghan-v-Tyrone
Where there are comparisons to 2017 Championship numbers it is worth noting that we have no real previous comparisons between League and Championship campaigns. There has always been the sense that the League will be different but we just don’t know (I have been particularly lazy in not doing league campaigns before!).
This point, that there may be a natural difference between League & Championship, is particularly important when we come to kickouts as we have the additional overlay of the new kickout rules. Just because numbers change here does not mean it is as a direct result of the law changes – there may also be a natural difference between League & Championship outputs.

Note2: As an aside this shows the problem with judging players through their shooting. Even the most prolific shooter – McBrearty at 13 shots in three games – has a very small sample size

Note3; I have ~84% of shots not having an assist.

Note4; acknowledging that not all kickouts past the 45m line are contested – nor indeed that all Marks are un-contested. Still – it’s an easy label.