Posts Tagged ‘Donegal’

Dublin v Donegal 2016 AI Quarter Final

August 11, 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
Dublin 41 35 27 1 – 15 18.71
Donegal 42 28 24 1 – 10 11.99

Mannion’s late late goal would appear to give the Dublin shooting a boost that their shooting performance until that point did not warrant (they were running at an Expt Pts of -2.35 until the goal). In truth their shooting was average throughout with the two early missed Connolly goal chances putting them in a hole that only that late goal really bridged.

Dublin shooting

Rock was excellent on deadballs hitting five from five though his Expt Pts return for that is relatively low at +0.93. This is due, as can be seen from the shot chart below, to the fact that three of his frees were from the 14m line in front of goal. These are converted ~98% of the time.

From play their point taking was just below average with an Expt Pts of -0.56. Their conversion rate at 50% (0-10 from 20 shots) would not normally produce a negative Expt Pts however it occurs here due to the shot mix. Dublin were 71% (5 from 7; Expt Pts of +0.56) from central areas and 42% (5 from 12; Expt Pts -1.12) from wider out.

Essentially they were very good on the easier ones, bolstering the Conversion Rate, and poor on the harder ones. This poorer return from the more difficult shots was not due to any particularly pressurised Donegal defending. Four of the seven misses did not occur under any pressure.

This doesn’t appear to be something to get too worried about from a Dublin perspective however. In their two games covered to date (against Laois & Meath – the Westmeath game is on the “to do” list) they had a combined Conversion Rate of 53% (19 from 36) with an Expt Pts of +3.18 from these wider areas. The only caveat to those numbers is that Laois & Meath only pressurised ~31% of those kicks whilst Donegal got pressure on 50%.

Donegal shooting

Donegal were very good on deadballs converting 89% with the only miss being Murphy’s long range effort from beyond the 45 in the 3rd minute. Their Expt Pts for these nine shots comes in at +2.41 but this is somewhat bolstered by the last free. Usually a free is tapped over from that distance and a point gains you a miserly +0.02 on Expt Pts (see Rock’s Conversion Rate to Expt Pts return). Here Murphy got the point but went for goal. We have only 10 instances of a player going for goal from this distance and the majority get blocked. The fact that Murphy was going for goal means that the Expt Pts for that shot was a low +0.33. When the ball ricocheted over the crossbar he, and Donegal, gets a somewhat fortuitous +0.67 bump on Expt Pts.

Donegal scored 1-00 from their two goal chances returning +1.28.

So from deadballs and goal attempts Donegal were running at +3.69 which is in the 2014 “creating a shock” range. But then there is their shooting from play which in truth was both poor and meagre. Donegal returned 0 – 02 from 13 shots (Conversion Rate of 15% & an Expt Pts of -2.68). A lower expectancy is already built in to take account of the fact that Donegal were facing the best team in Ireland so the poor returns cannot be blamed on coming up against a good defence alone.

Donegal had six shots centrally from outside the 20m line and only returned 0 – 01. Dublin managed to pressure just one of those six so four of the remaining five were misses from the central region with no pressure. You just cannot do that – with a lower shot count – against a team like Dublin.

It is interesting to note that McBrearty didn’t get any shots from this central zone. After his heroics the last day he was restricted to four shots with all four coming from out wider.

Dublin’s Kickouts.

All this buries the lead. The most remarkable number from the game is 1-11. That is how much Dublin scored from their own kickout. They somehow managed to score 1 – 11 off 17 possessions gained in this manner and 0-04 from the remaining 24 possessions. That is a remarkable split

Against Meath and Laois they scored a combined 1- 15 from 38 possession on their own kickouts. This equates to 0.47 points per kickout won and 38% of their total score in those games. Here those figures were 0.82 points per possession and 78% of the total score. This game’s lop-sidedness does look like an outlier but that doesn’t make it any less impressive.

Dublin gained possession on 17 of their 21 kickouts (81%) with 13 of those possessions ending in a shot. That means in scoring 1 – 11 the conversion rate for shots emanating from their own kickouts was 92% (!!) with the conversion rate for all other shots being 29% (4 from 14).

Of those 13 shots the range of individual player possessions was 1 to 12 with the average being 6.1. So in essence from their own kickouts 6 players touched the ball (including the shooter) before they pulled the trigger. For the other 14 shots the average was 9.1.

Interesting as that gap is (and what it perhaps implies for the disparate conversion rates?) what’s more interesting is the volume of player possessions inside the 45. Again on the 13 shots from their own kickout there were 1.7 player possessions inside Donegal’s 45. On 8 of the 13 the only possession inside the 45 led to a shot. Again for the other 14 shots this was 2.9

So Dublin held on to the ball a lot less from their own kickouts and were devastatingly incisive once inside the 45 on these possessions. On turnovers, or the opposition’s kickout, where they got ball much higher up the pitch they were more controlled, more methodical. And much less accurate.


Shot Charts

Dublin’s shooting

Dublin shooting (V Donegal 16)

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


Players with >= 4 shots from play

Shots Scores Success Rate Exp Pts
M Murphy (Donegal) 8 0 – 06 75% 4.32
D Rock (Dublin) 6 0 – 05 83% 4.42
P McBrearty (Donegal) 6 0 – 03 50% 2.97
D Connolly (Dublin) 5 0 – 02 40% 4.39

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

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

Dublin v Donegal 2016 League SF

April 12, 2016

There is no point pretending that this game was anything other than a run out. As Chris McNulty commented on Twitter (@chrismcnulty86 – a good follow on all things Donegal) Donegal took the game so seriously that they didn’t train all week. I have completely forgotten who, so apologies for not crediting, but some other wag commented that it was like an exhibition match at the opening of a new ground (see note1). It just had that feel to it.

Still. The two teams may not have engaged as if it were the height of Summer but we we’ll fire up the numbers and see what it throws up.

Team Possessions Attacks Shots Scores Exp Pts
Dublin 52 46 30 1 – 20 18.87
Donegal 46 38 27 0 – 13 16.08

In the opening league game between these two Dublin were restricted to a 76% attack rate and 21 shots. Here it was an 88% attack rate and 30 shots. Again in that opening game Dublin managed (or maybe more accurately the Donegal defense allowed) 0.29 points per possession. Here it was 0.44. There was just no bite to Donegal.

It was not like there was a huge difference in opportunities between the halves either. The goal at the start of the second half did not see Donegal switch off. Both, by some statistical quirk, had stat lines of 26 possessions with 23 attacks and 15 shots. Dublin were slightly more accurate in the first half with a conversion rate of 73% (0-11 from the 15 shots) though the second half conversion rate of 67% (1 – 09 from 15) was also very efficient.

Although they may not take much from the game one positive aspect, from a Dublin perspective, is that their early accuracy came despite the fact that two of their main strife force, Brogan & Mannion, combined for a mere two shots in the first half.

What of Donegal? It may come as some surprise to note that – in pure shooting terms – they were not all that far behind Dublin.

Dub - Don league SF Expt Pts

The above graph shows the team’s respective shooting broken down into actual score vs Expected score (see note2). Donegal, despite what was noted above re application, were on track with Dublin up until the ~33rd minute. Dublin tagged on 0 – 03 at the end of the first half and kicked off with a goal at the start of the 2nd but up until then Donegal were right with them.

The “but” quite obviously comes with caveats. The first being that whilst teams with average returns from the shots attempted would have been level around the 33rd minute Dublin are not average. Nor in their own ways are Mayo or Kerry. Dublin outperformed their Expt Pts from the get go (as an aside Kerry did something vaguely similar against Cork. That day they score 0 – 10 from their first 12 shots inside 20 minutes and were up and gone. It will be interesting to see the starts both teams make, or are allowed make, in the final. But I digress). On top of this Donegal lagged behind what was expected. One of the hallmarks of the 2012 & 2014 teams was their remarkable accuracy in games where the shot counts were very low. They will need to regain this accuracy.

A second point on the Donegal shooting was just how reliant they were on Murphy & McBrearty. Here they accounted for 70% of Donegal’s shots (Dublin’s top 3 marksmen in terms of Volume – Rock, Brogan & Kilkenny accounted for 52% combined). In the opening league game this duo accounted for a more realistic 45% of shots.

Part of this over reliance on Murphy & McBrearty was Donegal’s volume of shots from frees. In total they had 11 shots on goal from free kicks. Dublin had a mere four (plus one 45). Relying on frees as a way to keep the scoreboard ticking over is a tried and trusted manner but in many ways it is dicey proposition as gaining a free is not always within your control. You are reliant on the defender’s, and perhaps more importantly the referee’s, complicity.

Finally Dublin’s Expt Pts was boosted by creating goal chances. They had four shots at goal in total scoring 1 – 01 (about what is expected). Donegal only manufactured the one shot at goal and that a weak, in terms of where the shot was taken from, one from Murphy in the dying embers of the game that went straight at Cluxton. In fairness in the three other Donegal league games that I charted (Roscommon, Kerry & Dublin) they came out even in goal shots in all three so this game may not be emblematic.

So is there hope for Donegal? Absolutely. Over the two games they created as many shots as Dublin. In the first game, when they were not at full tilt but were at least more inclined to try than here, they were able to restrict Dublin’s shooting. But there are also some obvious dangers. They must ensure the shooting volumes are not as concentrated as in this game and also improve their accuracy from play (1-06 from 27 shots over the two Dublin games for a success rate of 26%). The control – in terms of game tempo and shot selection – needs to re-emerge. Goals need to be kept to a minimum. The restrictive game plan does not lend itself to chasing games.

Note1; if you have a twitter account it’s probably better to follow me there (@dontfoul). I tend to have game “scorecards”, like the below, up a lot quicker than the blog posts. Plus by having the game capsule up there I don’t feel the need to get every stat up here!


Note2; I have a piece half written on Expected Points which I will publish prior to the Championship. In essence it is the same measurement as the weighting that has been used heretofore but (hopefully) is a lot more readily understood.


Shot Charts

Dublin’s shooting
Dublin shooting (V Donegal 16 league SF)

Donegal’s shooting
Donegal shooting (V Dublin 16 league SF)
x = missed, disc = score, yellow = deadball, black = normal time from play, red = goal attempt

Donegal V Mayo 2015 All Ireland QF

August 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
Donegal 46 30 65% 21 70% 11 50% +0.450
Mayo 48 38 79% 30 79% 15 50% +0.060
Avg 37.0 28.7 77.7% 14.7 51.2%

Both teams had a similar number of possessions and when they took a shot they produced very similar returns in terms of accuracy & weighting. There the similarity ends however.

Mayo were much more efficient at creating attacks; 79% of Mayo’s possessions ended up inside Donegal’s 45 as opposed to 65% of Donegal’s. This was, in the main, due to Donegal’s set up. When Mayo had the ball they dropped back allowing Mayo fairly easy passage into their 45 (and thus an attack); when Donegal had the ball their possession play allowed the Mayo defence to “set” – thus even when inside the opposition’s 45 Mayo were able to produce more shots on their attacks than did Donegal (79% – 70%)

There is then of course the goals. Goals win games. Mayo had three attempts and scored 2 – 00; Donegal had two and managed 0 – 01.

Shots from Play

Team Shots Scores Success % Weighting
Donegal 13 6 46% +0.407
Mayo 25 13 52% +1.668
Avgs 21.4 9.7 45.3%

Some very neat shooting games (see the player table at the end) but the majority were from Mayo men. Murphy aside no one from Donegal stood up. McBrearty & C McFadden were marked absent with neither producing a score from four attempts whilst McGlynn was the only other player to attempt more than the one shot.

Looking at the two goals it wasn’t so much a system failure from Donegal but perhaps the wrong man for the system. For both goals Mark McHugh, acting as sweeper, was in a position to tackle the onrushing Mayo man but on both occasions he was brushed off. His lack of bulk telling against him

Donegal goal 1

Donegal goal 2

There were indications that the system was failing however; in the first half, whilst the game was in the melting pot at 0–03 to 0–02, Jason Doherty found himself in acres of space on Donegal’s right.

Don system failure

For whatever reason Hugh McFadden (21 below) and Neil Gallagher (9) completely got their signals wrong which meant that Lacey (6) wasn’t in a position to cover. Gallagher had Doherty put passed him on to McFadden – McFadden missed the cue and pushed up on his man allowing Doherty acres of space in behind.

Mayo on the other hand were getting it spot on. The first picture below shows an intercepted hand pass that takes three Mayo men out of the play – perfect Donegal counter attacking ball. Donegal attack hard up the middle however Mayo, unlike Dublin last year, have a man to stop the initial run whilst the cavalry work hard to get back and block the easy running hand passes.

Mayo Defense 1

Similarly in the next instance – again an intercepted hand pass on Donegal’s 45 – we can see that Mayo are set up perfectly with Donegal runners tightly marked and spare men back to choke the space in the middle.

Mayo defense 2

Both of these counter attacks resulted in Donegal points (for Murphy & Toye) but Mayo were back in sufficient numbers to ensure the goal wasn’t threatened on either occasion

Shots from deadballs

Player Shots Scores Success % Weighting
C O’Connor (Mayo) 5 2 40% -1.608
M Murphy (Donegal) 8 5 63% +0.043
team avgs 7.2 4.9 68.7%

What appears like a particularly poor day for O’Connor does in fact highlight one of the weaknesses in Mayo’s game. O’Connor is probably the most accurate deadball striker over the past few years however he does have a specific range. The three he missed here were outside that – two from the right and one long (a 45). My guess is that he took on these attempts not because he thought he would get them but because there is no one else stepping up.

Murphy missed both his attempts from outside the 45 and whilst he converted a 45 the remainder of his attempts were deemed on the easier side (3 of the other 4 that were converted were inside the 20m line) so his returns come out as “average”.


Donegal’s kickouts Won % Turned into an attack % Shot %
Donegal 14 67% 10 71% 7 50%
Mayo 7 33% 5 71% 4 57%
Mayo’s kickouts Won % Turned into an attack % Shot %
Donegal 4 22% 3 75% 3 75%
Mayo 14 78% 10 71% 9 64

The TV cameras missed where three of Mayo’s kickouts landed but none of the three went past the 65. Assuming this Mayo only kicked two of their kickouts long.

In total Donegal scored 0 – 01 from the 4 Mayo kickouts they won but Mayo scored 1-04 directly from their own kickouts. Not pushing up on the Mayo kickouts ultimately did not work.

Donegal basically had two kickout ploys – long or short. None of their kickouts, that the TV cameras picked up, landed between the 45 & 65m lines. Of the 13 that went long Donegal won the possession battle 7 – 6 however they were unable to use this possession scoring just the one point. Mayo returned 1–02 from the 6 that they won.

Of the remaining 8 that went short Donegal scored 0–02 but they did lose one of their short kickouts which resulted in a point for Mayo.

So whilst the overall possessions and ability to turn these possessions to shots look similar Mayo scored 2-07 from the 21 kickouts they won (0.62pts per possession) whilst Donegal only manufactured 0-04 from their 18 wins (0.22pts per possession)


Team giving up the ball Pass In the Tackle Shot Other
Donegal 13 9 2 3
Mayo 12 5 7 1

If we consider turnover from shots to be of a different nature than the rest (which I do) then Mayo were very careful with the ball only coughing it up 18 times – and only five of those were through the tackle against a historically very strong defence.

Of course they won’t want to turn the ball over on so many shots the next time but nothing we have seen – either from Mayo or from the numbers in general – leads us to believe that this is a predictable trait from one game to the next.

Shot Charts

Donegal’s shooting
Donegal shooting (V Mayo 15 QF)

Mayo’s shooting
Mayo shooting (V Donegal 15 QF)
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
L Keegan (Mayo) 4 3 75% +1.497
C O’Connor (Mayo) 4 1 25% 1.124
M Murphy (Donegal) 3 3 100% +1.899
J Doherty (Mayo) 3 3 100% +1.442
K McLoughlin (Mayo) 3 2 67% +0.544

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

Donegal V Tyrone 2015 Ulster Championship

May 18, 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
Donegal 41 31 76% 25 81% 14 56% +2.102
Tyrone 48 43 90% 27 63% 11 41% -2.477
Avg 37.0 28.7 77.7% 14.7 51.2%

Tyrone had their chances. They had two more shots than Donegal, after engineering 12 more attacks, but ultimately it was Donegal’s superior shooting and efficiency that saw them through. Sound familiar? Below are the returns from the 2013 game. Eerily similar. The faces may change (Joe McMahon, Stephen O’Neill, Rory Kavanagh, Leo McLoone, Jim McGuinness) put the pattern remains.


Team Possessions Attacks Attack % Shots Shot % Scores Success % Weighting
Donegal 43 29 67% 18 62% 12 67% +2.761
Tyrone 49 37 76% 29 78% 10 41% -3.015

Both teams went about accumulating their shots in very different manners. Donegal dropped back not engaging Tyrone until they crossed their 45. This enabled Tyrone to convert a very high proportion (90%) of their possessions to an attack. Tyrone on the other hand were more inclined to press thus stopping Donegal getting vast sways of their possession into an attacking position. As we have seen however, both in the corresponding 2013 fixture and throughout this team’s existence, Donegal are deadly efficient when they are at their best.

Shots from Play

Team Shots Scores Success % Weighting
Donegal 21 11 52% +1.183
Tyrone 21 8 38% -1.169
Avgs 21.4 9.7 45.3%

One might think that a large part of Tyrone’s inefficiencies here came from their goal attempts. They did have six shots at goal with only McCurry’s attempt registering however when they went for points they were only average – a combined stat line of 7 from 15 (47%) with a weighting of -0.141. Looking at the shot charts below there weren’t too many outlandish speculative attempts – it was just average shooting from average positions.

Donegal on the other hand were 59% (10 from 17) with a combined weighting of +1.535 when going for a point.

One area Donegal will review is the Tyrone goal. McCurry found himself in acres of space after drifting in behind the defence following a quick free in the middle of the park. Excuse the poor drawing (!) but you can see in the below snapshots that Donegal had plenty of men back but Ryan McHugh got sucked into the ball allowing the space to appear.


Shots from deadballs

Player Shots Scores Success % Weighting
M Murphy (Donegal) 4 3 75% +0.919
S Cavanagh (Tyrone) 3 3 100% +0.624
D McCurry (Tyrone) 3 0 0% -1.932
team avgs 7.2 4.9 68.7%

All the regulation frees were converted.

Séan Cavanagh’s placed ball day was good getting the two in front of goal you would expect any intercounty layer to convert whilst also swinging over the only difficult one he had from the left.

In 2013 Niall Morgan had a poor day converting one from six however he was in the main attempting very difficult long range “boomers” that are missed more often than they are converted. Although McCurry only missed three frees, compared to Morgan’s five, his day was perhaps even worse given that two of his frees were relatively easy. Granted the one in the second half was against the wind but he missed on the *near* side.

It was to Tyrone’s credit that Donegal’s first attempt at a score from a free was not until the 51st minute. Murphy missed that one but then took over converting two long range efforts including a 45 near to the right sideline – the *wrong* side for a right footer.


Team “coughing up” possession Volume Shots from Turnovers %
Donegal 20 10 50%
Tyrone 24 13 54%

One area that Donegal will no doubt review is their turnovers. Not necessarily the volume but where they gave them away. Of the 20 turnovers given up four were within their own 65. Tyrone only managed one point from this but in another tight outing – against Armagh or possibly Monaghan – that could yield precious scores.

Perhaps even more surprising is that Karl Lacey gave up three of those four. I’m guessing he won’t like this week’s video review session!


Donegal’s kickouts Won % Turned into an attack % Shot %
Donegal 11 52% 6 55% 5 45%
Tyrone 10 48% 9 90% 6 83%
Tyrone’s kickouts Won % Turned into an attack % Shot %
Donegal 5 25% 4 80% 4 80%
Tyrone 15 75% 14 93% 9 60%

At a macro level Tyrone won the kickout battle. Donegal’s kickout, from a volume & shot perspective, was a washout whilst Tyrone kept the ball by going short on their own. Strike out the short kickouts – which are not really contestable – and Tyrone win the kickout battle 15 – 12. Not as comprehensive but still a position of strength.

Donegal went short on four of their kickouts; of the 17 that crossed the 45 Tyrone got their hands on ten. Once they got ahead Donegal did not go short once.

On the opposite end of the scale Tyrone went short with 50% (10 out of 20) of their kickouts. Of those that passed the 45 the teams were split 50:50 (5 apiece) in terms of who came up with the ball. Against the wind in the second half they went short with 78% (7 out of 9) of their kickouts – this was obviously aided by Donegal who were dropping back to protect the lead.

Shot Charts

Donegal’s shooting
Donegal shooting (V Tyrone 15)

Note; I’m not sure if it was an issue with my feed or RTE but there was a blue screen for one of McElhinney’s attempts at a point. We know it went wide but we do not know where it was taken from so it is not represented in the above chart. For weighting purposes it is assumed the shot was taken from Sector 4 as the camera panned to McElhinney trotting back to midfield from the right hand side post shot.

Tyrone’s shooting
Tyrone shooting (V Donegal 15)

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

Players with >= 3 shots from play

Nothing earth shattering though it is noteworthy that McFadden got two of his three attempts. As noted (here) he had a very poor 2014. It was nice to see him back converting one lovely one with the outside of the left just before half time as well as jinking through for a shot at goal that was ultimately called back for a foul he incurred on his way through.

Shots Scores Success % Weighting
M McElhinney (Donegal) 5 3 60% +0.658
C McAliskey (Tyrone) 4 3 75% +1.040
C Toye (Donegal) 4 2 50% -0.004
P McBrearty (Donegal) 3 2 67% +0.894
C McFadden (Donegal) 3 2 67% +0.442
S Cavanagh (Tyrone) 3 2 33% -0.218

Colm McFadden – a review

May 15, 2015

The last time we saw Donegal was in the league semi-final against Cork which was fairly unremarkable apart from both teams’ ability to get shots off at a high rate – in the mid 80% against an average of 77%. It is only one metric but a fairly large indicator of a game lacking intensity.

One thing that did peak my interest however was the performance of Colm McFadden. In a high scoring open game he only managed 0-02 from play and did not attempt any frees. I had a vague recollection of noting a declining performance throughout 2014 so decided to have a look. Thanks to the BBC’s coverage of the Ulster Championship we have all bar one of Donegal’s game over the past three years and below are McFadden’s returns over that span.

Attempts Scores Success Rate Weighting
Deadball 53 40 75% +3.499
Play 52 23 44% -0.196
Total 105 63 60% +3.303

Not bad. His shooting from play is bang on average but given the volume of shots he takes that’s ok. Average does not equal bad! His deadball accuracy however is very good – perhaps only below Cluxton and O’Connor in terms of per kick weighting. In truth there’s nothing to see here but the more you do this the more you understand that averages can hide a lot.

Attempts Scores Success Rate Weighting
2012 27 22 81% +4.566
2013 13 8 62% -0.770
2014 13 10 77% -0.297
From play
2012 24 13 54% +2.226
2013 11 6 55% +1.987
2014 17 4 24% -4.409

McFadden was stupendous, both from deadballs & from play, in Donegal’s march towards Sam in 2012. But he was so good on that run that when we take the average from the last three years it is masking a very big drop off in both categories.

McFadden’s deadball accuracy has dropped from the unsustainable highs of 2012 to just below average over the last two years. Although his combined Success Rate for 2013 & 2014 is high at 77% the negative weighting shows you that he is taking easy, or at least easier, frees – he should actually be converting closer to 80% (similarly the high weighting in 2012 shows you that he was converting more difficult frees more often).

The real drop off has occurred with his shooting from play however.

Attempts Scores Success Rate Weighting
Point attempts
2012 21 11 52% +1.240
2013 8 4 50% +1.001
2014 14 3 21% -4.395
Goal attempts
2012 3 2 67% +0.986
2013 3 2 67% +0.986
2014 3 1 33% -0.014

McFadden was never prolific from play but he was always above average in his returns. That was until last year. During the six 2014 games McFadden had 14 attempts at a point – and only converted three. And all three were simple attempts from around the penalty spot. He did not convert one point attempt from outside the 20m line in six games.

McFadden’s 2014 point attempts
McFadden 2014

It was not as if he was trying harder shots in 2014 – the opposite actually. Of his 14 point attempts in 2014 ten, or 71%, were in the optimal shooting zones of 5 & 8 (see the shot chart above). In 2012 & 2013, when he was converting at ~50%, only 35% of his shots were coming from these central areas. There was nothing in terms of pressure to explain the drop off. Last year 57% of his shots were taken under pressure – in 2012 & 2013 that figure was 66%.

The data on file begins in 2012 which is unfortunate for McFadden. It was, as Ciaran McMonagle of the samsforthehill blog pointed out to me, a career year for McFadden when Donegal were purring and they were playing to his strengths. 2013 was a bit of a washout for Donegal but in this case was instructive as to how easily Drew Wylie handled McFadden in the Ulster Final. Monaghan were on the lookout for McFadden’s favourite play – the loop inside from the right hand side curving the ball over with the left – and completely snuffed it out.

2014 was a down year but was that McFadden or the way Donegal set up? The loop play disappeared but a lot of that was due to the fact that Murphy spent considerable chunks of time in the middle allowing closer attention on McFadden. Alongside that we saw the further emergence of two left footers in MacNiallais & McBrearty. McFadden’s space narrowed, his foil was missing and he’s not blessed with speed. Not a great mixture.

What does 2015 hold? Usually when you have big swings in data like this you’ll get a regression to the mean but will McFadden be given the space, and as importantly the game time, to rack up the shots? Interesting year ahead.

Donegal V Kerry 2014 Championship

September 25, 2014

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 Shots Shot Rate Scores Success Rate Weighting
Donegal 34 26 76% 12 46% -0.246
Kerry 42 33 79% 11 33% -4.361
Champ (’12 & ’13 avg 70 mins) 35.8 27.6 77.2% 14.1 51.0%

Volume, and goals, trump accuracy.

As we will discuss below Kerry’s point taking was very poor (not that they will care now!) but their ability to carve out goal chances (or be granted them) and convert those chances saw them through. They had four attempts at goal scoring 2-01. Donegal had three, including two in that last minute scramble, and scored nothing.

So perhaps more accurately it was Kerry’s goal shot accuracy that trumped Donegal’s point taking efficiency.

Where attacks originated

Opposition k/out Own k/out Ball received in Own 3rd Ball received in Mid 3rd Ball received in Opposition 3rd Other (throw-in, rebound etc.)
Donegal 7 11 14 1 0 1
Kerry 8 10 15 3 0 6

This was the one area that stood out to me whilst watching the game. The majority of categories in the above table are quite similar. Attacking possessions originating from kickouts were the same whilst Kerry slightly edged the attacks from turnovers. Nothing that would definitively swing a game either way. But then there was the “other” category.

On four separate occasions Kerry regained the ball after one of their shots went astray. Three times they scored from these. It is almost like the “hidden yards” that NFL teams gain from their special team units. Unseen, unglamorous work that reaps huge benefits.

Think of Kerry’s initial burst – P Geaney plucked O’Brien’s skied shot from the air for his goal. He again reacted first to Buckley’s blocked shot to knock the ball down to O’Donoghue in space for an easy point. Nothing spectacular but both scores could easily have been nullified. On the other side Donegal only once created an attack from a shot and that was the last play of the game when McFadden fisted McBrearty’s blocked shot onto the post.

Shots from Play

Team Shots Scores Success Rate Weighting
Donegal 20 8 40% +0.351
Kerry 27 7 26% -4.232
Champ avgs (’12 & ’13 70 mins) 20.3 9.2 45.4%

Kerry had four shots at goal scoring 2-01.Although one of those shots was laid on a plate that is still not an insignificant achievement. The volume of goal shots allowed by Donegal this year was 1, 0, 2, 1 & 5 (vs the Dublin goal machine). In fact the only other teams to produce more than three goal shots since the start of 2012 are the aforementioned Dublin and Mayo in the 2013 quarter final rout.

Of course if Kerry hit 75% on their goal shots their point taking must have been atrocious. And it was. They converted 17% (4 from 23) of their attempts with a weighting of -5.603. They had 16 attempts at a shot from what might be considered outside the scoring zone and converted two (Murphy’s sublime effort from the right and Buckley late on from the left). Two! This from a team that had converted 57% of all point attempts in the run up to the final.

Some of that lack of accuracy can be applied to Donegal. They applied pressure to 63% (10/16) of those shots outside the scoring zone. Indeed excluding Johnny Buckley, who had the knack for finding pockets of space – he managed to take three shots with no pressure – Donegal pressured 77% of those more difficult opportunities. On top of that Donegal restricted O’Donoghue to one shot. Goals, and goals from individual errors, are a killer.

Donegal were much more efficient than Kerry but that isn’t saying much. They were still below average.

They only managed 5 shots from play in the first half with the first not arriving until the 24th minute when O’Connor’s goal attempt was saved. They were much better in the second half, managing 13 shots for a point but again their accuracy was nowhere where it needed to be. They converted 46% (6/13) but really, off such a low base, they needed to be in the high 60 percentile to catch up with Kerry’s goals.

Again we have to credit the opposition’s defence here. Kerry were stout not allowing Donegal a goal shot in that second half until the last minute scramble. They did this without fouling either – as noted below they didn’t concede one foul inside the 45 during the second half whilst also pressuring 69% (9/13) of Donegal’s point attempts.

Shots from deadballs

Player Shots Scores Success Rate Weighting
BJ Keane (Kerry) 2 2 100% +0.313
B Sheehan (Kerry) 2 1 50% -0.028
P Geaney (Kerry) 1 1 100% +0.087
D Moran (Kerry) 1 0 0% -0.500
M Murphy (Donegal) 5 3 60% +0.019
C McFadden (Donegal) 1 1 100% +0.087
team avgs (’12 & ’13 Champ) 7.3 4.9 66.7%

Both team’s free taking was essentially average although both Sheehan (the late free from the right sideline) and Murphy (a sideline attempt in the first half) both had one attempt with a ridiculous degree of difficulty. The rest of the deadballs graded out as expected with the four shared by McFadden, BJ Keane & P Geaney all relatively close to goal.

Kerry’s defensive discipline – or lack thereof – was giving Donegal an easy out in the first twenty minutes. Donegal had five attempts from deadballs, converting four (the aforementioned sideline attempt being the only miss), before they had a shot from play. But that changed in the second half with Donegal only having one attempt from a free and that occurred outside the 45.

A quick note on Brian Sheehan’s free towards the end. I have, on more than one occasion, been concerned by Kerry’s inconsistency in free taking but the old adage of “form being temporary and class permanent” was never more apt. To come off the bench and deliver that strike was simply brilliant.


Team “coughing up” possession Volume Shots from Turnovers %
Donegal 23 13 57%
Kerry 20 9 45%


Misplaced Pass Tackled Shots not going dead Other
Donegal 8 4 6 5
Kerry 6 6 6 2

A relatively low turnover count with possession being key. Indeed Donegal went over six minutes, from Christy Toye’s point in the 65th minutes, without having possession of the ball outside of Durcan’s kickouts.

Such was Kerry’s discipline & control I only tagged them for six turnovers in the entire second half – and one of those was Moran’s shot that hit the post.


Donegal’s kickouts Won % Turned into a possession % Shot %
Donegal 15 63% 11 73% 11 73%
Kerry 9 38% 8 89% 7 78%
Kerry’s kickouts Won % Turned into a possession % Shot %
Donegal 8 42% 7 88% 5 63%
Kerry 11 58% 10 91% 9 82%

The overall numbers look very similar. Of course this depends on viewing the pivotal turning point in the second half, Durcan’s short kick to Donaghy, as just another score. It was much more than that.

When you are a short kickout team giving the opposition the ball in a very attacking position is an occupational hazard. It is however rare. On 28 short kickouts in the previous five Championship games the opposition only gained the ball twice from Donegal short kickouts and didn’t get a score either time.

It was not as if the Donegal kickout wasn’t working. Before the Donaghy goal Donegal had taken nine short kickouts and scored 0-04 from those possessions. None of the kickout recipients were under pressure when receiving the ball. Six further kickouts had gone past the 45 with the possession battle being 3-3. Donegal were unable to get the ball to players past the 45 in space but they were still being productive. That was until the Donaghy goal.

Not only did the error cough up the goal but it spooked the team as well. Immediately after the goal Donegal kicked the next four kickouts long. Kerry won all four scoring 0-02.

Of Kerry’s 19 kickouts five went short with Kerry gaining possession each time. When the ball went past the 45 Donegal won the possession battle 8-6.

Shot Charts

Donegal’s shooting
Donegal shooting (V Kerry)

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

Players with >= 2 shots from play

Shots Scores Success Rate Weighting
P Geaney (Kerry) 7 2 29% -0.743
P McBrearty (Donegal) 5 2 40% -0.251
K Donaghy (Kerry) 4 3 75% +0.817
J Buckley (Kerry) 3 1 33% -0.078
M Murphy (Donegal) 2 1 50% +0.282
K Lacey (Donegal) 2 1 50% +0.224
O MacNiallais (Donegal) 2 1 50% +0.142
D Moran (Kerry) 2 0 0% -0.719
D Walsh (Kerry) 2 0 0% -0.719
A Maher (Kerry) 2 0 0% -0.858
M Geaney (Kerry) 2 0 0% -0.858
C McFadden (Donegal) 2 0 0% -0.906

Donegal V Kerry All Ireland preview

September 17, 2014

When Kerry have the ball

Kerry attacks

Kerry opponent Possessions Shots Shot Rate Scores Success Rate Weighting
Cork 42 38 90% 24 63% +4.575
Galway 40 35 88% 21 60% +2.563
Mayo 40 28 70% 17 61% +3.252
Mayo replay (70 mins) 38 30 79% 14 47% -1.774
avg 40.0 32.8 82% 19.0 58% +2.154
Champ (’12 & ’13 avg 70 mins) 35.8 27.6 77.2% 14.1 51.0%

The most recent memory we have of Kerry’s attack is their semi final replay against Mayo in Limerick which also happens to be their worst outing to date. The surprise is not that they had a bad day against one of the best defences in the country but rather that it was so poor compared to their returns against the same team six days previously.

Taking the season as a whole (the four point win over Clare was not shown) their attacking play has been outstanding. They have created above average attacks in each game whilst also posting, on average, a shot rate of 82%. Though in the context of meeting Donegal the average of the two Mayo games (75%) might be a better marker.

What has been extremely impressive is their shooting. Despite a poor performance the last day out they have maintained an average of a 58% Success Rate with a corresponding high weighting.

A high volume of attacks + an above average shot rate + c14% uplift in accuracy = 5 scores higher per game than the average

Donegal defending

Donegal opponent Possessions Shots Shot Rate Scores Success Rate Weighting
Derry 31 22 71% 11 50% +0.977
Antrim 31 22 71%% 22 55% +1.680
Monaghan 36 23 64% 10 43% -2.258
Armagh 37 25 68% 12 48% +0.998
Dublin 49 38 78% 17 45% +0.008
avg 36.8 26.0 71% 12.4 48% +0.281
Champ (’12 & ’13 avg 70 mins) 35.8 27.6 77.2% 14.1 51.0%

Of course Kerry won’t be coming up against any defence in the final. They’ll be meeting Donegal. Let’s indulge in some “what-iffery”

Due to the nature of how they sit back Donegal do allow the opposition to have the ball within their 45. Whilst Kerry will not be at Dublin’s pace (no other team is) they can expect to do as well as, if not better, than Monaghan & Armagh here. Those two averaged 36.5 attacking possessions whilst Kerry averaged 39 in their two encounters against Mayo. Let’s go with a mid-point of 38 Kerry attacks.

The big battle will come within the next two metrics – Shot Rate & Success Rate. Defensively to maintain a Shot Rate of 71% over five games, when one of the opponents was Dublin, is hugely impressive. Kerry managed an average of 75% against Mayo. Again let’s pick a mid-point of 73%

So if we assume 38 attacks with a 73% Shot Rate that gives Kerry 28 shots. Donegal have allowed the opposition to score at a range of 43% to 55% though they have tightened up in their last three games. We know Kerry are one of the most accurate teams and despite their poor outing against Mayo in the replay they have maintained a Success Rate of 58%.

For this exercise I think it is safe to pick at the higher end of the range that Donegal allow. If Kerry can hit 50% then they score 14 times (0-14, 1-13, 2-12). For every 2% increase in accuracy they increase the outcome by 0.5 scores – so hit their average of 58% and the return 16 scores (0-16, 1-15, 2-14).

Apropros of nothing – in the 2012 QF Kerry’s stat line was 33 possessions & 23 shots (a 70% Shot Rate) with a Success Rate of 48%.

From Play

Kerry opponent Shots Scores Success Rate Weighting
Cork 31 19 61% +4.684
Galway 30 19 63% +4.276
Mayo 24 15 63% +4.218
Mayo replay 30 10 33% -3.763
avg 28.8 15.8 54.8% +2.354
Champ avgs (’12 & ’13 70 mins) 20.3 9.2 45.4%

Whilst the above numbers are very impressive they become even more so when you strip out goal attempts. We will see in the Donegal piece below that their goal shots are “masking” some average point taking. The opposite is the case here.

Kerry have attempted 14 shots at goal converting five to a score. When going for points they are running at a 57% Success Rate (58 from 101) and a combined weighting of +10.180.

O’Donoghue is the marquee forward – and with good reason. He has taken 25% of Kerry’s point attempts whilst maintaining a quick staggering 76% accuracy rate. He was slowed down by Mayo (54% Success Rate with a weighting of +0.656) but that was due in no small part to two man marking performances that will in all probability earn Keith Higgins an All Star. Donegal can produce such performances (McGee inside or Lacey outside) but they will need to. If O’Donoghue gets the ball he has the accuracy to punish.

Player Shots Scores Success Rate Weighting
J O’Donoghue 25 19 76% +6.257
P Geaney 14 6 43% -0.545
Others 54 30 56% +4.827

But it is not just O’Donoghue who is accurate. Himself and Geaney are the only players to take double digit shots but despite this the rest of the team have a combined 56% Success Rate. The team as a whole has the ability to score if the opportunities are taken from O’Donoghue.

Shots from deadballs

Player Shots Scores Success Rate Weighting
P Geaney 6 5 83% -0.408
J O’Donoghue 5 4 80% +0.236
B Sheehan 5 3 60% -0.372
J Buckley 3 1 33% -1.253
D Moran 1 0 0% -0.547
Total 20 13 65% -2.344

This is the one area of weakness that Kerry’s attack has shown to date. The above table is for frees only however if we include the other four deadballs that they attempted (2x penalties plus 2x 45s) then the Success Rate comes in at 66.7% with a weighting of -1.158. This is essentially bang in line with the ’12 & ’13 averages (also 66.7%) however the low weighting indicates that the ones missed were on the easier side.

A word of warning though – whilst the weightings being so poor should ring alarm bells some might draw comfort from the Success Rate being average. I haven’t collated the data for 2014 yet but through 19 games the Success Rate for deadballs has jumped to 74%. This is provisional at the moment but shows how far behind the Kerry deadball striking has been this year.

When Donegal have the ball

Donegal attacks

Donegal opponent Possessions Shots Shot Rate Scores Success Rate Weighting
Derry 33 22 67% 12 55% +0.339
Antrim 48 38 79% 19 50% +1.000
Monaghan 33 26 79% 15 58% +1.710
Armagh 42 33 79% 13 39% -3.541
Dublin 33 25 76% 17 68% +3.835
avg 37.8 28.8 76% 15.2 52.8% +0.669
Champ (’12 & ’13 avg 70 mins) 35.8 27.6 77.2% 14.1 51.0%

Viewed as a whole there is nothing noteworthy about Donegal’s attack. This however masks the one game potential that this team possesses. The two highest Success Rates within a game belong to this squad – the 68% recorded in the semi final against Dublin and a 67% against Tyrone in 2013. Both were achieved from a below average number of shots (indeed the 67% against Tyrone came from a paltry 18 shots). Of course if your shooting boots are not on when producing a low number of shots you can get yourself into all sorts of trouble – exhibit A being the Ulster final last year where Donegal only managed seven scores from 21 shots (33% Success Rate).

Which Donegal attack will we see? The accuracy evident against Tyrone & Dublin or the wastefulness we witnessed in the Armagh and Monaghan (2013 version) games?

Kerry defending

Kerry opponent Possessions Shots Shot Rate Scores Success Rate Weighting
Cork 26 23 88% 12 52% -0.359
Galway 41 31 76% 12 39% -2.041
Mayo 37 29 78% 17 59% +2.792
Mayo replay 31 26 84% 14 54% +0.975
avg 33.8 27.3 81% 13.8 50% +0.342
Champ (’12 & ’13 avg 70 mins) 35.8 27.6 77.2% 14.1 51.0%

Much has been made of the Donegal defence and how they defend. Kerry may not be a traditional blanket defence team but they restrict the amount of attacks the opposition has. This is done in two main parts – firstly they do drop players back (think of Galvin in previous years and Declan O’Sullivan/D Walsh this). Secondly they use their inate kicking skills to restrict the opposition’s time on the ball – another very adept way of lowering the opposition’s attacks. In the Cork & Galway games they went 25 & 31 minutes without giving a pass away.

Donegal are not the only team capable of enforcing their tempo on a game.

From Play

Donegal opponent Shots Scores Success Rate Weighting
Derry 18 9 50% +0.598
Antrim 32 16 50% +1.644
Monaghan 17 9 53% +1.681
Armagh 24 7 29% -3.209
Dublin 20 15 75% +3.686
avg 22.2 11.2 50.5% +0.880
Champ avgs (’12 & ’13 70 mins) 20.3 9.2 45.4%

Recency bias may be at work in how we view Donegal’s attack. Their 75% against Dublin in the semi final is by far the best we have seen this year – but it is only one game removed from their abysmal outing against Armagh.

As a whole their shooting from play appears to be quite good with a healthy overall average and above average returns in four of their five games. Their accuracy when going for goal has greatly helped this however.

In 2013 goal shots were converted at a 31% clip. Donegal have had 14 attempts at goal in this year’s campaign managing to score 8 goals (a 57% Success Rate). Not alone that but they have also scored 4 points from those 14 shots – so their goal shot tally this year is a Success Rate of 86% (12 from 14) with a weighting of +5.997! Very impressive.

The flip side of this of course is that when they go for points the returns are not so healthy (a combined Success Rate of 45% and a weighting of -1.597). Four players, namely MacNiallais, McBrearty, Murphy & McFadden account for 57% of all of Donegal’s point attempts and their individual results are below. McFadden has struggled all year with the semi final outing, where he converted two chances from inside the 20m line, being his best day out.

Player Shots Scores Success Rate Weighting
O MacNiallais 17 9 53% +0.735
P McBrearty 15 7 47% +0.427
C McFadden 13 3 23% -3.821
M Murphy 10 4 40% -0.169

From deadballs

Player Shots Scores Success Rate Weighting
M Murphy
– Frees 18 11 61% -1.071
– 45s & sideline 3 2 67% +0.453
C McFadden
– Frees 12 9 75% 0.016
Total 33 22 67% -0.602

From afar it would appear that it is not only Kerry who have been struggling with free kicks this year. In their march to the title in 2012 Murphy & McFadden recorded a combined Success Rate of 78% from all deadballs. They have dropped off that rate this year however this can, in part, be attributed to Murphy’s long range free taking. He has had seven attempts, some of them quite outrageous, from outside the 45 converting two. This leaves a success rate of 78% for frees inside the 45 – much healthier and along the lines of what we would expect from the duo.

In their four games to date Kerry have conceded shots from frees on 26 occasions (6 v Cork, 4 v Galway and 8 in both of the Mayo games) – 23 inside the 45. That equates to 5.75 “scoreable” frees a game. Given Donegal’s prowess from frees inside the 45 Kerry will want to ensure that no more than six kickable frees are conceded.