Posts Tagged ‘Donegal’

Gaoth Dobhair v Naomh Conaill Donegal SFC Final 2018

October 23, 2018

In many ways the Donegal final was very similar to the Roscommon final from the previous weekend (review here). The losing team had a man sent off just after half time but the winning team was already imposing themselves (Clann na nGael were ahead through the main metrics if not the scoreboard). In both games the losing team had excellent shooting metrics up until the red card but then things fell apart thereafter (whether that’s due to the red card or scoreboard pressure is a moot point).

One other point that struck me when doing this game was the pace of it. There were a total of just 69 possessions throughout the game. The Roscommon final had 75. The average for Championship intercounty games over the last four years is 96. Now we need to be cognoscente of the fact that the intercounty game is 10 minutes longer and that our club sample is a grand total of two! But it is interesting nonetheless.

When Gaoth Dobhair had the ball

Generally when Gaoth Dobhair moved the ball they did so efficiently with a 78% Attack Rate and an 82% Shot Rate. (Comparing like with like Clann na nGael manufactured remarkably similar returns; a 79% Attack Rate and 82% Shot Rate).

What really stood to them however was their shooting. They produced a 74% Conversion Rate to return 0.47 points per possession. They are both very good numbers.

How this was produced is interesting. They didn’t manufacture a shot at goal and were reliant on deadballs to a large degree with 43% (10 of 23) of their shots coming from here. They converted 80% (0 – 08 from the 10) of these but that was more or less bang on average (Expt pts of -0.05) for where the frees were taken from.

I say “reliant” but that is over egging it a bit as their point taking was very good. They were 69% on 13 attempts scoring ~2.5pts more than expected (yes yes I know you can’t score half a point ….).

As can be seen from the below chart their shot selection was very good – or conservative depending on your point of view – with everything being within ~30metres and nothing wild from the wings.

Also noteworthy that all 13 shots came from just five players with no defensive player (or at least those with a defensive number on their back!) taking a shot.

When Naomh Conaill had the ball

Though only two points behind at the break Naomh Conaill were only chugging along in the first half. They managed to stay in the game through frees (0 – 04 from 4; Expt Pts +1.07) with their half being bookended by two points in the 1st and 32nd minute. That left 30 minutes in between where they recorded just the two attempts from play and didn’t score off either.

Gaoth Dobhair’s defence tightened up in the second half giving up just the one shot from a free meaning that, with 14 men, Naomh Conaill had to produce from play. And unfortunately they were unable to do so scoring 1 – 01 from 9 attempts with an Expt Pts of -2.47. Part of that negative Expt Pts was the two missed goal attempts from E O’Donnell and J O’Malley however they were also 0 – 01 from 6 on point attempts.

Kickouts

By the numbers the kickout battle was relatively even with Gaoth Dobhair coming out 19 – 17 on top. However Naomh Conaill were only able to keep on Gaoth Dobhair’s coat tails through their short ones. When the ball went past the 45 Gaoth Dobhair came out 17 – 11 on top and manufactured four more shots from those kickouts won (10 shots scoring 0 – 06 as against six shots scoring 0 – 01).

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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.

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.

Appendix

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

Appendix

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.

Deadballs
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.

Kickouts
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”

Appendix

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!

Dub%20-%20Don%20league%20SF%20Overview

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.

Appendix

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

Overall

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”.

Kickouts

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)

Turnovers

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

Overall

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.

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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.

PhotoGrid_1435445010407

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.

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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

Kickouts

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.

Turnovers

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

Overall

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.

Overall

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.

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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.

Turnovers

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!

Kickouts

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
Deadball
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.