Posts Tagged ‘Down’

Derry v Down 1994 Ulster

April 23, 2020

This is the third game in the historic series (the 1985 All Ireland final between Kerry & Dublin can be found here whilst game4 of the 1991 Leinster series between Dublin and Meath can be found here) and a few observations highlighted in those games still hold true.

The game was different. The component parts – kickouts, fielding, shooting – were the same, and the current metrics we have for measuring them are probably a fair comparison, but the overarching principles that underlined how teams approached the game were different. Very different. Possession was not as important as it is now – clearing your lines was the first thought. This led to a lot more contested balls which in turn nullifies some of the metrics (points per possession, Attack Rates) we now view a game through (see note1).

In this game there were 113 team possessions with 31% of those possessions having just one player control the ball. 60% had no more than two players control the ball. No team possession had more than seven individual player possessions. This was very similar to that aforementioned 1991 game where there were 114 total possessions with 32% having one player possession, 63% having two player possessions and only one possession in the whole game having more than six individual player possessions (incidentally that was Kevin Foley’s goal!).

Compared to recent years? The four finals in the last three years have averaged 91 total possessions with 7% involving one player, 21% involving no more than two players and a whopping 35% with seven or more players controlling the ball. The game was different.

When Down had the ball

Overall Down had three fewer possessions throughout the game but managed to produce three more shots. (Incidentally that is now a clean sweep in these historic games for the team losing the possession count but winning the game). In and of itself this tells us something about that Down forward line; when they got the ball they were able to manufacture a shot. Again for the four finals in the last three years the Shot Rate (getting a shot off from possessions inside the 45) was 79.5%. Down produced a Shot Rate of 89% here.

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

That Shot Rate was somewhat inflated by the sheer volume of deadball attempts – eleven in total (10x frees and 1x 45). Eleven is high both when compared to current trends (last two years have seen an average of 6.4 deadballs per team per game) and historically. The four teams in the previously mentioned historic games averaged 8.0 shots from deadballs per team. Greg McCartan had an off day from the ground returning 0-04 from 10 which is about 0-03 below (Expt pts -2.96) what the modern free takers would be expected to return (see note 2)

Given the shots they attempted Down were expected to score 1-18 (Expt pts of 21.5). We have touched on the poor returns from deadballs above but their shooting from play was more or less in line with modern returns (1-10 from 21; 52% Conversion Rate & Expt pts -0.74). They had three clear cut goal chances, which, incidentally, were their last three attempt from play, returning 1-00 leaving a stat line of 56% (0-10 from 18) and Expt Pts of -0.23 for point attempts from play. This is good shooting in an All-Ireland final (point attempts from play were 53% for the four finals from 2017) and, as we will touch upon below, was greatly aided by their decision making.

Mickey Linden was exceptional scoring 0-06 from 8 (Expt pts +1.41). Three with the right, two with the left and one fisted effort … all after missing a very simple fisted point with his first attempt. In the first half he was 0-05 from 7 whilst also being directly involved in the build up to two further shots. Derry got to grips with him in the second half, ostensibly by moving McKeever across to pick him up, however he was still pivotal getting out in front and shifting the ball with quick hands for McCabe’s goal and also letting the ball into the forward line for the Whitnall attempt that was pulled wide.

Part of Linden’s success was his link play with Aidan Farrell. Farrell, as the starting target man, “only” came away with 0-01, however he was the primary assist on six Down shots in the first half including 0-03 of Mickey Linden’s haul. In a nod to his flexibility, and ability, he was then brought further out to field to try and stymie the influence Gilligan & Tohill were having there.

McCabe must go down as one of the most impactful substitutes. He was only on the pitch for 10 minutes but was centrally involved in all three of Down’s goal attempts, which were condensed into a four minute period from the 63rd minute, whilst also shifting the ball to Whitnall who was then fouled for the last score of the game. Incidentally there is a great interview with him from 2019 here

When Derry had the ball

Derry were not as efficient as Down, either in terms of manufacturing shots from attacks (a shot rate of 78% versus 89% for Down), nor in converting those shots (a Conversion Rate of 45% versus 53% for Down).

Derry’s deadball returns were below what was expected (50%; 0-04 from 8 Expt pts -1.60) but not as poor as Down. Their goal attempts (1-01 from 2) also returned more than Down’s did. Which all leads to a very poor day on their point attempts.

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

Derry’s point attempts are outlined above. The majority of them came from “outside” where their accuracy fell apart in the second half; they missed all seven after going 0-03 from 5 in the first half. In fact when we compare the Down shots from play, versus the Derry ones, we can see a clear distinction.

Disc = score, X= miss; black = Derry point attempt from play, white = Down

A lot of Down’s comparative accuracy can be attributed to where the shots came from. The aforementioned decision making. Expanding the inside/outside zone (granted I have made this fit the argument but still …) Derry had 10 shots from outside the bulk of Down’s shots and scored just 0-02 from those 10 attempts. Inside both teams were more or less as accurate as each other; both returned 56% (Derry 0-05 from 9 and Down 0-09 from 15). Down’s chances were just heavily weighted to the more favourable scoring opportunities.

No one had a “Mickey Linden” day for Derry but Joe Brolly was very good. Not only did he convert both his attempts but he was also the primary assist in seven more shots including winning three frees and setting up McCusker for the goal


Generally speaking Derry dominated the kickouts. They gained 11 extra possessions (27 won versus 16 for Down) on the 43 kickouts without the volume being skewed towards them. They won 64% of their own kickouts (14 of 22) but also 62% of Down’s (13 of 21). They were dominant. Using current rules I had them claiming seven Marks, to Down’s three, with Gilligan & Tohill bagging three apiece (hence why Farrell was moved out)

But they didn’t turn this dominance into a scoreboard effect. Derry scored 0-05 directly off the kickout possessions won, which results in 0.19 points per possession (ppp). Down scored 1-05 from the 16 kickouts they won for 0.50 ppp

Unlike the modern game short kickouts were not really a “thing” with only five (12%) of the 43 kickouts dropping short of the 45. For context in the last four All-Ireland finals 58% of kickouts went short.

The kickout rules were different back in 1994. If a kickout was taken after a score it was taken from the 20m line. Otherwise it was taken from the edge of the small square. This had a huge variance on the length of the kickout and from Derry’s perspective the outcome. Below is their kickout chart with those kickouts post a score in white.

Disc = Derry gained possession, X= Down gained possession; white = after a score, black= after a wide

You can see that all bar three taken post a score made it past the 65 – basically onto Gilligan & Tohill – with two dropping just short of the 65. Derry dominated around the middle winning 10 of 14. But when the kickout was taken from the edge of the square Down managed to win 4 of 7 … three of these seven, circled in red, came in the last six minutes two of which led to the McCabe goal chances. Looking at the length of these three kickouts compared to the other four is it possible that the sheer volume of long kickouts emptied McCusker’s leg?

As an example of the differing emphasis there were 29 possessions started outside both team’s 65s in this game compared to an average of 7.75 over the past four All Ireland finals

This is another area, along with the possession count, that the modern day game distances itself from these historic games. And puts the accuracy of modern day free takers, such as Dean Rock and Séan O’Shea, into context. In the three historic games reviewed so far the teams combined for a deadball return of 49% (0-25 from 51). The average from the past five Championships was 72.6%. Rock, in the most pressurised of games, is running at 73% in All Ireland finals.

The three historic games’ deadballs are below. Now they have taken more long range pot shots than you are likely to see today but as a rule of thumb the target for current free takers is 85-90% “inside” and 50% “outside”. These historic returns are below expected on the “inside” (82%; 0-18 from 22) but well behind on the “outside” (24%; 0-07 from 29)


Monaghan v Down 2016 Ulster

June 7, 2016

For those new to the blog, or who haven’t been here for a while, please find a refresher on the definitions and how the numbers are compiled here

Team Possessions Attacks Shots Scores Exp Pts
Monaghan 51 44 37 2 – 22 22.35
Down 40 28 20 0 – 09 11.23

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monaghan Deadballs

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


Shot Charts

Monaghan’s shooting

Monaghan shooting (V Down 16)

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


Players with >= 3 shots from play

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

Derry V Down 2015 Ulster Championship

June 10, 2015

For those new to the blog, or who haven’t been here for a while, please find a refresher on the definitions and how the numbers are compiled here


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

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

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

Outcome simulation

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

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

Shots from Play

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

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

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

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

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

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

Derry 1


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

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

Shots from deadballs

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Shot Charts

Derry’s shooting
Derry shooting (v Down ) 15

Down’s shooting
Down shooting (V Down) 15

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

Players with >= 3 shots from play

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

Tyrone V Down 2014 Championship

May 19, 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
Tyrone 38 27 71% 13 48% +0.174
Down 31 21 68% 11 52% +0.649
Champ avg (’12 & ’13) 35.8 27.6 77.2% 14.1 51.0%

Both teams were poor at converting what attacking possession they had to shots whilst Down were kept at bay by Tyrone for long periods of the game. It is not often you will cede seven extra attacking possession, and six extra shots, and not lose.

Séan Cavanagh’s heroics at the end of the game ensured that this was viewed as a missed opportunity for Down however, taking the game as a whole, Tyrone will be kicking themselves at not converting such superior volumes of attacking possessions and shots to a win.

Shots from Play

Team Shots Scores Success Rate Weighting
Tyrone 18 6 33% -1.700
Down 17 8 47% +0.517
Champ avg (’12 & ’13) 20.3 9.2 45.4%

Apart from the relative lack of shots the main thing that jumps out is Tyrone’s poor shooting from play. 17 of those 18 shots were for points with only four of those coming from central areas. Also three shots, all unsuccessful, were very long range (on or outside the 45). A bit more patience, working the ball into more central areas, may have elicited an extra point or two.

On a more positive note McCurry’s goal came at the end of a wonderful counter attack. It started with a short free deep inside their own 20m which after seven passes (5x hand plus 2x kick) ended up 21 seconds later in the Down net.

Down’s shooting was very much weighted to the right hand side (see their shot chart below) with only two of their 17 shots from play come from the left hand sectors – in contrast nine came from the right hand sectors. I’m sure this will not escape either management teams’ attention for the replay.

Although there was a total of five goals there were only three goal shots from play – with all three converted

Shots from deadballs

Player Shots Scores Success Rate Weighting
S Cavanagh (Tyrone) 4 3 75% +1.015
D McCurry (Tyrone) 3 2 67% +0.106
P Harte (Tyrone) 1 1 100% +0.593
N Morgan (Tyrone) 1 1 100% +0.160
D O’Hare (Down) 3 2 67% -0.460
A Carr (Down) 1 1 100% +0.593
team avgs (’12 & ’13 Champ) 7.3 4.9 66.7%

Some excellent dead ball striking all round with only three attempts missed. Unfortunately for Down one of those was a relatively easy attempt for O’Hare from the 20m line which would have put Down three points up with only a few minutes to play.

Séan Cavanagh’s only miss was an attempt from a sideline which landed short leading to the first penalty incident whilst McCurry’s miss was from wide right with the last kick of the first half – both very difficult attempts.


Tyrone’s kickouts Won % Turned into a possession % Shot %
Tyrone 10 50% 7 70% 4 40%
Down 10 50% 8 80% 4 40%
Down’s kickouts Won % Turned into a possession % Shot %
Tyrone 8 38% 5 63% 5 63%
Down 13 62% 9 69% 7 54%

Down got the better of the kickout battle gaining possession on 56% (23 to Tyrone’s 18) of all kickouts. Their dominance from kickouts can be better illustrated if we remove those taken short – which generally suit the kickout team. Here they won 61% (20 to Tyrone’s 13).

How much of this dominance can be attributed to the change in goalkeeper after Niall Morgan’s black card?

When Morgan was on the pitch, excluding those short, he took six kickouts. Down won three of those six but importantly Down did not manage to get a shot from any of those won.

When O’Neill was on the pitch he took nine kickouts (excluding those that went short) and Down won an impressive seven of those nine. From those seven Down scored 1-01 and managed another two shots.

So there was definitely an effect on Tyrone’s ability to hold on to their own kickouts. In fairness to Tyrone they themselves identified this during the game with three of their last four kickouts going short however it would not be correct, or fair, to lay this down turn in kickout success squarely at the new goalkeeper’s feet.

Yes two of those nine kickouts were won cleanly by Down, and appeared from this vantage to have been misdirected, but the other seven were contested. At the same time as the goalkeeper swap Down had changed their midfield with Coulter & McKernan replacing Turley & Rogers. Down’s dominance on Tyrone’s kickouts had as much to do with that change as the change in keeper.


Turned Over Shots from Turnovers %
Tyrone 30 14 47%
Down 26 12 46%


Misplaced Pass Tackled Shots not going dead Mishandled possession Fouled ball
Tyrone 10 11 3 4 2
Down 15 6 1 4 0

The only reference we have for shots/scores off turnover ball is the league final. That day Dublin converted 33 turnovers into 24 shots (73% Shot Rate) whilst scoring 1-09 (30% Success Rate).

The volume of turnovers in this game were “in the ball park” with Dublin’s returns however neither team were anywhere near as successful at converting that turnover ball into shots. Was this an effect of evenly matched teams in the Championship Vs runaway league win? Or are Dublin that good at transitioning the ball? Time will tell.

Although they only managed 14 shots from their turnover ball Tyrone will be delighted with scoring 2-07 (Success Rate of 30%) from that. Down on the other hand only managed 1-05 (Success Rate of 23%)

Shot Charts

Tyrone’s shooting
Tyrone shooting (v Down)

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

Players with >= 2 shots from play

A word for Cavanagh – he scored five points in total form seven shots with his only misses being a sideline attempt and a shot that hit the post. In 2013 he produced the best display of the Championship from deadballs against Meath. If Tyrone’s profligacy from play persists they will need him to step up in this department as well.

Shots Scores Success Rate Weighting
K Coney (Tyrone) 5 3 60% +0.506
C Maginn (Down) 4 1 25% -0.618
S Cavanagh (Tyrone) 3 2 67% +0.865
C McGinley (Tyrone) 3 0 0% -1.275
D McCurry (Tyrone) 2 1 50% +0.234
D O’Hare (Down) 2 1 50% +0.233
C Laverty (Down) 2 1 50% +0.149
Mattie Donnelly (Tyrone) 2 0 0% -0.737
K McKernan (Down) 2 0 0% -0.858

Donegal V Down 2013

June 25, 2013

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 18 53% 12 67% +3.1895
Down 34 21 62% 9 43% -1.534
2012 avg 35.28 27.02 76.6% 13.96 51.67%

Down had their chances. They had as many possessions as Donegal . They had more shots than Donegal. But in the end it was their execution, especially whilst shooting from play, which let them down. You can implement the perfect system but if you can’t get the ball over the bar you can’t win.

Given the nature of the commentary re the defensive tactics employed in the game the overall volumes of possessions don’t look too bad. This was due to both teams withdrawing into their 45m allowing the opposition to, relatively speaking, walk the ball up until the defense was ready to engage. Getting into the 45, and thus gaining a possession, wasn’t the difficult part. The difficult part was getting a shot off from the right area with the right shooter. Both teams’ low Shot Rates reflect this.

In the first 30 minutes both sides had four shots from play. Donegal’s four came from Murphy (x2), McBrearty & McFadden and yielded 3 points. Down’s four came from Quinn (x2), Mooney & Boyle with none of them registering. Donegal had the patience and discipline, having played this system for so long, to ensure that their best shooters took their shots.

Shots from Play

Team Shots Scores Success Rate Weighting
Donegal 11 6 55% +1.2045
Down 14 3 21% -2.263
2012 team avgs 20.14 9.36 46.5%

Neither team mustered a shot at goal which is not entirely surprising given the formations.

Down’s shooting from play was quite poor – though Donegal deserve as much credit for this as Down deserve admonishment. All 14 Down shots were taken with Donegal pressure being applied to the kicker. So much so that three of the shots were blocked. In a physically absorbing game that is tremendous hustle and concentration from the Donegal defence. McFadden got a point late in the second half from a Down pass that went astray inside their own 45m. Nothing similar happened within Donegal’s ranks.

Donegal’s shooting was above average. The combined returns for both this and the Tyrone game now show a 61% Success Rate (14 scores from 23 shots). That is excellent but can it be maintained? Or once they meet more open teams will the extra shots mean they can absorb the inevitable regression to the mean?

If you wanted to find a chink in their offensive armour then you could possibly look at Murphy & McFadden taking 57% of all shots from play. Tony McEntee addressed this issue in Monday’s Examiner [here] though he focussed solely on McFadden. Stop just two forwards and you blunt Donegal. Easy – except two of the better managers, in Harte & McCartan, have known this and not been able to accomplish it.

The high reliance on Murphy & McFadden is not new but it has been exceedingly high thus far. Excluding frees Murphy & McFadden accounted for 25% of all of Donegal’s shots in their 7 Championship games in 2012. Even in tight games with low shot counts (Tyrone, Kerry & Mayo), akin to the two games they’ve play this year, the percentage *only* rises to 36%

The problem is that if you do sell out on the Big 2 the remainder of the team is highly accurate when called upon. See here for details within a pre season piece I did on Donegal. They just haven’t needed to be called upon to date. Pick your poison.

Shots from deadballs

Player Shots Scores Success Rate Weighting
M Murphy (Donegal) 4 4 100% +1.381
C McFadden (Donegal) 3 2 67% +0.604
D O’Hare (Down) 6 5 83% +0.574
D Savage (Down) 1 1 100% +0.155
2012 team avgs 6.88 4.6 66.9%

Genuinely excellent shooting all around. Murphy is the first player to get a weighting above 1.00 this year – and he smashed through it. Not only that but his returns would have been even better if when the referee brought a free forward 13m he let the original successful strike stand. He hit a monster of a shot from c50m and to the left of goals towards the end of the game which just epitomized his day from the ground.

The bare numbers do not do O’Hara’s day justice. His only miss was one against the wind that hit the post. Plus some of his frees with the right foot from the right hand side of the pitch were extremely difficult.

You always get the sense that no stone is left unturned with Donegal in this area. Given that O’Hare has a pronounced right footed action it is no coincidence that only one scoreable free was given on Down’s left (the strong side for O’Hare’s action). Against Tyrone despite a high deadball count (10) very few frees were given inside the 45m line. Although Morgan had an excellent League final up to that he had been patchy. Donegal were not afraid of the aberration, the League final, and ended up using a perceived strength of Tyrone’s to undermine them.

Shot Charts
You often hear commentator’s state that one way to beat the blanket defence is to kick over it. Down had 6 shots, fairly central, & from c38 – 48 metres out that would probably meet the definition required to successfully kick over a massed defence. They only converted one however. The problem with trying to kick over a massed defence is (a) they can still pressure the shooter as they have so many back (b) this pressure leads to an already more difficult shot becoming harder again and (c) it is not always your best shooter in this position.

I think this may be one of the keys to Donegal’s excellent shooting stats … they get the big three, especially McFadden, taking shots further out the pitch than would be expected of a normal full forward line.

Donegal’s shooting

Donegal shooting

Down’s shooting

Down shooting

x = missed, disc = score, yellow = deadball, white = play

Donegal-Down kickouts

Donegal did not go short once against Tyrone however in this game did so four times. The main reason for this was that Down forced them to. Donegal’s first five kickouts went medium/long – a continuation of the pattern against Tyrone. Down however won three of those first five kickouts and forced Donegal into a rethink. Donegal then went short on four of the remaining six.

Something similar happened Down. Eight of their first ten kickouts went medium/long with Donegal winning five. Five of the next six went short.

Though the stats show that both teams secured a majority of their own kickouts this was only done by switching to shorter kickouts after the opposition had negated their original plan.

Players with >= 2 shots from play

Shots Scores Success Rate Weighting
C McFadden (Donegal) 4 3 75% +1.504
M Murphy (Donegal) 3 1 33% -0.465
K Quinn (Down) 3 0 0% -1.195
R Kavanagh (Donegal) 2 1 50% +0.252
R Boyle (Down) 2 0 0% -0.578
K McKernan (Down) 2 0 0% -0.752

Derry V Down 2013

June 6, 2013

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
Derry 42 32 76% 17 53% +2.3639
Down 46 33 72% 19 58% +3.7934
2012 avg 35.28 27.02 76.6% 13.96 51.67%

A very open game with high volume returns for the main attacking metrics. Derry’s Shot & Success Rates were in line with the average; to return as high a weighting as they did shows that the shots they took were more difficult than would normally be expected.

Down’s shooting overall was excellent with a high Success Rate and a high weighting. If they were going to be harsh in their analysis, after an excellent victory, then they may be concerned with their Shot Rate, especially with Donegal on the horizon. For all the possession they had they really should have managed to get another 2 or 3 shots off.

Down will not have as much possession the next day and a similar low Shot Rate will inevitably feed into a low score.

Shots from play

Team Shots Scores Success Rate Weighting
Derry 24 15 63% +5.142
Down 31 17 55% +2.899
2012 avg 20.14 9.36 46.47%

Derry’s shooting from play was scintillating. That performance is as good as we are likely to see in the Championship. Between them Eoin Bradley & James Kielt scored 0-08 from 11 shots (73% return with a combined weighting of +3.418) however Bradley’s hidden value was immense. He was involved in all 3 of Derry’s shots for goal; taking one and setting up the other two – including Lynch’s goal; he was fouled for two of the four frees Derry took a shot from and also “won” two of Derry’s three 45s. He was immense.

The issue with Derry however was the Jeckyll & Hyde nature of their shooting strategy (see shot chart below). In the first half they took 14 shots from play with 9 (64%) coming from Sectors 5 & 8, the two most productive sectors. In the second half only one of their 10 shots from play came from these sectors. Their second half returns were still about above but they moved away (or were moved depending on your viewpoint) from what got them the lead at half time.

Team Half Shots Scores Weighting
Derry 1st 14 10 +3.764
2nd 10 5 +1.378
Down 1st 15 8 +1.448
2nd 16 9 +1.452

Although overshadowed by Derry’s returns Down’s shooting was also very good. On top of being more consistent, with both halves being quite similar, they were also a lot more clinical. Down had 3 shots at goal and only the base of the post stopped them converting all 3.

Shots from deadballs

Player Shots Scores Success Rate Weighting
O’Hare (Down) 2 2 100% +0.894
Heron (Derry) 3 1 33% -0.28
Bell (Derry) 2 0 0% -1.667
J Kielt (Derry) 1 1 100% +0.452
Lynch (Derry) 1 0 0% -0.558
E Bradley (Derry) 1 0 0% -0.726
2012 team avgs 6.88 4.6 66.9%

Both teams did very well to only concede five frees between them within scoreable range.

Derry, and Bell in particular, are slightly hard done by here. Due to the fact that the volumes of shots from sidelines is so low we cannot give them an accurate weighting (yet!). As such they are considered free kicks – and Bell gets crucified for missing two free kicks in Sector 9 rather than one of them being a sideline.

Shot Charts
You can see how Derry’s shooting changed after half time. Their first half shots from play are in white whilst the second half are in black. They obviously have great strikers of the ball, as shown by their returns in this game, but too many times it was the wrong player (P Bradley, Quinn, O’kane) taking the shots from the wrong sections.

Derry’s shooting

Derry shooting

Down’s shooting

Down shooting

x = missed, disc = score, yellow = deadball, white = play

The normal kickout data is included above but perhaps of more interest was what was happening on Down’s kickouts. Derry ‘let’ Down have the short kickout which, as discussed in the Dublin-Westmeath game, is a strategy that has merit. However on the first 7 kickouts that Down took (all short) they managed to get a shot from each and bagged 0-04 points.

Down Won Shots Scores
First 7 short 7/7 7 4
Remainder short 6/7 4 3
Mid/Long 7/9 2 1

The strategy itself is fine but what were Derry doing? If they were dropping back from Down’s kickouts where was the pressure when Down crossed the half way line. To implement this strategy is fine but you must follow up by blocking the route to shooting in your 45.

When Down did go long Derry were much more effective at stopping the shot coming. After witnessing the outcome of those first 7 short kickouts the Derry management really should have sold out and stopped anymore short kickouts.

Players with >= 2 shots from play

Shots Scores Success Rate Weighting
McKernan (Down) 7 4 57% +0.823
E Bradley (Derry) 6 4 67% +1.294
J Kielt (Derry) 5 4 80% +2.124
Poland (Down) 5 3 60% +0.837
Madine (Down) 5 3 60% +0.616
O’Hare (Down) 4 3 75% +1.038
Lynch (Derry) 2 2 100% +1.286
Lynn (Derry) 2 2 100% +1.168
McCallion (Derry) 2 0 0% -0.645
Heron (Derry) 2 1 50% +0.239
O’Kane (Derry) 2 0 0% -0.842
Quinn (Down) 2 0 0% -0.842
Laverty (Down) 2 0 0% -0.866

Mayo V Dublin

September 5, 2012
Team Possessions Shots Shot Rate Scores Success Rate Return Vs Expected
Mayo 36 29 81% 20 69% +5.07
Dublin 41 32 78% 16 50% -2.00
avg 38.5 27.6 71.7% 13.9 50.4% 0.00

That is an excellent set of returns from Mayo with both their striking from the ground and their shooting from play returning well above average returns

A lot of the focus has been on Mayo’s 20 minute ‘collapse’ in the 2nd half. Dublin did have 10 of 11 possessions in a dominant spell, resulting in 10 shots and 7 points, however if we look at the 2nd half as a whole Mayo’s offensive production was slightly above average.

1st Half

Team Possessions Shots Shot Rate Scores Success Rate Return Vs Expected
Mayo 18 17 94% 13 76% +4.63
Dublin 20 14 70% 6 43% -0.58

2nd Half

Team Possessions Shots Shot Rate Scores Success Rate Return Vs Expected
Mayo 18 12 67% 7 58% +0.44
Dublin 21 18 86% 10 56% -1.42

What Mayo did produce was a stellar first half that saw some excellent shooting with 76% of all shots ending in a score. For 30 minutes they played as well as any team recorded to date with every possession producing a shot.

From play

Team Shots Scores Success Rate Vs Expected
Mayo 21 13 62% +3.53
Dublin 22 7 32% -2.70
avg 20.5 9.2 44.9% 0.00

As has been already noted Mayo’s shooting from play was excellent. Dillon, Varley & McLoughlin hit 7 points from 9 shots between them. It must be remembered that these returns include two woeful misses from the hand (from Varley in the 1st half & Conroy in the 2nd). Exclude these and Mayo were shooting the lights out.

Dublin had their chances. They had 1 more shot than Mayo from play but scored 6 less points with Kilkenny, Connolly & B Brogan not scoring from 11 shots between them. This is a well documented issue with the Dublin front 6 – when B Brogan is off form then no one has consistently stepped up to the plate. They were getting by up until this point but eventually ran into a team that made them pay.

Dublin players with >= 7 shots from play

Shots Scores Success Rate Vs Expected
B Brogan 28 11 39% -3.07
D Connolly 17 7 41% -0.97
K McManamon 16 8 50% +0.16
P Flynn 13 6 46% +0.98
A Brogan 11 5 45% +0.17
E O’Gara 8 3 38% -0.60
B Cullen 7 4 57% +0.54

As stated this is not new. It was a similar issue in 2010. If one of Kilkenny, McManamon or Connolly (A Brogan is a wonderful puppeteer, spraying balls left, right & centre however he is not a good shooter) do not step forward and take the scoring weight off of B Brogan’s shoulders then Dublin will struggle to get over the line again.

From deadballs

Player Shots Scores Success Rate Vs Expected
C O’Connor (Mayo) 7 6 86% +1.30
E Varley (Mayo) 1 1 100% +0.24
B Brogan (Dublin) 6 6 100% +0.91
S Cluxton (Dublin) 3 3 100% +0.73
K McManamon (Dublin) 1 0 0% -0.94
team avgs 7.2 4.8 66.2% 0.00

Prior to yesterday only 30% of 45s (11 from 36) were converted in 23 matches. In fact take Cluxton’s previous efforts out and this drops to a meagre 23%.

The ball striking from the ground in this game was superb with Cluxton & O’Connor hitting 6 from 6 on 45s. Even the 45 that Cluxton dropped short at the end was perfectly weighted to give the Dublin forwards a chance to get a fist on it.

The expected return doesn’t really do justice to this 45 success rates. I haven’t extracted returns from 45s out from other frees between the 21m & 45m line so they are treated as ‘normal’ frees. This is one obvious weakness of the database that will be rectified once I start making amendments after the season ends.

The free taking all round was excellent though the relative ease of Brogan’s frees can be judged from the fact that his expected return was lower than O’Connor’s even though O’Connor missed one shot.

McManamon’s return got hammered because he didn’t score from a free in front of goal (94% of these frees end in a score). There are just not enough instances of players going for goals from these positions to give them a different weighting than those frees that take a point.

Below are the returns for shots from play. A few notes
–> A Dillon now has a success rate of 88% (7 scores from 8 shots) between the QF & SF
–> C Kilkenny showed glimpses of what anyone watching underage football has seen over the past number of seasons. To have the courage to step up, in that atmosphere, and be the joint top shot taker is something else. To be able to back it up with scores must be very exciting for Dublin fans.
–> B Brogan is slightly hard done by in these returns. 3 of his 4 shots were shots at goal with 2 blocked and 1 saved. As well as hitting his 6 frees he also ‘earned’ 2 of Cluxton’s 45s & 2 of his own frees. He had a good game – he is just judged harsher than others due to the stellar play we know he can produce.
–> Similarly M Conroy had an excellent day though it doesn’t show up here. He won 3 frees that O’Connor took as shots (2 were converted) and was also responsible for 2 of O’Connor’s 45s

Players with >= 2 shots from play

Shots Scores Success Rate Vs Expected
C Kilkenny (Dublin) 6 3 50% +0.35
D Connolly (Dublin) 6 2 33% -0.52
B Brogan (Dublin) 4 0 0% -2.11
A Dillon (Mayo) 4 3 75% +1.24
M Conroy (Mayo) 4 1 250% -0.71
E Varley (Mayo) 3 2 67% +0.81
P Flynn (Dublin) 3 2 67% +0.73
K McLoughlin (Mayo) 2 2 100% +1.14
J Doherty (Mayo) 2 1 50% +0.04
C O’Connor (Mayo) 2 1 50% -0.08

Mayo V Down

August 27, 2012
Team Possessions Shots Shot Rate Scores Success Rate Return Vs Expected
Mayo 51 41 80% 21 51% -0.83
Down 24 18 75% 11 61% +0.06
avg 38.5 27.6 71.7% 13.9 50.4% 0.00

This was the first Mayo game I charted this year (thanks to Sky+ gremlins for the Connacht final!) and that’s certainly an eye-opening entry.

To have 51 possessions in a game is remarkable – they absolutely lorded it over Down. Despite the fact that they had so much possession they weren’t wasteful – their shot rate was well up there with the best performance of the weekend (Cork @ 84%).

Perhaps the one area of concern may be that despite the pressure being off in the second half they missed a number of easy chances – an above average success rate with a negative Expected Return shows that they missed more of the shots they were expected to get.

Down just couldn’t get enough primary ball to make an impression. Their shot rate has been fairly consistent (75% in this game; 76% vs Donegal & 77% vs Monaghan) but if you know that you are going to convert three quarters of your possessions into shots then you also know that 24 possessions isn’t enough.

From play

Team Shots Scores Success Rate Vs Expected
Mayo 33 15 45% -0.82
Down 11 5 45% -0.42
avg 20.5 9.2 44.9% 0.00

From deadballs

Player Shots Scores Success Rate Vs Expected
C O’Connor (Mayo) 8 6 75% -0.01
A Carr (Down) 5 5 100% +0.93
L Doyle (Down) 1 1 100% +0.06
A Rogers (Down) 1 0 0% -0.51
team avgs 7.2 4.8 66.2% 0.00

Again Mayo’s shooting was a bit below par but if you are taking 33 shots from play in a game you can afford for your returns to be average.

One point that will worry Mayo is the loss of Andy Moran. He ‘only’ scored one point from play however he set up Doherty’s goal, won a 45m and was also fouled for 3 frees that led to points. This was all mainly in the first half when the game was still alive.

Cillian O’Connor’s free taking was average – he missed a 45m (isn’t everyone this year??) and a free out on the right hand side. He has a round the corner action when striking a free; although he scored two frees from inside the 21m on the right hand side it is noticeable that the one free he missed was on that side also. I have only ever charted this game so I am unsure what his strike rate is like – however this may be an issue if following games end up being close.

A quick word on Dillon – as can be seen below he had a terrific shooting day.

Players with >= 2 shots from play

Shots Scores Success Rate Vs Expected
M Conroy (Mayo) 6 3 50% +0.12
A Dillon (Mayo) 4 4 100% +2.42
K McLoughlin (Mayo) 4 2 50% -0.08
C O’Connor (Mayo) 4 1 25% -0.81
A Carr (Down) 2 2 100% +1.25
B Coulter (Down) 2 2 100% +0.82
A Moran (Mayo) 2 1 50% +0.04
J Doherty (Mayo) 2 1 50% +0.04
A O’Shea (Mayo) 2 1 50% -0.08
E Varley (Mayo) 2 1 50% -0.08
A Freeman (Mayo) 2 0 0% -1.10

Donegal V Down

August 1, 2012

Apologies for the delay. Raw data below – I’ll have some commentary anon

Team Possessions Shots Shot Rate Scores Success Rate Return Vs Expected
Donegal  42 31 74% 20 65% +4.39
Down 34 26 76% 13 50% -0.76
avg 38.5 27.6 71.7% 13.9 50.4% 0.00

From play

Team Shots Scores Success Rate Vs Expected
Donegal 26 17 65% +5.04
Down 20 10 50% +0.92
avg 20.5 9.2 44.9% 0.00

From deadballs

Player Shots Scores Success Rate Vs Expected
C McFadden (Donegal) 4 3 75% +0.26
M Murphy (Donegal) 1 0 0% -0.91
L Doyle (Down) 3 2 67% -0.64
A Carr (Down) 2 0 0% -1.1
D O’Hare(Down) 1 1 100% +0.06
team avgs 7.2 4.8 66.2% 0.00

Players with >= 3 shots from play

  Shots Scores Success Rate Vs Expected
C McFadden (Donegal) 5 3 60% +1.00
L Doyle (Down) 4 2 50% +0.13
K McKernan (Down) 3 1 33% -0.17
P McBrearty (Donegal) 3 1 33% -0.17
L McLoone (Donegal) 3 1 330% -0.36

Donegal V Down preview

July 19, 2012

Thanks to the BBC giving us coverage of the whole Ulster Championship we have all of Donegal & Down’s games to date charted. As such we will have a look to see if we can derive any strategic tendencies. As ever this comes with a health warning – we only have 5 games (3 from Donegal, 2 from Down).


Team Possessions Shots Shot Rate Scores Success Rate Return Vs Expected
Donegal (game avg) 34.67 25 72% 14.67 59% +1.71
Down’s opponents (game avg) 33 25 76% 11.5 46% -1.59
avg 38.5 27.6 71.7% 13.9 50.4% 0.00

Donegal’s volume of possessions appears quite small however there has been some disparity based on the opponent (29 vs Tyrone, 36 vs Derry & 39 vs Cavan). This disparity is indicative of the progression in their game plan evident throughout 2012 – they can still play the blanket defence but are also able to open up when conditions suit. What’s been strikingly evident so far this year is Donegal’s excellent shooting – their accuracy (both success rate & Expected Return) has been consistently above average.

Down have allowed only 33 possessions in both their games so far however they have allowed an above average shot rate. Whatever game plan Donegal goes with Down will offer up shots – and if Donegal maintain their excellent shooting then these shots will be converted at a higher rate than average.

From play

Team Shots Scores Success Rate Vs Expected
Donegal (game avg) 18.33 9.33 51% +0.91
Down’s opponents (game avg) 17.5 5.5 31% -1.49
avg 20.5 9.2 44.9% 0.00

From deadballs

Player (totals) Shots Scores Success Rate Vs Expected
C McFadden 13 10 77% +1.33
M Murphy 7 6 86% +1.07
Down’s opponents 15 12 75% +1.30
avgs 66.2% 0.00

Donegal are a lot more accurate in their shooting from play than Down’s opponents have been to date. Down have ridden their luck a litle – given Donegal’s shooting prowess they cannot rely on this continuing.

Donegal’s shooting from play has been accurate but its their deadball striking that stands out. Murphy & McFadden have hit 16 from 16 in frees (they’ve missed a sideline & 3 45s).

The reason for Donegal’s success rate, and the higher than average return, may lie somewhere in the below table. This table outlines where abouts on the pitch the team’s shots have emanated from (for a refresher on the breakdown on the sectors see

Sector 1 – 3 4 & 6 5 7 & 9 8
Donegal 3% 40% 28% 8% 21%
Down’s opponents 6% 30% 36% 16% 12%

Donegal seem to have a ‘T’ shaped shooting zone from in front of the goal and across the pitch between the 21m & 45m lines (89% of their shots are in this zone). To have a 59% success rate whilst 40% of your shots are from sectors 4 & 6 is quite impressive.

Down have been good at ensuring that the area immediately in front of their goal (sector 8) is blocked up however this won’t suffice against Donegal. Donegal didn’t have one shot on goal against Tyrone – they are happy to shoot from out the field. Somehow Down will have to push out on Donegal when they’re ready to shoot, wherever that may be, and thus relinquish some of the stranglehold they have immediately in front of goal.

Players with >= 4 shots from play

Shots Scores Success Rate Vs Expected
P McBrearty 9 3 33% -1.19
R Kavanagh 6 5 83% +2.25
C McFadden 6 3 50% -0.09
David Walsh 5 2 40% -0.18
M McHugh 4 3 75% +1.55
F McGlynn 4 2 50% +0.06
N Gallagher 4 2 50% -0.04
A Thompson 4 1 25% -0.79


Team Possessions Shots Shot Rate Scores Success Rate Return Vs Expected
Down (game avg) 32 26 81% 13.5 52% -0.09
Donegal’s opponents (game avg) 35.67 24.33 68% 10 41% -2.21
avg 38.5 27.6 71.7% 13.9 50.4% 0.00

Down’s shooting has been average but what they have been very good at is turning the possession they get into shots. Down were a perfect 11 from 11 in their last 11 shots against Monaghan and it is this level of excellence that the team will focus on however without that magnificent finish their shooting returns would be very poor.

Unsurprisingly Donegal allow a below average shot rate however the very poor Exected Return of their opponents cannot all be attributed to Donegal’s tenacious defending. As noted in the Tyrone game they allowed 4 shots on goal which on another day could have resulted in scores whilst the opponent’s deadball striking has been atrocious (something the Donegal defence can’t take credit for).

From play

Team Shots Scores Success Rate Vs Expected
Down (game avg) 19 8.5 45% -0.20
Donegal’s opponents (game avg) 17.67 6.67 38% -0.84
avg 20.5 9.2 44.9% 0.00

From deadballs

Player Shots Scores Success Rate Vs Expected
A Carr 6 3 50% -1.76
D O’Hare 5 5 100% +1.32
A Rogers 1 1 100% +0.60
L Doyle 1 1 100% +0.49
K Duffin 1 0 0% -0.51
Donegal’s opponents 20 10 20% -4.09
team avgs 66.2% 0.00

There is no real distinction between Down’s shooting from play and their deadball shooting – both are average. As noted earlier the very negative Expected Returns from Donegal’s opponents can not all be attributed to Donegal’s defence however as the below shows Down will have to be selective in what shots they do take on

Sector 1 – 3 4 & 6 5 7 & 9 8
Down 4% 27% 27% 19% 23%
Donegal’s opponents 6% 30% 23% 33% 8%

50% of Down’s shots come from the sectors (5 & 8) immediately in front of goal. Donegal only allow 31% of shots against them from these sectors. Despite the high level of shots taken in front of goal Down’s returns are average. If Donegal force Down to take shots from the wings then given Down’s poor shooting (excluding that phenomenal 20 minutes against Monaghan) you would have to favour the Donegal men. We know Down get a high percentage of possessions off as shots – but can they get those shots off in the right areas?

Players with >= 4 shots from play

Shots Scores Success Rate Vs Expected
C Laverty 5 3 60% +0.64
D Hughes 4 0 0% -1.50
D O’Hare 4 2 50% +0.18
D O’Hagan 4 2 50% -0.06