Posts Tagged ‘Dublin’

2019 All Ireland Review

September 12, 2019

The preview of this game is referenced throughout the below and can be found here

Overview

• Kerry won the possession battle – but mainly through regaining shots rather than kickouts or turnovers
• They also had more shots than Dublin
• On raw volume Kerry had five shots at goal only returning 1 – 01. Dublin had one and returned 1 – 00. But Kerry had a propensity to foul O’Callaghan to stop the attempts at goal whilst O’Shea popped over 0 – 02 from subsequent 45s
• Dublin were brilliant on the use of kickouts scoring 1 – 10 from 25

Dublin attack

(disc = score, X = miss; yellow = deadball, red = attempt at goal, black = point attempt 1st half, white = point attempt 2nd half)

This is not Jim Gavin’s template. In the four games used within the preview Dublin produced a 62% Conversion Rate on point attempts with 54% coming from “outside”. Here they were 47% (0 – 09 from 19) with 63% (12 of 19) coming from “outside”. Neither are horrendous but when compared to their previous outputs it does look like Kerry knocked them out of their stride. I say Kerry but quite a lot of the poor Conversion Rate was execution. Of their 12 shots “outside” I tagged eight as being taken under little or no pressure. From those eight Dublin managed just 0 – 01

Part of the reason for the “inside”/”outside” split was Kerry’s propensity to foul. They gave Dublin eight shots at goal from frees with six being very central – including four on O’Callaghan (nicely rotated by Kerry – one each for Foley, Barry, Murphy & O’Sullivan). These inside frees are also directly relatable to the fact that Dublin only had one shot at goal. Less shots at goal because Kerry were intent to foul O’Callaghan. More fouls equate to less mayhem (rebounds, pulling up for easy point attempts inside the 20m line) which affects the inside/outside ratio.

On those goal attempts, Kerry only allowing one (frees on O’Callaghan aside) was an exceptional defensive effort. From 2018 (the Super8 games onwards) Dublin have averaged five attempts a game (6, 1, 8, 2, 3, 8, 5 and 7 before the drawn game). Even if we include the O’Callaghan attempt that was pulled back for a free (as an aside this isn’t recorded in the database as the end result of the possession was a shot at goal from a free …) that means that Kerry allowed a shot at goal once every 21 possessions. Dublin had been producing a goal attempt once every 8.5 possessions in the run up to the final. And this would appear to be repeatable as after the Munster final Kerry had allowed only eight shots at goal – or one every 23 possessions!

At a player level Kerry were excellent at nailing down Dublin’s Big3 (O’Callaghan, Mannion & Kilkenny). In the run up to the final they were accounting for 49% of Dublin’s point attempts with an incredible Conversion Rate of 71%. Here they combined for just 0 – 03 off five points. You cannot say that these three were peripheral as they combined for 11 primary assists but Kerry did lock down their shooting. One man who was, in an attacking output sense, peripheral was Scully. He didn’t pull the trigger whilst on the pitch and his only primary assist was the final pass for McCaffrey’s goal.

And yet for all this the strength of Dublin’s panel flowed through with Rock & McCaffrey combining for 1- 06 from 9 shots.

Rock’s numbers were gaudy. Scoring 0 – 10 in an All Ireland is a phenomenal achievement. But we must overlay a little context here. 0 – 07 came from nine deadballs with 0 – 06 coming from readily scoreable positions. He got everything, deadball wise, he was expected to and missed two of his three hard ones; – out wide right with his right and the last kick from on the sideline.

Kerry’s attack

Kerry had two more shots than Dublin (31 to 29). This quite simple statement is not to be taken lightly. Only Mayo, in the 2015 semi final and 2017 Final, had achieved this in the 20 late stage games (QF/Super 8s onwards) in Dublin’s drive for 5.

They were very similar to Dublin on point attempts with 19 in total and 58% (11 of 19) “outside”. Dublin were 0 – 03 from 12 on their outside shooting; Kerry 0 – 04 from 11. Dublin got 0 – 06 on their seven “inside” shooting with Kerry producing a relatively poor 0 – 04 from 8.

(disc = score, X = miss; yellow = deadball, red = attempt at goal, black = point attempt 1st half, white = point attempt 2nd half)

Dublin will look to up their “Outside” returns but Kerry equally have room to improve on the easier “Inside” attempts. Whether they will is another matter – their “inside” shooting has been consistently poor all year; in the four games from the Super8 to the semi final they were 59%. I cannot give a concrete reason as to why Kerry have been so consistently poor “inside”. But it is definitely a thing.

The big divergence on how the teams performed, and executed, was on goal attempts. It is a crude (but effective) read through that Kerry restricted Dublin here by fouling O’Callaghan. So their attempts are somewhat supressed in the raw numbers. Still Kerry produced a very impressive five shots at goal but only returned 1 – 01. Given one of these attempts was a penalty – which are converted at a rate > 80%, the expected return is somewhere in the region of 2 – 01.

In the run up to the final Kerry’s Big3 (Clifford, Geaney & O’Brien) had combined for 51% of their attempts from play with an excellent Conversion Rate of 69%. Here they were again to the fore with 48% (11 of 23) of all of Kerry’s shots from play but their radar was well off scoring just 0 – 03 from those 11 shots. And one of those points was an attempt at goal that went over. Given the shots attempted Kerry left 1 – 00/0 – 03 behind them from these three alone.

Luckily (though in truth luck has little to do with it) for Kerry the rest of the team stood up scoring 1 – 06 from 12 attempts (58%; Expt Pts of +2.19). This was in line with what we had seen in the run up – 52% & +4.0 Expt Pts – and should give Kerry confidence that they can keep the scoreboard ticking over

Aside from the raw numbers perhaps the most impressive element was that these “secondary” shooters attempted Kerry’s final six shots producing 1- 04 from the 55th minute onwards. When the pressure was on the shooters outside the Big3 stood up.

Another man who stood up was Séan O’Shea. Whilst Rock had the headline figure of 0 – 10 his deadballs were, as noted above, average. O’Shea converted all seven of his deadballs including three 45s. We are more certain on the Expt Pts for deadballs than from play and O’Shea returned 0 – 02 more from his seven attempts than the average free taker would score. And that is without overlaying the situational position he found himself in “needing” to keep the scoreboard ticking over just to keep Kerry within range.

Kickouts

Despite the fact that the possession regains were relatively even, at 25 v 23, Dublin are still the Kings of the restart. Getting their hands on the ball is only part of their strength – what they do with these restarts is their real weapon. Here they scored 1 – 10 from the 25 kickouts won, or 0.52 points per possession (ppp). Kerry scored 0 – 08 or 0.35ppp

(slight change in language here. Normally we use the phrase “won” the kickout but we’re using “possession regain” instead as won indicates a positive intervention from the keeper or outfield players. Sometimes teams just get lucky when they “win” a kickout)

In the preview it was predicted that kickouts out past the 45 would break even. And so it was with both teams getting their hands on 12 apiece (Dublin won 8 of their 13 that went past the 45; Kerry were 7 of 11 on theirs). The fear for Kerry was their short ones. They had lost seven in the run up to the final and Dublin were primed to pounce getting their hands on 7% of the opposition’s short ones and scoring off each one.

Kerry did give up two short ones. And Dublin did score off both. But both had gone over the sideline and whilst the two quick points hurt it was not calamitous.

Cluxton gave up his first short one of the year. Tommy Walsh intercepted one out to Cluxton’s left and whilst he composed himself to take a shot off same it was a poor effort. If Dublin give you an easy one, whether it is the 1st minute or the 71st, you have to take it.

(disc = kickout team won, X = kickout team lost; black = 1st half, white = 2nd half)

Looking at the kickout chart Ryan did not shirk from the difficult ones … but those “mid mid” kickouts just around the 45 are lethal. Kerry won all four but you have to imagine that Dublin will be looking to pounce on these come the replay. Compare where those four are compared to where Cluxton puts them when he goes past the 45

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All Ireland preview; – 3 key areas (Examiner)

September 12, 2019

The below article was originally published in the Irish Examiner on August 31st (the day before the game)

Dublin’s Goal threat

From 2015 – 2018 teams have had a shot at goal once every 18.5 possessions. Dublin have averaged 13.5 in the same timeframe including once every 11.6 possessions in both the 2017 and 2018 campaigns.
In their three competitive games (ignoring the reserve’s run out up in Omagh) this year, from the Super8s onwards, they have recorded 20 goal attempts; 8 vs Cork, 5 vs Roscommon and 7 vs Mayo. That equates to one goal attempt every 8.2 possessions.

That big a jump in one year represents a clear change in strategy.

The catalyst for this change? Con O’Callaghan. He has been directly involved in 60% of these goal chances (6x shots and another 6 assists in the build-up). Not unconnected is the fact that Dublin have earned 0 – 06 from Rock frees after O’Callaghan was fouled. His ability to hold the ball up also enables Dublin’s marauding midfield duo to join the fray. Fenton & MacAuley have combined for 4 – 01 from five attempts.

Can Kerry contain this goal threat? They will have to. First impressions matter and our first Championship glimpse of this Peter Keane led Kerry team was that of Cork ripping the back line asunder for goal chance after goal chance in the Munster final.

There is hope, however. In the four games since then Kerry have allowed just nine shots at goal – or one every 23 possessions. That is immensely frugal and counter to the general view held of this Kerry backline.

If Dublin get their seven shots at goal, then Kerry will concede in the region of 3 – 02. If the Kerry defence can maintain their current form, they will allow two shots at goal conceding 1 – 00/0 – 02.
Incredibly small differentials – but it is in these margins that All Ireland finals are won.

The Big3

Both teams have a Big3 up front. For Dublin they are O’Callaghan, Mannion & Kilkenny. Kerry’s are Geaney, Clifford & O’Brien. Both sets are producing incredibly accurate displays – whichever trio prevails on Sunday will go a long way to deciding the outcome.

In the aforementioned three games Dublin’s Big3 have accounted for 45% (33 of 74) of all their attempts from play combining for an exceptional Conversion Rate of 70% (3 – 20 from the 33 shots). The average intercounty Conversion Rate for shots from play is 48%.

A quick word on Mannion. Over the years Dublin have had an obvious target of moving their shots in closer to goal. Every Dublin player’s shot map will be much tighter in 2019 when compared to 2016. Except for Mannion. He is their designated “outside” shooter (if such a thing exists). And he is fulfilling that role to perfection. In the three games under review he is 81% (0 – 09 from 11) on point attempts and 0 – 05 from 6 on the wider, longer attempts. If Kerry do drop to protect the goal, they cannot allow Mannion to pick them off from long range.

What of Kerry’s Big3? They are even more central to Kerry’s game plan being responsible for 51% (49 of 97) of Kerry’s attempts from play. This despite Clifford missing the Meath game and O’Brien running into black card trouble. Combined they are running at a barely creditable 76% (3 – 34 from 49).

The fear from a Kerry perspective is just how reliant they are on these three. If Dublin shut them down the back up is O’Shea, the two Spillanes, Moran, Murphy, Tom O’Sullivan. All capable but not “shooters” of the quality to replace the output of the Big3. The rest of the panel have produced a Conversion Rate of 50%. Dublin’s Conversion Rate outside the Big3 is 61%.

Kickouts

It is impossible to preview a big game without considering primary possession. And thus kickouts. Kickouts account for 52.7% of all possessions. To win the game you must have the ball. To have enough ball you must get your hands on kickouts.

There has been quite a bit of commentary on Dublin’s high press and the pressure it applies to the opposition’s goalkeepers. And it absolutely does. But in terms of kickouts retained the raw numbers have Dublin winning 31% of the opposition’s kickouts and 43% of those that travelled past the 45. Kerry have also won 43% of the opposition’s kickouts that travelled past the 45. So, whilst the Dublin press is exceptional it hasn’t produced the volume of raw possessions, in direct comparison to Kerry’s returns, that might be expected.

Dublin do have a distinct advantage in one area; short kickouts. Dublin have not lost possession off a Cluxton short one this year. In big games since 2017 (QF onwards) Cluxton has coughed up just 3 out of 162 short kickouts. Yes, teams drop off. And yes, Dublin possess a wonderful group of ball handlers at the back. But Dublin also have Cluxton. He always has been, and continues to be, the master of the quick restart. And, crucially, he doesn’t overcommit. There are no absolutes, but the numbers suggest he has learned not to press the short one.

Contrast that with Ryan. He is still on a steep learning curve in his maiden campaign. Kerry have gone short 60% of the time but have lost possession seven times. That includes three in one vs Donegal. Dublin have gotten their hands on three of the opposition’s short ones scoring off each (1 – 02). Ryan will come under immense pressure on Sunday. The default, when the pressure comes, must be long.

2019 All Ireland Preview

August 28, 2019

As in previous years we will do a preview of this year’s All Ireland final by reviewing previous games within the year.

The methodology is roughly the same. We have four competitive games for Kerry under Peter Keane – the three Super8 games against Mayo, Donegal and Meath plus the semi-final against Tyrone. We have a lot more for this Dublin team but so as to ensure like for like comparisons I have used Dublin’s semi-final against Mayo, the two competitive Super8 games against Cork and Roscommon (no sniggering down the back) and I have replaced the run out for the reserves up in Omagh with their Leinster semi-final v Kildare (see NOTE1).

When team or player numbers are referenced, they will relate to these eight games unless specifically stated otherwise.

The commentary has a “this is what Dublin do – how do Kerry measure up/defeat them” slant to it. This is the nature of the beast when you are going for 5 in a row.

Possession – the unseen edge

I reference “the unseen edge” above because in the previous four Championship campaigns every three possessions you gather is worth 0 – 01 on the scoreboard (teams scored 0.37 points per possession (ppp)).

In their four games under scrutiny Dublin managed to get their hands on the ball 27 times more often than their direct opponents. The differences ranged from 3 more possessions against Cork (in a game with 81 total possessions) to 11 more against Roscommon (in a game with 91 possessions). If they maintain this in the final it is akin to starting 0 – 02 up.

The makeup of their possessions is interesting. Given their dominant nature (NOTE2) in these games Dublin have had 20 less possessions directly from their own kickout despite having a much higher retention rate; Dublin have retained 81.5% of all their kickouts whilst the opposition retained 70.5%.

How have they made up the deficit then if they are starting from -20 on their own kickout? One area is the aforementioned retention rates on kickouts – Dublin have gotten their hands on 36 opposition kickouts whilst only giving up 15 of their own. Thus, on kickouts in their entirety Dublin are one possession up. We’ll go onto the details later but here is where the mere fact of counting can set you wrong. Yes, their opponents have essentially broken even on kickouts against them – which is surprising given Dublin’s perceived dominance. But it is the type and ratio of kickout that is won/lost that is of vital importance.

The remainder of Dublin’s possession edge is gained on turnovers (+22) and Other (NOTE3) (+4). Dublin’s turnover differential is nearly all achieved inside their own 45. On turnovers outside their own 45, which would be deemed as the most dangerous as the opposition is caught in an attacking mindset, they are only +2 (gained 20 turnovers outside their own 45 but gave up 18 such turnovers to the opposition).

It is somewhat surprising that they gave up the ball 18 times outside the opposition’s 45. Digging a bit deeper Mayo did the damage getting their hands on such ball ten times. The other eight were split evenly (Kildare x3, Cork x3 & Roscommon x2); so, it appears to be just small sample size noise.

What of Kerry?

Unlike Dublin their games have been closer which means that they have, proportionally, taken more of the kickouts (45% in total; Dublin have taken 40%). On the surface this should help Kerry in the possession battle. But Kerry have not been as clinical in their execution either on their own kickout (Retention Rate of 77%) or the oppositions (opposing teams have retained 80%). This in turn means that whilst Dublin came out with a possession total of +1 from all kickouts Kerry come out with a -20.

The good news is that they were aligned with Dublin in pure turnover terms (+19; 89 turnovers won in the four games v 70 conceded) however were slightly ahead of Dublin in where those turnovers were won. 28 were won outside their own 45 with 19 such turnovers conceded.

Revisiting that small sample size noise from the Dublin numbers. What if Mayo’s press identified a small chink? Mayo claimed ten (five of which occurred in the first half when the game was there to be won) turnovers outside their own 45. Kerry, with the oft quoted Donie Buckley link, are not only good here but have obviously worked on what they do when they win such ball. Of the 28 turnovers up the pitch they have produced 21 shots and scored 2 – 13. Of the 21 shots 14 had six or less player touches … they look to strike hard and fast off the turnover.

But for all their good work on turnovers that kickout number of -20 is very concerning. Especially when you consider that they will be up against (a) the best kickout press in the game and (b) the team with historically the best kickout in the game. More of that anon.

When Dublin have the ball

Once Dublin get their hands on the ball what do they do with it? The simple answer is they score. The 10-84 they amassed in the four games equates to 0.58ppp. As stated previously the average for games from 2015 – 2018 was 0.37ppp (NOTE4). And the scary thing is that they are actually getting better.

Last year’s preview touched on a lot of the themes as to how Dublin had increased their Conversion Rate. It is worth re-reading now as a lot of the principles still hold through.

Goals

Dublin are the goal Kings. From 2015 – 2018 inclusive (non-Dublin) teams went for goal every 17.8 possessions. As the above table shows Dublin have, apart from the blip in 2016, gone for goal at a much more frequent clip. But they have been relatively consistent on this going for goal every c11.5 possessions. In 2019 they have obliterated this mark going for goal once every c8.2 possessions. That is a huge change in emphasis.

It is worth noting that they have not been more efficient when going for goals (NOTE5). But they don’t need to be. They are coming away with 1.50 points per goal attempt which is better than can be achieved than going for points. Con O’Callaghan has been the catalyst here with six shots himself but also being directly involved (NOTE6) in the build up to another seven attempts (3x primary assists & 4x secondary assists).

You want to stop Dublin going for goals – nail down O’Callaghan. That’s not to say he’s the only threat. The two midfielders (Fenton & MacAuley) have combined for another six attempts getting a score from each attempt (4 – 02). Only Mannion, of the main strikers, has not been productive scoring 0 – 01 from his three attempts.

To increase your points per possessions you don’t necessarily need to get better at any one thing – if you tweak the ratios to go for the more productive shot more often then you’ll increase your returns.

Point attempts from play

That tweaking of shot types, to eke out more efficiency, leads us to Dublin’s point taking. The below shot chart is taken from 2016 and contains Dublin’s point attempts for the four games from the QF onwards

Every team will have a different shooting zone (as an example I used a completely different zone when previewing last year’s final). For illustrative purposes I use the red dotted line to denote “inside” and “outside”. I’m sure internally Dublin’s is different, but we can work with this. In 2016
• Dublin had an overall Conversion Rate of 45%
• 21% of all their point attempts came from “inside”
• They produced a 76% Conversion Rate “inside” and 37% “outside”

Now let us look at the same chart for 2019

Even visually you can see the change – the “inside” is so much more populated. There are no shots inside the 20m line from out wide. But to put some comparative meat on the bone
• Dublin now have a 62% Conversion Rate
• 46% of all their point attempts were from “inside”
• They have recorded a 74% Conversion Rate “inside” and 52% “outside”

Want to improve your points per possession? Go for goals, which are more productive per shot, more often whilst maintaining the Conversion Rate. Move more point attempts “inside”, again maintaining the consistency whilst also improving your “outside” shooting.

Kerry have their big three in Geaney, Clifford & O’Brien. For Dublin this year it has been Mannion, O’Callaghan & Kilkenny. Between them they have taken 49% of their point attempts with a whopping combined Conversion Rate of 71% (0 – 30 from 42; Expt Pts of +10.15). That is amazing consistency.

Con O’Callaghan again shows up well on the point taking tables with a 70% Conversion Rate (0 – 07 from 10; Expt Pts +1.82) and 11 primary assists. Combined with his involvement with the goals and he has become a central cog in what Dublin do.

But Paul Mannion has topped him in terms of accuracy with a Conversion Rate of 76% off a whopping 21 point attempts. That despite him being Dublin’s ostensible outside shooter.

Elsewhere Niall Scully has been the assist machine being directly involved in the build up to 25 point attempts and six goal attempts

Deadballs

And just to top it all off introduce a red hot Dean Rock during the Super8s. He is 95% (0-20 from 21) on deadballs with his only miss being deep in injury time against Mayo out wide left just to kill the clock.

On Rock. In the lead up (QFs, Super8 & SFs) to the AI final in the last three years he has been imperious recording a 92% conversion rate (0 – 36 from 39) on frees with an Expt Pts tally of +4.81. He has dropped off in the finals however returning just a 73% Conversion Rate with an Expt Pt of -0.20.

He is the best free taker bar none. He has shown his metal in 2017 when slotting the winning point deep into injury time. But he is human and has shown it previously when we enter the finals.

What of the Kerry defence?

Have we seen anything from Kerry to show that they can disrupt this process?

In the four games under scrutiny they have only allowed eight shots at goal including two penalties. That is an excellently frugal one attempt every c23 opposition possessions. If Kerry can keep Dublin to their pre 2019 standards of 1 goal attempt per every 11.5 possessions that should see Dublin at 4 shots at goal (assuming a c90 possession game). Meet somewhere in the middle of the 8.2 attempts from Dublin and 23.2 allowed by Kerry and you are at three attempts. Using Dublin’s conversation rates 3 attempts comes in at 1 – 01; four attempts and you are at 2 – 00. Any more than that and Kerry are staring down the barrel of a defeat.

Dublin have attempted 23 point attempts from frees or one every 8.6 possessions. Kerry have allowed the opposition to take 24 shots, or one every 7.7 possessions, at goal from frees. These 24 included three from outside the 45 (2x M Murphy, 1x C O’Connor). Whilst Rock is capable of slotting these over he knows his range and generally doesn’t take them from out there. Removing these three longer ones reduces the rate to one every 8.8.

All other things being equal you want to avoid giving Dublin, and Rock these easy points. Foley, Murphy & Crowley will need to be cognoscente of their tackling as they have given away four shots at goal, from fouling, apiece. On top of that O’Callaghan is the most fouled player for Dublin (he’s won 6 shots at goal from frees – the next best is 2).

Stop Dublin going for goal. Especially O’Callaghan. But don’t foul him. No problem!

That leaves us with Kerry defending point attempts. At a macro level this has been very poor this year. Opponents have converted 66% (0 – 45 from 68) of all point attempts from play scoring in excess of 0 – 11 more than what those 68 shots would be expected to record.

However, when we look at the shot graph for these 68 point attempts what is striking is just how good teams have been from “outside”. Between them Kerry’s four opponents have combined for a whopping 62% (0 – 24 from 39) Conversion Rate “outside” which, for context, is miles ahead of Dublin’s 52%. And I can find no good reason for it other than Kerry have been on the wrong end of some excellent shooting. Will this continue in the final? Anything is possible in a one-off game against Dublin. But what it does indicate is that the Kerry defence has not been as poor – or porous – as the final scoreboard(s) indicate.

You can begin to see the bones of an argument as to why Kerry’s defence can hold Dublin. Restrict Dublin to four goal attempts (Dublin have averaged six, Kerry have given up two) with them scoring 2 – 00. A point attempt from a free every 8/9 possessions should yield Dublin 0 – 04 to 0 – 05. Give them the “inside”/”outside” ratio that they have enjoyed to date but restrict them to 19 shots (Dublin have averaged 21.5; Kerry have allowed a lower). That equates to 0 – 11 from play. You are now at 2 – 15 … possibly 1 – 16. And assuming your attack shows up you are in the game for 80 minutes.

When Kerry have the ball

So what of Kerry? Whilst not as stellar as Dublin their attacking returns have been very positive

If we assume 50 possessions each then just using the baseline metrics above Dublin come away with 24.4 scores (50*83%*84%*70%) whilst Kerry come away with 21.9 (50*83%*80%*66%). Using the points per possession its Dublin 29 points and Kerry 25 points. That’s not to say that this is how the game will end (that calculation is as rough as a badger’s a*se) but it does show that the Kerry forward line are not a million miles behind perhaps the most accurate front line of all time.

Their goal attempts – perhaps surprising given an inside line that consists of Geaney and Clifford with O’Brien on the burst from the half forward line – has been an issue, however. Not so much the execution but the volume. They have only managed nine attempts at goal over the four games which contrasts starkly with Dublin’s 24. Again, their Conversion Rate is very good (56% Conversion Rate and 1.89 points per attempt) but the volume just isn’t there. Playing it safe when in front of goal? You feel this is something that Kerry will have to up in the final. Either they have to take the two chances they get, or they have to go for goal more often and come away with 2 – 00 from four attempts rather than 1 – 01 from two goal attempts and two point attempts.

Whilst not quite in the Dean Rock mould Séan O’Shea has been very good on deadballs returning 83% (0 – 20 from 24) and scoring about 1.5points above what would be expected from his attempts. Very solid. Just like Rock he will have to prove he can do it in the white heat of an All-Ireland final.

Kerry’s point taking has been a smidgen off Dublin’s with a combined 59% (0 – 52 from 88). That is still excellent returning about 8.5 points above what was expected. But that could be even better if they were more careful on their “inside” shooting.

They’re “outside” shooting at 56% (0 – 29 from 52) is better than Dublin’s – which, as we have noted, has taken a huge leap from where they were at in 2016. It is their “inside” shooting at 59% (0 – 23 from 39) that is hurting them. It is almost as if the mind wanders when they get inside thinking the job is down. They have the outside shooting to compete with Dublin – they need to pop those easier points or alternatively turn some of those closer in shots to less secure goal attempts.

Kerry’s big three (Geaney, Clifford & Stephen O’Brien) returns are eerily similar to Dublin’s big3 attempting 49% of all of their point attempts for a combined Conversion Rate of 70% (0 – 30 from 43; Expt Pts +9.01).

Like Mannion O’Brien has been on fire with a 90% Conversion Rate (0 – 09 from 10 Expt Pts of +3.62) whilst he has been very high up on the assist chart with 16 primary assists (1x goal attempt, 9x point attempt and 6 frees won).

Dublin’s defence

Dublin have only allowed nine goal attempts in the four games tightening as they’ve gone along (3 v Kildare and Cork, 2 v Roscommon and 1 v Mayo). Stephen Cluxton has again shown just how good he is by producing five saves from those nine shots with the only ones getting past him being an outrageous piece of skill from Lee Keegan and a penalty from Luke Connolly.

Dublin have only coughed up 13 shots from frees (John Small x3, MD MacAuley, B Fenton, C O’Sullivan with two apiece) in the four games which equates to one every 13.1 possessions.

On point attempts they have allowed more or less what is expected; 20 per game with a 51% Conversion Rate allowing an Expt Pts of +0.94

All very simple and concise compared to the in-depth detail above. But only because Dublin, like on offence, do the basics very, very well. Don’t offer up the goal attempts. When tackling do so properly – or at least if you need to foul don’t do so inside the scoring zone. Only give up what is expected from point attempts.

For Kerry’s attack let us assume things stay as they are. The Dublin defence do their thing whilst the Kerry offence does theirs. Kerry will get two goal attempts (Dublin have allowed nine in four games; Kerry have attempted nine) resulting in 1 – 00. Kerry win five shots at goal from frees (somewhere between the one every 7.5 possessions that they earned, and the one every 13 possessions Dublin have allowed) scoring 0 – 04. Kerry take 21 shots from play (Kerry have average 22 point attempts whilst Dublin have allowed 20) with a Conversion Rate somewhere in the mid 50s which comes in at 0 – 11/0 – 12.

All things being equal Kerry score 1 – 15/1 – 16. Their defence stands up as previously outlined allowing 2 – 15/1 – 16. Just saying ….

Kickouts

Attempting to show how Kerry can stay in, and even win, the game is conditional on a lot of things, plausibly, going their way. Contain Dublin to four attempts at goal. Foul at a “normal” rate. Allow point attempts at a slower rate than Dublin have taken to date. Up either the goal attempt volumes or the accuracy. Outside shooting efficiency against them to regress to the mean. Maintain their high attacking efficiency.

But that is all superseded by one larger condition that also needs to break Kerry’s way. We touched on it earlier when looking at the possession volumes – Kerry absolutely need to break even in terms of possession volumes on kickouts. [A gentle reminder that they were -20 on kickout possessions compared to Dublin’s +1. Despite having more kickouts in games than Dublin]

Dublin kickouts

The kickout details for both teams are in the Appendix. Unsurprisingly Dublin have not lost a short one. I say unsurprisingly as in the eight games that comprised the QFs onwards in 2017 and 2018 Dublin lost just three short kickouts – a combined retention rate of 97.5% (retained 118 of 121).

If they get their hands on one of your short ones lookout – they got one each against Cork, Roscommon and Mayo scoring off all three. Those three equated to 7% (3 of 46) of all short kickouts faced. This success rate is a step up on previous. In the aforementioned eight games in 2017 & 2018 they got their hands on 5% of the opposition’s short ones (6 out of 103) but only came away with 0 – 02.

In the four games there have been 116 kickouts past the 45 with Dublin gaining possession 50% of the time. That may seem poor enough, but they were 63% on their own kickout and 43% on the opposition’s. Dublin may have a fearsome press, but the opposition have been getting their hands on the ball

Kerry kickouts

Intriguingly enough Kerry have also won 50% (40 of 80) of kickouts that went past the 45. They had similar splits to Dublin in that they won 58% of their own kickouts and 43% of the opposition’s.

The problem, and the fear, is that they have lost seven short ones in the four games played. Seven. Compared to Dublin’s zero. And not in any one game where they had a systems malfunction either. They have lost at least one short kickout in every game. Indeed, they lost two vs Tyrone and three vs Donegal.

As stated at the very start I was worried for Kerry winning primary possession on kickouts. I still am but if they can force the majority to go past the 45, they can break even. But if they continue to press the shorter ones (60% of their kickouts have been short) then they have a propensity to cough up the ball which will be calamitous against this Dublin team.

Prediction

I have faith in the Kerry brains trust. Although under different management they came with a plan against both the Dublin kickout in 2016 and the Donegal kickout in 2014. I believe they will lose the possession battle here by two or three, as Dublin get a few short ones off quickly, but they will avoid any obvious calamitous errors.

They will break even in terms of turnovers. The game will be a relatively open 92 possession game (Dublin games averaged 91.75 possessions; Kerry’s 93.5) with Dublin winning that battle 47 – 45. Then the fun starts. On current point per possession trajectories that has Dublin at 27 points (47 possessions x 0.58). I don’t see that – as outlined I can see the Kerry defence being stouter than anticipated. If it “drops” (drops is a relative term here!) to the 2018 level of 0.52ppp that brings them into the 2 – 18/2 – 19 realm. To get down to the projected score I have for Kerry of 1 – 16 then Dublin’s ppp needs to drop to 0.40. Which I just can’t see.

Kerry to be closer than people think but Dublin to win 2 – 17 to 1 – 16

NOTE1 By right I should have used the Leinster final v Meath as a more “competitive” game however Meath’s shooting was so poor that it would affect the overall averages. Plus Kildare went in at half time only four down, so it was competitive enough to spark the familiar second half surge from Dublin.
NOTE2 Dublin’s opponents tend to have more kickouts due to the sheer volume of shots Dublin take. You retain your own kickout at a much higher rate therefore if the opposition has a lot more kickouts they should have a higher volume of possessions from same
NOTE3 Other is defined as Throw Ins at the start of halves or shots blocked, off the post etc. regained by the attacking team
NOTE4 Remove Dublin’s returns from the equation and that drops to 0.36ppp
NOTE5 Dublin can have a higher points per attempt in 2019 compared to 2018 with a lower Conversion Rate as points scored off goal attempts are not included in the Conversion Rates but are in the points per calculation
NOTE6 Assists here are still defined by being on the ball – actual passes. Runs off the ball are probably as important – especially for goal attempts – but we’re not quite there yet.

APPENDIX
Dublin kickout data

Kerry kickout data

Dublin v Meath 1991 Leinster Game4

June 19, 2019

Overview

For the second game in this series (Kerry v Dublin 1985 final here) the team that came out on top of the volume metrics (Possessions, Attacks, Shots) was beaten. Again, similar to 1985, the team with the better Conversion Rate came out of top but unlike that game here the impact of goals, both those scored and those missed, were of greater importance.

A big focus of the 1985 final review was the very high volume of possessions at 145. Here, just six years later, the volume has dropped to 114. At first glance it would appear that the intervening rule change of allowing frees to be taken from the hand has helped teams retain possession. Whilst this is probably true it is slightly deceiving in the context of this game as there was a large gulf in half splits here with 49 possessions in the first half and 65 in the second. That 65 is more in line with the 1985 final than modern trends but the first half was low predominantly due to the vast volume of shots from frees early doors (10 shots in the first 21 minutes of which 9 were deadballs!) as opposed to either’s teams increased focus on retention of possession. Indeed much like 1985 32% of all possessions had only one player control the ball.

When Meath had the ball

Goals, goals, goals. They win games. Meath had three shots at goal scoring 2 – 00 including one of the most famous goals of all time. The most interesting aspect of Kevin Foley’s goal – from a numbers perspective – is that it is the first time we have seen a team hold onto the ball. 114 team possessions in the game and there was only one with a sequence of more than six passes – the goal. There were 12 different player possessions in that move. In the aforementioned 1985 final there were 145 possessions with none containing more than seven player touches.

At a macro level Meath’s Attack Rate of 43% is very poor however it is a consequence of the type of game that was in vogue at the time. The primary concern was to clear your lines rather than retain possession. The Shot Rate of 87% was excellent however. Meath struggled to get the ball into Dublin’s 45 but once they did they were extremely effective at getting a shot off.

Outside of the goal attempts their shooting was a touch below average; Stafford took all deadballs scoring 0 – 06 from 8 (7x frees + 1x 45) for a 75% Conversion Rate and Expt Pts of -0.17 whilst they were a combined 0 – 04 from 9 (44%, Expt Pts of -0.54) on points from play.

Whilst he didn’t trouble the scoreboard during this game – only the one long range effort in the first half that drifted wide – Colm O’Rourke was highly influential throughout the game. He was the primary assist for 0 – 04 (won three frees that Stafford converted as well providing the pass for McCabe’s point in the 59th minute) as well as being central to both goals – providing the final ball across the box for Stafford’s goal as well as, miraculously given the state of the game, finding a pocket of space to receive the ball and flick it on to Tommy Dowd in the final throes of the Kevin Foley goal.

When Dublin had the ball

Dublin’s 1985 loss could, quite easily, be laid at their poor shooting (36%, Expt Pt -3.73). Superficially that is not the case here with a 56% Conversion Rate from play and 50% overall however their shot chart tells a different story.

The expected return, for the shots they attempted, was bang on average (0 – 10 from 18 for a Conversion Rate of 56% and Expt Pts 0f -0.03) when compared to modern returns. This despite missing five shots from within ~25metres. Their issues came from deadballs.

Combined Charlie Redmond and D Sheehan had 10 attempts from frees converting 0 – 05. In and of itself a Conversion Rate of 50% is below average however when we overlay the current “inside”/”outside” range on to their frees it becomes obvious that they converted all the ones they should have (0 – 03 from 3 “inside”) but didn’t score enough of the “outside” attempts. Add Jack Sheedy’s desperation attempt at the end and their “outside” free taking returned 25% (0 – 02 from 8).

Unfortunately for Dublin their deadball woes did not end there. They were three points ahead when Keith Barr dragged his penalty wide in the 61st minute. Missing a penalty happens (probably a much more regular occurrence then as the penalty was taken from the 13m line thus making it a lot harder) but what is most remarkable about this one is just how close Mick Lyons was allowed to be when Barr is striking the ball.

I’m not sure Mick Lyons would ever be described as subtle … but that’s not even trying!

Kickouts

Returns were even with Dublin winning 21 kickouts to Meath’s 20. Dublin went short five times and were relatively successful with them manufacturing three shots and scoring 0 – 02. Meath didn’t go short but that didn’t hinder them as they won the possession battle 20 – 16 on kickouts that travelled past the 45.

The “old” kickouts rules were still in place however we began to see some changes when compared to 1985. Dublin were trying a more directional kick out to the sidelines than either team did in 1985; especially on those from the small square (noted in black on the below chart)

Kerry v Dublin 1985 All Ireland Final

February 17, 2019

The stand out metric from the game, when compared to how the game is played currently, is the number of possessions. Over the last four years the average number of possessions per game was 96. This year in the Super8s onwards it was 90. The very highest I have recorded is 116 (both from Dublin in 2015 – against Kerry in the rain in that year’s final and against Longford in Leinster). Here it was 145!

That 145 gives a snapshot into how the game was played – including the effect that the rules (see note1) then in effect had. Possession was not as coveted and instead clearing your lines, and contestable balls, were much more de riguer. 52 (36%) of the possessions had just one player on the ball. Throughout the game just seven (5%) possessions involved sequences of six or more passes (Kerry twice had sequences of seven pass). As a point of reference in this year’s final there were 94 possessions in total of which four (4%) had only one player in possession and 31 (33%) had sequences of six passes or more.

These high possession volumes have knock on effects on metrics such as Attack Rates, Shot Rates and points per possession. The ratio of turnovers to kickouts is also skewed.

So what of the game itself? From the television coverage there appeared to be quite a strong wind which is borne out by the fact that 3 – 14 of the 4 – 20 scored was into the Hill16 end. Kerry played into that end in the first half and opened up a sizeable lead that Dublin sought to furiously claw back.

The time series chart above shows how Kerry got ahead early. This was achieved through both their excellent shooting (82% conversion rate (1 – 08 from 11) & +3.40 Expt Pts) in the first half and also Dublin’s very poor shooting (20%; 0 – 02 from 10 & -3.53pts). Kerry had a lead of 0- 09 despite only having one more shot. Had both teams converted their chances at modern rates (see note2) the lead would have been 0 – 03.

The fact that Dublin were always in the game, despite the scoreboard, is highlighted by the fact that the two teams Expt Pts crossed somewhere around the 40th minute. Dublin created the chances – they just were nowhere near as clinical as Kerry.

When Kerry had the ball

As has been touched on both teams’ use of the ball was of the time so Attack and Shot Rates are much lower than we are used to. That said however Kerry’s shooting was as good and efficient as any team in the modern era with a 64% Conversion Rate and Expt Pts of +2.63. Kerry struggled to get shots off but when they did they were excellent ably led by Jack O’Shea & Pat Spillane who combined for 1 – 06 from just 9 shots.

Kerry they had four shots at goal returning 2 – 01 (Timmy O’Dowd’s only two shots in the game were both at goal!) whilst also returning 57% on all point attempts (0 – 08 from 14; Expt Pts of +1.83). Looking at the shot chart in the Appendix there was only really one long range or wide effort – from Eoin Bomber Liston at the end of the first half – which really helped their returns.

Bomber only had that shot in the game but he was immense for Kerry overall moving out to the middle third to shore that area up but also being involved in Kerry’s link play providing five main assists and also being involved in two other shots. Next on the assist chart was Ambrose O’Donovan who was involved in the set up for three point attempts and also being involved in the build up to both of O’Dowd’s goal attempts.

When Dublin had the ball

Dublin manufactured six more shots than Kerry but the majority of that was through deadballs (eight shots at goal from frees plus one 45 as against four frees from Kerry). Given that all frees were taken from the ground there was a bit of subjectivity overlaid on all the above shots in yellow to satae that they were indeed shots but … Rock struggled on the day converting just 38% (0 – 03 from 8). Duff missed the sole 45.

Point taking was also poor. Dublin attempted 16 point attempts returning just 0 – 05 (Expt Pts -2.21). Their “outside” shooting was fine retuning 0 – 03 from 6 with John Kearns popping over two fine efforts in the second half – one out on the defence’s right at 60 minutes and another from ~40m just right of the D. It was their “inside” shooting that let them down returning just 0 – 02 from 10 attempts with 0 – 01 from 6 in the first half when Kerry jumped out into their lead.

One noteworthy point was the fact that only six Dublin players attempted a shot throughout the game and only five from play (all of Barney Rock’s attempts were from frees). All six were their designated forwards (Tom Carr being a direct replacement for Charlie Redmond). Nothing, in terms of shots, came from their midfield back (see note3).

Kickouts

(note that the TV pictures missed where a few landed – a bit of subjective overlay required on those!)

The make-up of kickouts in 1985 was very different than today with just 7 (19%) of the 37 kickouts taken going short. Indeed of those the TV cameras picked up only three kickouts were “deliberately” short or clipped out to a player.

Of those taken after a wide (see note1), and thus from the small square, the kickout team won the possession battle 8 – 7. Similarly when the ball was placed on the 20m line, after a score, the kickout team won possession 11 – 10. There was no discernible difference in whether the kickout team won the ball depending on where the kickout was taken from.

When we look at it by team however there is a difference. Dublin had 19 kickouts with 4 going short. Of the remainder (those that went past the 45m) Dublin won 53% (8 – 7) however when the kick went longer, after being placed on the 20m line, Dublin won 64% (7 – 4). Kerry were able to attack the kickouts from the small square that went past the 45 getting their hands on 3 of 4. There was also something about O’Leary’s trajectory as none of his kicks were claimed through a clean catch.

Kerry on the other hand struggled. They claimed both of their own kickouts that went short however on their longer ones they lost the possession battle 6 – 10. Given the small sample size there was no discernible trend on those taken from the small square (lost 3 – 4) as opposed to those taken from 20m line (3 – 6).

Again we have to be careful overlaying modern sensibilities on the game (but are going to do it anyway!) however Dublin must have been disappointed with their return here. They were on top of Kerry’s kickouts but only produced 2 shots and 0 – 01 from the ten they won. Kerry scored 0 – 02 of the seven Dublin kickouts they won.

Note1; Major rule discrepancies between now and then
• All free kicks, including sidelines, had to be taken from the ground. This led to many long, contestable balls from half back and midfield into the forwards
• Differing kickout positions depending on whether you are taking a kickout after a score (thus from the 20m line) or from a wide (thus from the small square).

Note 2; We may be doing these historic games, and thus their participants, a disservice by comparing their accuracy to current regimes given the differences in the ball (heaviness) and much surer underfoot conditions in the modern game but it may also be instructive.

Note3; Kerry had eight different shooters. Again all six forwards (John Kennedy as a direct replacement for Ger Power had one shot – Power didn’t have a shot in the game) as well as Jack O’Shea and Tommy Doyle. Let alone score Doyle was thus the only back in the entire game to attempt a shot.

Appendix

Kerry shot Chart

Kerry kickouts (if missed by TV they have been left out of the below)

Dublin kickouts (if missed they have been left out of the below)

Portlaoise v Kilmacud Crokes Leinster Club SF 2018

November 30, 2018

As ever goals win games … or not. Portlaoise had two more shots than Kilmacud and also took shots that were expected, all other things being equal, to return a scoreline ~3pts more than Kilmacud. But Kilmacud ended up with 18 scores off a 64% Conversion Rate whilst Portlaoise returned 11 scores off a 37% Conversion Rate.

This was an incredibly open game with 12 goal attempts returning 4 – 04 and a phenomenal 40 shots in the first half. I think I called it “brilliantly bonkers” on twitter.

I mentioned the frantic pace at the start of Gaoth Dobhair v Crossmaglen as being unprecedented but we may need to review what the baseline for these upper echelon club games are. This game was every bit as frenetic; the first ten minutes produced 17 possessions with fifteen shots of which five were attempts at goal.

When Kilmacud had the ball


yellow = from deadballs; red = goal attempts; black = from play in 1st half; white = from play 2nd half

The most striking aspect of Kilmacud’s shooting was how close in to goal it was. 28 shots in the game with only maybe one coming from outside the optimal shooting zone … and that was from Paul Mannion who, given his form, is allowed shoot from anywhere!

They were 58% (0 – 11 from 19; Expt pts of +1.72) on point attempts from play which is very good. The Conversion Rate was undoubtedly aided by their shot selection however the positive Expt Pts shows that they were still more accurate than the norm.

At a macro level it looks like they are a very accurate team. We have the usual caveat of small sample size but this is the second recent game we have following the county final against St. Judes (didn’t do a write up but did cover the game) and they were 61% (0 – 11 from 18; Expt Pts of +2.71) on point attempts in that game.

Kilmacud had five shots at goal returning 1 – 03 which is about average. In the aforementioned game against St. Jude’s they also had five goal attempts returning 2 – 00.
Indicative of their attacking play those ten attempts at goal have been spread across five different forwards (Mullin x3, Mannion, Burke & Pearson x2 each and one from Horan)

There was nothing especially noteworthy about their free taking (0 – 03 from 4; Expt Pts of –0.65 as the one that Mannion missed was quite easy from the top of the D). Maybe Kilmacud might have a quibble at the dearth of frees as they’ve only had the five shots across the two games (four here and one against St. Jude’s) but Portlaoise and Jude’s combined for eight so there wouldn’t appear to be anything in that.

A quick note on Cunningham who was excellent as the link man. He had six primary assists in all; five for point attempts and one for a saved Mullin goal attempt.

When Portlaoise had the ball

Portlaoise had seven shots at goal one of which was the last minute penalty. Overall they come out with positive returns on these goal attempts (Expt Pts of +0.53) which is
remarkable considering the penalty save. I have penalties being converted ~80% of the time which means that a miss/save takes -2.35 off a team’s Expt Pts.

Overall Portlaoise recorded an Expt Pts of -4.66 so if their goal attempts came out more or less even then everything else must have fallen apart.

They had five point attempts from deadballs returning just 0 – 01 (Expt Pts of -2.36). Whilst two of these were 45s you would expect, in the normal course of things, Brody to have slotted one of them. Cahillane’s sole score was on the 13m line from in front of goal It was effectively a gimme (they are converted in excess of 99% of the time) so whilst one of his misses was from quite a tight angle he basically doesn’t get any benefit from the score to balance this out.

Then there was the point attempts. Portlaoise had 18 point attempts from play scoring just 0 – 06 (33%; Expt Pts of -2.83). Lillis and McCormack were the main culprits combining for 0 – 01 from 10. But more than individuals it was Portlaoise’s almost shoot on sight policy that hurt them. Below is a comparison of the two teams’ point attempts with Kilmacud in white and Portlaoise in black.

There is nothing to say you cannot convert from further out, or indeed that you cannot win by shooting over a team. But there is much greater variance in the returns from where Portlaoise attempted their points from as opposed to Kilmacud’s attempts

Kickouts

Very crudely Kilmacud followed the Dublin template with 73% (16 of 22) of their kickouts going short. They weren’t overly efficient on these however letting Portlaoise get their hands on two, scoring a goal off one and only scoring 0 – 04 from the 14 they did win.

Portlaoise were the inverse with 86% (19 of 22) of their kickouts crossing the 45. That made 25 kickouts in total crossing the 45 with Portlaoise coming out on top 14 – 11. Their poor conversion rates were evident again her however as they scored 1 – 02 from the eight shots off these kickouts whilst Kilmacud scored 0 – 06 off the 8 shots they manufactured.

Dublin v Tyrone 2018 All Ireland Final

September 6, 2018

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

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

When Dublin had the ball

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

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

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

So how did Dublin do it?

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

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

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

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

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

When Tyrone had the ball

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kickouts

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

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

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

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

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

Appendix

Time series chart v Galway

Dublin shooting chart


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

2018 All Ireland preview

August 28, 2018

Possessions

It goes without saying that the first primary objective of any team is to gain control of the ball. In the three most recent meetings between the protagonists (2017 AI semi-final, 2018 league and 2018 Super8) the total possession count is 136–135 in Dublin’s favour. It is somewhat surprising to see things so evenly matched however when we review first halves only Dublin are 69–62 ahead so game state has definitely had an effect on this metric.

Still Tyrone have been better in the last two encounters trailing the possession count at half time 24–23 in the league game and 22–20 in the Super8 contest. The concern here is that both of these contests were held in Omagh with all the built in advantages that entails. It will be imperative for Tyrone that they replicate these Omagh starts in the slightly less friendly environs of Croke Park and, at the very least, get on as much ball as Dublin. And get on it early.

Possession can be garnered in two primary ways. The first is through kickouts and the second is through turnovers (see note1 below). Kickouts are covered in depth below but focussing on turnovers there is definitely a trend favouring Tyrone. They, in their three games against Dublin, lead the turnover count 75 – 64 however that advantage dissipates when it comes to the prime counter attacking turnovers garnered outside your own 45. Both teams have managed to get their hands on 17 turnovers apiece outside the 45 with Dublin producing more (which will become a common theme) scoring 2–04 from these 17 possessions compared to 0–04 for Tyrone (see note2 below).

Tyrone’s turnover advantage is blunted by the fact that they have received the ball more often inside their own 45, giving Dublin time to reset the defence.

Once control of the ball is established the next step is to manufacture a shot. This is the oft referenced transition stage and is generally something that we in the GAA are bad at quantifying. We know, just from visual observation, that Dublin are excellent in this phase but just how good are they? And how do you quantify that?

Using shot totals as one measure Dublin are not that much better. In their three meetings Tyrone, despite having one less possession, actually end up with one more shot than Dublin (80 – 79). That even includes two shots that Dublin got from rebounds (so can’t really be attributed to “transition”). Now there is great disparity game to game (Dublin had six more shots in the 2017 semi-final, Tyrone had eight more in the league game whilst Dublin had just the one more in the Super 8 encounter) but Tyrone have, on the whole, created chances.

As further evidence of Tyrone’s ability to create chances; in their four most recent games (3x Super8 contests and the semi-final v Galway) Dublin progressed 68.9% of their possessions to a shot whilst the opposition combined for 69.3% on this metric. In their last four games, against much the same opposition as Dublin, Tyrone progressed 73.9% of their possessions to a shot. Of late Dublin have not really stopped teams, be it Tyrone or others, from transitioning to a shot.

If there is no discernible quantitative difference between how the teams use the ball then, given that Tyrone have lost the last three encounters by a combined 20 points, there must be quite a large qualitative difference.

When Dublin have the ball

Going into the 2017 final Dublin were recording a quite remarkable Conversion Rate of 61%. That was from five games which included three in the Leinster championship so theoretically that 61% should have been somewhat bloated by facing lesser opposition (that theory was dented when they then went out and hit 68% against Mayo in the final but still …. )

In their last four games, which on paper should have been collectively harder than the 2017 run in, Dublin have returned a quite incredible 64% (see Table1 in the Appendix for detailed player breakdowns). To try and put this into some form of perspective the average Conversion Rate from 2015 to 2017 was 53% whilst everyone else in the 2018 timeframe (Super8s and semi-finals) has hit 55%.

So how are Dublin achieving this?

Frees

Perhaps the most obvious place to start is with their free taking. Dean Rock has been the leading light in terms of accuracy of late. From 2015 to 2017 Dublin converted 82% of their frees (0–93 from 113) with Rock accounting for the vast majority of this; he took 81% of all their frees in this timespan recording a whopping 88% (0–81 from 92) Conversion Rate. Every other free taker was a combined 72% during this period.

Within the four games outlined above Dublin have converted 82% (0-18 from 22) of their shots from frees with everyone else from the Super8s onwards combining for 74% (0–95 from
128). Dublin would appear to be maintaining their free kick superiority.

It is not as clear cut as all that however. With the Super8s including long range experts like Michael Murphy, Rory Beggan and Niall Morgan it could be argued that Dublin should be hitting a higher Conversion Rate as they are collectively attempting easier frees.

Dublin have taken 55% of their 2018 frees from central locations (an imaginary line up from the D out to the 45 in the above chart) with only four being attempted from outside what I consider to be the optimal range. By contrast only 36% of the other teams’ frees were from this central alley with a not insubstantial 7% of all frees coming from outside the 45. So Dublin’s frees have been appreciably easier.

This is where the Expected Points model comes into its own. On the 22 frees Dublin attempted they were expected to score 18.42 points. They scored 0–18 thus were below average (Expt Pts of -0.42) for these attempts. The other teams had an Expt Pts of 91.26 on the 128 they attempted so the 0–95 scored was 3.74pts above average (Expt Pts of +3.74). Dublin have aided their 2018 Conversion Rate with easier frees but they have not been better free takers per se.

Tyrone however cannot rely on this. Dean Rock has stood up on the big stage before recording a whopping 83% (0-25 from 30; Expt Pts of +3.15) in All Ireland finals and semi-finals in 2016 and 2017. The balance of probabilities is he will deliver again in this final.

There is nothing Tyrone can do to affect Rock’s Conversion Rates (I have no doubt they will try all sorts of verbals, and running across his eye line, but if Lee Keegan’s flying GPS unit in injury time of a final can’t put him off I doubt anything Tyrone do will!). All they can do is cut down the number of opportunities they afford him from frees.
In their most recent non Dublin games Tyrone have given up an average of 6.75 shots at goal from frees (6.5 if we exclude those frees from outside the 45 which Dublin tend to ignore). In their last three games against Dublin they have allowed an average of 4.67 (4, 5 and 5) shots from frees. That is pretty good. This discipline needs to be maintained.

Point attempts

Something similar, in terms of Conversion Rates, is identifiable when it comes to point attempts. Dublin in 2015 – 2017 converted 54% of all their point attempts whilst everyone else was at 46%. In the last four games Dublin have scored on a remarkable 61% of their point attempts (see Table1). Everyone else in that time span has converted 50%. What gives?

Unlike frees – where the main influence on Conversion Rates is from where on the pitch the free was taken from – you can have more constituent parts here affecting the outcome. Location on the pitch is still a deciding factor; as is pressure (see note3) being applied to the defender. Weather can be a factor whilst game state (reviewed here) is also an issue.

Here we are going to focus on two of those – pitch location & pressure applied – but in truth all the above factors can feed in.

Pitch Location

Using our previously constructed central channel as a starting point Dublin again – much like their free taking – help themselves by taking more shots from here. 48% of their point attempts in the last four games come from this region as opposed to 38% for everyone else. But here the similarities end.

Dublin have converted 67% (0–29 from 43) of all point attempts from this central channel and 55% (0–26 from 47) from elsewhere. Everyone else, from the Super8s onwards, is 59% (0-113 from 192) centrally and 45% (0-135 from 303) from elsewhere. Dublin may take easier shots more often but they also convert them at a higher rate.

You may, correctly, say that all these percentages are within any margin of error given the sample sizes. But this phenomenon is not new. In 2017 Dublin were 63% on point attempts from the central channel and 54% elsewhere for an overall Conversion Rate of 58%. Everyone else was 57% centrally, 42% elsewhere and 47.5% overall.

The one trend that is very noticeable this year is just how much Dublin have focussed on shooting centrally. As noted above, and which is very noticeable from the shot chart, 48% of their point attempts have come from the central channel this year – that was consistently in the low 30s the last three years (32% in 2015, 34% in 2016 and 31% in 2017).

Pressure

Looking at the pressure applied to the point attempts we can see that strong or severe pressure was applied to 41% of Dublin’s point attempts and 49% of everyone else’s. It is hard to know if that gap is purely based off Dublin’s fluid movement and decision making or something else. One factor that could aid the gap is game state.

Dublin tend to be involved in more lopsided games than anyone else. Intensity, and as a consequence pressure on shots, drops off in such games. We are getting into very small volumes here but if we only look at point attempts in the first half, when that intensity drop should not be in evidence, do we get the same results? It does narrow the gap; Dublin face strong or severe pressure on 48% of their first half point attempts as opposed to 51% for everyone else.

Dublin’s high Conversion Rates are aided by centrally located shooting and a drop off in pressure in low key second halves. But that shouldn’t belie the skill in evidence – they still convert those centrally located shots at a higher rate than anyone else and manage to take more shots, under less pressure, despite shooting more often from the same crowded central zones.

What about Tyrone’s defence? Is there anything in their recent history that suggest they can affect this? In the seven games under review (see note4) Tyrone have allowed a 50% Conversion Rate on point attempts. About average. This overview masks a pretty big differential however.

Dublin have converted 56% of their point attempts in their three games against Tyrone whilst Monaghan, Donegal and Roscommon combined have converted 45% in their four games.
That 45% is very good. The 56%, when compared to 2017 and 2018 Dublin averages of 58% and 61%, is quite good. Tyrone will need more than quite good here however.

In fairness Tyrone have progressed game on game allowing Conversion Rates of 62% (0-13 from 21) in the 2017 AI SF, 57% (0-08 from 14) in the league encounter and 50% (0–10 from 20) in the Super8 contest. They can allow a high conversion rate off a low base – the league encounter, or a low Conversion Rate off a high base – the Super8 contest. Just not a high Conversion Rate off a high base which is what happened in last year’s semi-final.

Goals

Dublin are known for going for goals. The last four games, excluding penalties, has seen them return 8–02 from 17 shots at goal for a 47% Conversion Rate and 1.53 points per attempt (ppa). Everyone else from the Super8s onwards returned a 40% Conversion Rate (22-09 from 55) and 1.36 ppa.

In 2015 – 2017 Dublin converted 44% of their goal attempts for 1.43ppa whilst everyone else was 38% and 1.23ppa. Dublin are better at taking their goal chances and have been consistently so over the last few years. Quelle surprise!!

Dublin’s higher Conversion Rate is not the real story however. What is really devastating is that they maintain these above average returns whilst going for goal more often. In their last four games they have gone for goal once every 11.4 possessions whilst everyone else has gone for goal once every 18.6 possessions. From 2015 to 2017 they went for goal once every 14.9 possessions versus once every 19.0 possession for everyone else.

There is also the belief that Dublin go for goal early. This was definitely a “thing” in 2017 where the time of their first goal attempt in each game was 09:33 v Kildare (which they scored and then proceeded to goal again on their very next possession), 00:49 v Westmeath, 08:40 against Monaghan and then O’Callaghan’s two salvos against Tyrone @ 04:33 and Mayo @ 01:22 respectively. Five games all with a goal attempt within ten minutes and three with a goal attempt within five minutes.

This has not been as evident in 2018. It was 14 minutes before their first goal attempt against Donegal, their one and only attempt up in Omagh was in the 39th minute and 26 minutes had elapsed against Galway before they had a shot at goal. Only the non-entity of a game against Roscommon produced an early attempt (Costello had his saved on Dublin’s very first possession).

In the seven games in focus Tyrone have allowed 17 shots at goal, or 2.43 per game. In and of itself this is fine however again there is a Dublin/non-Dublin split. In the three Dublin fixtures they have allowed nine goal attempts. That’s three a game, or one every 15.4 possessions, to Dublin and two a game, or one every 23 possessions, to other opponents.

Again there has been an improvement. In their two 2018 meetings with Dublin they have allowed four shots at goal; two a game and one every 23 possessions. You feel that Tyrone will need to replicate this to have any hope but the nagging fear is that, as stated previously, both of those 2018 games were in Omagh. In their Croke Park meeting last year they allowed five shots at goal – can they replicate the Omagh form in Croke Park?

When Tyrone have the ball

Somehow, whilst everyone has been focussing on the blue marvels in the capital, Tyrone have amassed a very nice 60% Conversion Rate in their last four games (see Table2 in the Appendix). Whilst, like Dublin, they were greatly aided by Roscommon (Tyrone converted 79% for their 4–24 whilst Dublin hit 74% in their 4-23) the fear is that, unlike Dublin, the non-Roscommon return of 52% is a more accurate reflection of Tyrone’s level. To this point their 2015 to 2017 shooting saw them return a combined Conversion Rate of 52% with no individual year standing out as particularly accurate (50% in 2015, 49% in 2016 and 56% in 2017).

If Tyrone are not able to do any more than stem the Dublin tide can they show a hitherto fore unseen level of accuracy? In a one off game of course they can but their recent collective history is not so bullish.

Frees

One of Tyrone’s big downfalls in recent years has been their free taking. 2015 to 2017 combined saw them return 65% (2015 = 53%, 2016 = 55%, 2017 = 80%). This is against the backdrop of Rock hitting 88% in the same period. The 2017 mark of 80% looks like they may have hit on a solution however that elevated return was due entirely to Séan Cavanagh who is no longer there. He scored 0–12 from the 13 frees he took last year leaving everyone else to convert 67% (0–08 from 12).

2018 hasn’t seen much progression either. Combined Tyrone returned a below average 71% (Expt pts -0.68) in the last four games and have converted just 69% (0-09 from 13) in their three games against Dublin.

Tyrone know it is an issue (hence why they have had five different free takers in the three games against Dublin). Dublin know it is an issue. The crowd know it is an issue. As such the pressure will get ratcheted up with every miss (think of the pressure on McCaliskey in Ballybofey as he attempted one just before half time after Tyrone had missed three of their first four). At the very least Tyrone could really do with a clean first half here.

In the last three non-Tyrone games games Dublin have been very disciplined allowing the opposition an average of just 3.7 shots from a free with 1.67 in the first half of those games. They have allowed Tyrone just two frees in the first half of each of their three encounters.

Despite this being a weakness for Tyrone it might not manifest itself if Dublin maintain their normal discipline.

Point attempts

Although Tyrone have amassed a total Conversion Rate of 60% in the last four games that has been aided by a 90% Conversion Rate on goals (8 – 01 from 10 shots). This in turn then deflates the Conversion Rate for point attempts to 53% (0–48 from 90). Remove the Roscommon game and it drops to 46% (0 – 31 from 67). In the three games against Dublin it drops further to 41% (0-26 from 63).

There is just no sugar coating this. Tyrone’s point attempts from play have been poor. Very poor.
Part of the problem is shot location. If you recall Dublin are taking 48% of their shots from the central alley whilst the remainder are at 38%. Tyrone, in their three games against Dublin as outlined in the below chart, have only taken 24% (15 of 63) of their point attempts from this alley.

This isn’t a Dublin defensive thing either. In their three games, excluding Tyrone, Dublin have allowed 46% of point attempts from this central alley. Even removing the lacklustre Roscommon game it is still 43% for Donegal & Galway combined.

Just to prove it is more Tyrone than Dublin in their last four games, since the beginning of the Super8s, the volume of Tyrone shots from that central channel is 30% (27 of 90). An increase but still nowhere near the average let alone anywhere near Dublin’s returns.

Tyrone have been shooting themselves in the foot by ignoring the most productive sectors and shooting from what can only be described as sub optimal locations.

Goals

This may come as a surprise to those watching Tyrone of late but they have been relatively shy on the goal shot front. In the seven games under review they have just the 13 attempts with a sequence of 1, 2, 1, 4, 0, 4 & 1. That duck egg is the Super8 game against Dublin in Omagh whilst they have only managed three attempts in the other two Dublin games (a penalty in last year’s semi-final and two in the league game).

All that adds up to 1.86 attempts at goal per game over seven games or 1 every 23.5 possessions. Even more starkly it is 1 per game and 1 every 45 possessions versus Dublin! They will have to do something to create more goal chances.

There is a chink of light however in that Dublin have allowed teams to get in behind them of late with Donegal having three shots at goal, Galway four and Roscommon five. All Roscommon’s five came in the second half when even the pigeons had had enough of the game but still Donegal and Galway combining for seven attempts shows that it is no forlorn hope to step up on their current record

Kickouts

The below table shows the result of kickouts from the three Dublin v Tyrone games. There’s bit to unpick!

First of all, at a macro level, both teams have used a similar enough kickout profile with approx. 50% going short (inside the 45), 33% mid (between the 45 & 65) and 17% going long (past the 65).

On the short ones the returns are broadly (we’re dealing in broad brush strokes here!) in line. Tyrone have lost just the one – which was a throw up after an infringement – but managed to get a shot from 64% of the remainder.

We have seen that Dublin’s Conversion Rates are quite a bit ahead of Tyrone so it is no surprise to see that they have scored 0 – 03 more from the short ones they won. It is a surprise however to see that they converted the ones they won to a shot at a much lower rate than Tyrone (47% v 64%).

That equates to Dublin scoring 0.28pts per short kickout won. Against Monaghan, Roscommon & Donegal combined (see Table3 in the Appendix) Dublin have manufactured a shot from 53% of their short kickouts and scored 0.47pts per short kickout won.

Against Dublin the short ones, both defending against and attacking from, have not really been Tyrone’s problem.

The longer ones are a different issue. At a primary possession level there is no great problem. There have been 62 kickouts that have landed past the 45 with Dublin winning the contest 34–28. At the start of any game you would probably take a 55-45% split against Dublin on kickouts that land past the 45. One step further and Tyrone match Dublin when converting those key primary possessions to shots; Dublin convert them to a shot 59% of the time (20 shots from 34 possessions) with Tyrone at 57% (16 from 28).

It is the scores that come from these longer kickouts that become the problem. Dublin have scored 2 – 13 to Tyrone’s 1 – 07 from kickouts won past the 45. That’s 0.56 points per kickout versus 0.36. This is not unique to Tyrone; against the three aforementioned teams Dublin have scored 0.61 points per kickout won past the 45 and allowed 0.30.
Initially I had thought it was something that Dublin were cleverly doing around Marks but that is not the case. Tyrone have “out-Marked” Dublin 10–6 in their three encounters and scored 0–04 to Dublin’s 0–03 from those Marks. Instead the issue is within those kickouts that land gently into a Dublin player’s stride, past the 45, with no pressure applied.

To break these kickouts down
• Dublin have won 34 kickouts past the 45.
• They have claimed 6 Marks scoring 0–03. That leaves 28.
• Of these 12 were claimed off Tyrone kickouts with Dublin only managing to score 0-01; Dublin may be able to win the Tyrone kickout but haven’t scored off it.
• That leaves 16 of their own kickouts won past the 45 where the ball has hit the deck … but Dublin have scored 1 – 09!

We are in the realm of extremely small sample sizes here and these numbers are not something Tyrone can base a game plan around. But they are unique to Tyrone. Against the other three teams Dublin have won 44 kickouts past the 45 scoring 2-21; 2-06 scored off 16 Marks, 0–10 scored off the opposition’s kickouts (x16) and only 0-05 off their own (x12).

Wrap Up

Dublin are the offensive juggernaut that Tyrone will have to stifle. To do this they will need to ensure they manufacture as many possessions as Dublin, especially in the first half, and maintain their recent discipline in the tackle by offering up no more than five scoreable frees to Rock. They will also have to avoid the dagger of an early goal though luckily for them Dublin may be compliant in this by not going for goal as early as they did in 2017.

After that (sure the first bit is easy!!!) every shot needs to be affected through pressure or location. They need to stay in the game.

Offensively Tyrone have to pick up. They cannot hope to win this game with 70% on frees and mid 40% on point attempts. Although they have not created many goal chances against Dublin we know from the Donegal and Roscommon games that they can. And more importantly that they have been clinical in taking them. If they cannot stem the Dublin attack then they will have to score whatever goal chances come their way.

note1; 95% of all possessions emanated from kickouts (48%) or turnovers (46%) in 2015 – 2017 (9,018 possessions). The remainder came from shots regained (thus the start of a new possession) or throw ins.

note2; As an aside Dublin scored 1-15 from turnovers garnered inside their own 45 (0.38pts per turnover) with Tyrone scoring 0-17 (0.29pts per turnover). Again a function of Dublin’s ability to convert rather than anything Tyrone are (not) doing in transition.

note3; One man’s pressure is another’s loose arm – there is no agreed methodology for tracking pressure but I subjectively give a points range of 0 (no pressure) up to 3 (severe pressure) on each shot to indicate how much the defence pressure shots taken. It is subjective but over time any errors or biases should be applied to all teams evenly so if it is wrong it should be wrong in a very fair and even manner.

note4; The seven games are the three against Dublin, the two non-Dublin super8 fixtures (v Donegal & Roscommon) and their two encounters with Monaghan this year (in Omagh & Croke Park)

APPENDIX

Table1; Dublin shooting by player (Super 8 & AI SF)

Table2; Dublin shooting by player (Super 8 & AI SF)

Table3; Dublin kickouts v Donegal, Roscommon (Super8) & Galway (AI SF)

2018 Division 1 Review

April 27, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At a league wide level

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

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

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

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

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

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

Offensive Production

A few things that jump out

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

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

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

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

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

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

Player level

SHOOTING FROM PLAY

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

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

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

DEADBALLS

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

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

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

ASSISTS

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

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

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

Defensive Production

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kickouts

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

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

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

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

2018 Division 1 Overview – post Rd4

March 8, 2018

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

Possessions

Team Possessions

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

Player possessions

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

Offensive production

Team

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

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

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

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

Player – shooting

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

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

Player – assists

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Defensive production

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

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

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

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

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

Kickouts

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

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

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

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

There are some interesting titbits looking at kickouts by team

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

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

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

Notes

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

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

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

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