Posts Tagged ‘Examiner’

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.