Intercounty Football

What has changed with Dublin Vs Kerry : League Final Analysis

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The first thing to note when assessing why Dublin fell short against Kerry in the league final is that the difference on the day was the width of the post from a last minute free.

In reality, with both teams fielding sides resembling significantly more what we can expect to see in August, the more significant comparison should be between this game and last August’s game.

While last year’s semi-final was only separated by injury time points, from a statistical and strategic analysis point of view you have to take into account that Kerry scored two relatively unlikely goals on the day without which Dublin would most likely have won at only slightly more than a canter.

What has changed so much that Kerry could have a five point lead mid way through the second half, garnered from points alone, and could win by a point despite conceding the only goal of the game?

Firstly, and this will be most significant moving forward, their net pace/athleticism has risen radically. With the third generation of All-Ireland minor winners in as many years coming of age, and the previous two a year older, the Dublin/Kerry dynamics have swung radically.

Our Zonal Defence Analysis of last year’s semi-final showed that game to have been broadly a battle of Kerry’s raw football versus Dublin’s raw pace and break winning ability in their forward line. Kerry could weave through Dublin’s zonal defence better while Dublin could create more man on man attacks by attacking from the back at lightning pace.

Last year’s Zonal Kick-out Analysis showed Kerry to have had an immense ability to break down Dublin’s blanket defence, scoring five points from ten delayed kick kick-outs to their full back line (where Dublin had their blanket defence perfectly set up).

Their problem on that occasion was that Dublin, off the back of their grossly superior athleticism, attacked into a man on man Kerry defence multiple times more than Kerry managed to do so into Dublin’s defence.

This was not the case in last Sunday’s league final as Kerry manoeuvred almost as many man on man attacks as Dublin. Their new found youthful pace has been key to this.

Secondly, the key element in Dublin’s victory last year was that Kerry went long on too many kick-outs when they could have gone short, and were fleeced on the long kick-outs. They kicked eighteen long, won six and lost twelve. From those 18 kick-outs they scored zero and conceded six points, roughly the difference if you excluded Kerry’s two goals.

Whether their management team read the article I had published in the Kerryman last August, whether they worked it out themselves or whether new faces have brought new ability, I can’t say for certain. What I can say is that their ability to win breaks off their own kick-outs has gone through the roof, and certainly looks like it’s been worked on.

dublin kerry nfl 10 breaks kerry

Crowley had pre-meditated being first up to this break

Zonal Kick-out Analysis showed that from 19 of their own long kick-outs last Sunday, they won eleven and lost seven, scoring six points directly and conceding just two! Break Analysis showed they won five breaks and lost six, not far off  50/50 return, a radical improvement on last year.

From that single element of play, Kerry’s long kick-outs to midfield, that’s a net turnaround of ten points better off compared to last August (a profit of four versus a loss of six).

Consider the respective score-lines from the two games without including the goals from each game and you’ve gone from an eight point Kerry deficit to a three point profit. Starting to see the link between that figure of eleven points and the turnaround of ten points from Kerry’s long kick-outs?

Based on current patterns, get ready for a re-run of the seventies. Based on the patterns from these two games, Dublin and Kerry look to me like they’ll be 50/50 for the foreseeable future.

Of course, that’s assuming that Dublin don’t get their house in order on two frailties, one of which simply keeps on giving. Not for the first time this season, Dublin didn’t win a single break off their own long kick-outs, losing three out of three.

It’s the seventh  time out of seven this year they’ve lost more than they’ve won (I didn’t analyse/wouldn’t count the Roscommon game as significant). They’re simply shockingly poor in this regard and considering the figures, it’s not beyond reason that the entire arse could fall out of things if they were to miss Stephen Cluxton.

dublin kerry nfl final 1 breaks

As ever, Dublin were second up to the break off Cluxton’s kick

Two of these three lost breaks ended up in conceded points! From their other 13 long kick-outs, they managed to win 12, all cleanly, most landed in player’s laps courtesy of Cluxton! Five ended up as points, all kicked within twelve seconds of the ball going dead.

dublin kerry nfl final 12 a

Cluxton pinpointed this kick into Macauley’s lap

dublin kerry nfl final 12 b

And Dublin went up-field and scored

The figures are startling. Whatever way you want to do the figures or cook the books, you could expect Dublin to be anywhere from five to twelve points worse off if Cluxton was lumping high 50/50 balls!

The final significant figure is that Score Concession Analysis illustrated just how many Grade 3 scrores/scoreable frees the two sides conceded (scores where no defender had to be beaten/taken on directly to gain the score).

Our previous article showed how poor Kerry had been in this regard in Killarney and how well Dublin had performed. However, with the more serious Kerry line-up to contend with, Dublin conceded a shocking 12 Grade three points/scoreable frees (seven needless frees and five more points). That’s double what they conceded in the first All-Ireland final last year, a figure I had considered to be noteworthy in itself.

Dublin kerry nfl final 5 score con dub

Nobody marked the scorer f0r this easy point

Of course, the wilier the opposition, the more rope a defence is given to hang itself. It’s no coincidence that Dublin’s worst day in this regard has come against this new resurgent breed of Kerry.

Noteworthy is the fact that from twenty points conceded (and another three scoreabale frees), Philly McMahon, while putting two over at the other end, was the key player breached for five of these. Four were Grade 3, three of them frees!

dublin kerry nfl final 10 score con dub pm

There was no need to make contact with the off balance Kerry forward

Kerry looked to be heading down an equally culpable road in the first half conceding six Grade 3’s in the first half, but reeled things in, conceding just two Grade 3’s in the second half. Still, eight Grade 3′ conceded should be food for thought for their management team.

Noteworthy, is that from 1-16 conceded, Tadgh Morley was the key player beached for four, three of them Grade 3, all in the first half. It’s not beyond reason that Diarmuid Connolly’s absence in the second half is linked to that pattern!

dublin kerry nfl final cover 1

Kilkenny collected this ball behind Morley to score

All things considered, if either side could tighten up on the Grade 3 score concessions, or if Dublin could get sorted out on breaks on their own kick-outs, you’d have to make that side favourites come August/September.

Failing that, as long as Kerry can continue to break slightly better than even on their own long kick-outs, it’s difficult to imagine that it will be far beyond 50/50.

The stats in this article were compiled using the newly developed GaaProstats statistical and video analysis program. This program has been specifically designed for Gaelic football and hurling. It is now available for all clubs to download free for a month’s trial. logo-gaaprostats-finished

By Stephen O’Meara