Dublin vs Carlow : Possession Analysis

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I haven’t seen a huge deal of point in analysing anything beyond the Carlow red card, so our possession stats look at everything up to the 47th minute.

Ciarán Kilkenny

The debate about Kilkenny and lateral passing will rage on, but in fact, forensic analysis, one again, showed it to be bereft of evidence.

Up to the 47th minute, we all know he had the highest tally of possessions. He had come in at 28 against an 11.5 average for the rest of the outfielders. However, equally significantly, he also came in joint second in terms of line breaks on a total of four.

More interestingly, if we include “Mildly Positive” plays (more than neutral but not a line-break) as well as “Positive Penetrative” plays, he was by far and away Dublin’s top performer.

Dublin carlow gr 17 possession kilkenny

He registered eight of these, leaving him with a total of twelve positive plays from 28 possession which were more than neutral. The next closest total of these came in at seven, so the notion that he only plays lateral passes was, once again, completely disproven.

Further to the point, if we calculate “Mildly Positive” and “Positive Penetrative” plays as a proportion of total possessions, at 42 percent, he came in as Dublin’s fourth most impressive player, behind Jonny Cooper, Jack McCaffrey and Diarmuid Connolly.

From his 28 possessions, he only lost the ball/kicked wide just once, or 3.5 percent. If we take away the percentage of lost possessions/wides from the total proportion of positive plays, Kilkenny has the second highest ratio to McCaffrey.

By all calculations, the notion that Kilkenny plays too many lateral passes simply doesn’t add up. He’s one of Dublin’s key players, as I’ve pointed out in this article (see article).

Jack McCaffrey

McCaffrey tallied the highest amount of line breaks in the opening 47 minutes, coming in at five, with two of these being points. He also made two “mildly positive” plays from his fourteen ball contacts.

Notably, he didn’t give the ball away once.

That makes him the highest line breaker and the highest line breaker relative to possessions at fifty percent (if we take away the percentage of turnovers from the percentage of line breaks).

dublin carlow gr 17 possession mccaffrey

McCaffrey breaks the line for a point

I can be quite a critic of McCaffrey’s defending, so I have to give credit where it’s due. On top of superb possession stats, he wasn’t responsible, even partially for any of Dublin’s conceded points/scoreable frees conceded.

Furthermore, if you’ve read my article on a defensive frailty which Dublin have (click here for article), you’ll see that Dublin were breached six times out of seven when Carlow tried to take the ball off the shoulder and penetrate Dublin, and scored/earned a scoreable free for five of these six.

Only once did Dublin stop the attempted penetration. This was when McCaffrey nailed Brennan Murphy with a perfectly timed shoulder.

All in all, a superb performance on all accounts.

Diarmuid Connolly

Connolly’s opening 47 minute performance, believe it or not, more or less tied in with what we’re seeing more and more from Connolly. That is that he’s getting on the ball considerably less than average for a half forward, but having the highest proportion of “Positive Penetrative” plays when he does.

Against Ballymun, Castleknock and Rhode for Vincent’s last year, he was on the ball an average of eleven times per game. Against Mayo in the two finals last year, he was on the ball fourteen times in each.

Most likely, this alludes to the tight man-marking and out and out man-handling he typically receives off the ball, as well as his penchant for only really going out of the way to get the ball when his team really need him to.

The magic is what he does on those balls averaging between four and five “Positive Penetrative” plays over these five games, from his average of thirteen.

dublin carlow gr 17 possession connolly

To that end, his mere eight possessions in the opening 47 minutes against Carlow wasn’t so unusual.

Nor was it unusual that from these eight, he made three “Positive Penetrative” plays and two “Mildly Positive”. He made one “Neutral” play and had two turnovers. That’s a total of a 62 percent possession to positive play ratio, putting him top of the charts.

Of course, if we subtract his turnovers, he comes in at 38 percent.

All in all, this was typical of Connolly. Playing simple passes simply doesn’t seem to be in his mind-set. He always looks to break the line.

Should Connolly be hit with a twelve week ban, he’ll be sorely missed.

Jonny Cooper

Cooper’s performance may well have slipped under the radar. Though he made a couple of positional errors as sweeper (see article), an interesting change from Cian O’Sullivan playing the role, he had extremely noteworthy possession stats.

From eleven possessions he made four “Positive Penetrative” plays and four “Mildly Positive”, and never lost possession once.

This puts him miles out in front in terms of possessions to positive play ratio at a 72 percent ratio.

His ability to send thirty, forty and fifty yard passes over the middle third compromised Carlow’s blanket defence in the middle third on a couple of occasions. This may well be the future of Dublin’s plan for a sweeper.

dublin carlow joe 2 c cooper

Cooper took out Carlow’s middle third with this pass

James McCarthy

Illustrating his prowess for attacking from half back, he was on the ball eleven times and broke the line broke the line four times (a 34 percent ratio), made two “Mildly Positive” plays and never lost possession.

In total that means that he made a positive play on 54 percent of occasions. Most notably, he was fouled for two scoreable frees.

Like Jack McCaffrey, he wasn’t in any way responsible for any score concessions.

Dublin carlow gr 17 possession mccarthy

McCarthy is fouled for a free

Niall Scully

Apart from his fifteen possessions up to the 47th minute being the highest in the forward line, he broke the line four times.

Even more notably, from these four line breaks, he scored one point and was fouled for scoreable frees on two more, making him Dublin’s highest scorer/fouled for scoreable frees tally up to the 47th minute.

It was an impressive championship debut.

dublin carlow gr 17 possession scully

The Rest

Contrary to Eugene McGee’s suggestion that Paul Mannion struggled playing into a blanket defence (see article here, with my comments at the bottom), his three line breaks was the second highest in Dublin’s forward line, with one point and one scoreable free earned.

Dean Rock and Kevin McManamon had mixed performances with each losing possession/kicking wide more than they broke the line. Each earned a scoreable free.

Con O’Callagan had a less than spectacular debut without a line break and only one “Mildly Positive” Play against three wides/dispossessions and ten neutral plays.

While I haven’t taken figures from the 47th minute on, for now, it was noteworthy that from three point attempts from Bernard Brogan, he scored two out of three and was fouled for a scoreable free too. This augers well, as he had a significantly below par season last year in terms of shot conversion ratio.

Interestingly, Cian O’Sullivan was only the ball four times up the 47th minute, though I wouldn’t automatically criticise that from a defender. More notable was that he gave away two completely unneccesary scoreable frees (see article).

The entire defensive line lost possession just once from play up until the 47th minute, and the total was two if you included the midfield.

You can see the full table below from the GaaProstats program. You can read a full explanation here Possession Analysis.

*T-Total, N-Neutral, FF-Fouled for free (not scoreable), MP-Mildly Positive, PP-Positive Penetrative, LP-Link Play, NG-Negative (turnover), W-Wide, SA-Short Attempt, LB-Long Ball,

dublin carlow gr 17 possession



The video and statistical analysis in this article was compiled using the software of our official partner, GaaProstats, a newly developed, cutting edge G.A.A. statistics and video analysis program available to download for a free one month triallogo-gaaprostats-finished

By Stephen O’Meara