Why Slaughtneil will take serious beating : Slaughtneil Vs Killyclogher in statistics

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With Slaughtneil ready to contest their second Ulster club football final in three years we’ve used the GaaProstats program to go through their semi-final win against Killyclogher with a fine tooth comb.

As you’ll see, almost without exception, the figures allude to an exceptionally well balanced team, not to mention a structurally sound one. This is nothing less than I’d expect from a side manged by Mickey Moran, who I’ve long regarded as possibly the most under-rated manager in the country.

Zone by Zone Kick-out Analysis

The good news from a Slaughtneil point of view is that there is no overwhelming pattern from kick-outs relating to scores. This alludes to scores coming from a broad range of avenues.

For example, when underdogs, St. Jude’s in Dublin, scuppered Kilmacud Croke’s in the quarter-final of the Dublin Senior Championship this year, GaaProstats “Zone by Zone Kick-out Analysis” analysis illustrated that eight of their fourteen points had come straight off their own long kick-out. As much of a master plan as their management team had mustered up, it left question marks as to how they might cope if this source was choked off.

In the semi-final, against the unfancied Castleknock, Castleknock simply flooded the midfield on Judes’ kick-outs, and let them go short. Jude’s would manage a mere 1-4 all night in the semi-final and were beaten.

From this point of view, Slaughtneil have nothing to fear. From a total of ten of their own kick-outs, they scored two points and conceded one. They never got a quick one off so it remains to be seen how they might manage if they did (this typically leads to a high kick-out to score ratio).


Antoin McMullan had no opportunities for quick kick-outs

In total they got off three slow kicks to the full back line, and two slow kicks to the half back line. In keeping with broader GaaProstats averages, they conceded more on the initial turnover from these kick-outs than they did from their own initial possession, scoring zero from five and conceding a point upon the initial turnover.

What is noteworthy, is that from the five they went long on, they won three and lost two, and scored two points and conceded zero. That’s  a 40% kick-out to point ratio, and a 67% ratio on kicks won.

All things considered, the figures illustrate that there’s no single element on kick-outs which is resulting in a large amount of Slaughtneil scores, but that long kick-outs may well have the potential to.

Of course, it would be folly to base any strategy on such a small amount of figures, but if the same percentages were coming in over the course of three of four games against top opposition, there would be a clear conclusion. If they’re not getting kick-outs off quickly, they should be going long.

There was also no overwhelming pattern on Killyclogher’s kick-outs, having come in at a gross loss of -8% of a point per kick-out. They conceded three points and scored two from thirteen, coming in even in all zones except for conceding one point to zero on Killyclogher’s two delayed kick-outs to the full back line (this runs against broader GaaProstats averages).

Long Kick-out Analysis

Considering a 40% kick-out to score ratio on their own long kick-outs, a significant factor is who and how they are winning these long kick-outs. GaaProstats analysis has illustrated that, midfielder Patsy Bradley, was the main man. He competed for five long kick-outs and won two of these cleanly, losing none cleanly.

Patsy Bradley was the dominant fielder on the day

Patsy Bradley was the dominant fielder on the day

More significantly, GaaProstats templates account for which team gained primary possession on each kick-out competed for by each individual, because of the recognition that not all breaks are 50/50. Frequently, midfielders break ball on favourable terms to their team-mates under the breaks. Of the three that Bradley broke, Slaughtneil won two and lost one. That brought Bradley’s net gain on long kick-outs to an 80% success rate with Slaughtneil coming away with four out of five.

In total Slaughtneil won seven and lost five long kick-outs.

Break analysis

An equally significant factor is that from nine long kick-outs which weren’t won cleanly, Slaughtneil won a crucial six breaks from nine. Once again, the broader pattern alludes to a very balanced side. These six breaks were won by five different players, suggesting that they have break winners around the field. Each of Francis McEldowney, Paul McNeill, Keelan Feeney and Meehaul McGrath won the sole break for which they competed, while Sé McGuigan won two out of three.

Feeney is perfectly positioned under Bradley's break

Feeney is perfectly positioned under Bradley’s break

When we consider that Slaughtneil had a 67% long kick-out won to point scored ratio, to a zero percent score concession on lost long kick-outs, that’s exactly what the value of a break won on their own kick-out was, 2/3 of a point. That these breaks are coming from a wide variety of scores bodes extremely well for Slaughneil.

Zonal Defence Analysis

Further alluding to an extremely balanced side are Slaughtneil’s figures from GaaProstats “Zonal Defence Analysis”. In total they launched 31 attacks to Killyclogher’s 28 (crossing an imaginary arched line 65 yards from goal in possession).

For example, sides like Ballymun Kickham’s pre Paddy Carr (2016), and Jim Gavin’s  Dublin, pre Donegal in 2014, would have had massive attack to score ratios because they broke forward at lightning pace. Each side had won their respective championships once, so it’s not in itself, altogether a bad thing. However, when you broke down their respective capacities to score when faced with blanket defences, alarm bells should have rang.

Hence Monaghan could hold Dublin to three points in the opening 25 minutes in the 2014 quarter final, but then got annihilated when they ran out of steam and lost the legs to get numbers behind the ball efficiently. And hence Donegal choked Dublin’s stream of scores off in the semi-final that year. Hence Plunketts’ highly efficient blanket defence held Ballymun to a seemingly unlikely six points in sixty minutes in the 2014 quarter-final.

A side with a high attack to score ratio when faced with blanket defences, is highly unlikely to come unstuck in such drastic fashion.

Against Killyclogher, Slaughtneil faced a blanket defence, or a defence with one spare defender on 25 occasions. From these 25 attacks they scored 1-8. Granted, they scored an impressive four from six when facing just one spare defender, and 1-4 from nineteen attacks when they faced an out and out blanket defence (more than two spare defender/nine or more inside the “45”/ten or more inside the “65”).

Slaughneil manages a goal attacking into a blanket defence

Slaughneil manages a goal attacking into a blanket defence

Even four points from nineteen attacks wouldn’t have been much lower than average, but with the goal to add to that tally, they came in with an impressive 37% attack to point ratio facing a blanket defence.

All in all, these figures against the Tyrone champions, allude to a side with the capacity to score in any circumstances.

Unsurprisingly, from the six occasions they attacked man on man, they scored three points.

An equally impressive figure, and much more significant figure, is that in the whole game, they only had to defend man on man on one occasion. They conceded a point from this attack, but gaining six man on man attacks while only conceding one, alludes to a highly efficient tactical structure.

A score concession of seven points from 22 Killyclogher attacks into a blanket defence/defence with one spare defender, represents reasonable defending, not exceptional, and far from terrible.

Score Concession Analysis

The first obvious point to note is that conceding a mere eight points against any county champions is a noteworthy feat. Once again, the figures read extremely positively and are something I would consider a hall mark of Mickey Moran’s teams.

In total, only three were analysed by the GaaProstats “Score Concession Analysis” as having been “Grade 3 Concessions” (where no defender had to be taken on and beaten for the score). Again, I imagine that a manager of the calibre of Mickey Moran, would probably not be entirely happy with that figure coming in at more than one, but all things considered, it’s a pretty impressive ratio.

There were no soft scores for Killyclogher against this well organised defence

There were no soft scores for Killyclogher against this well organised defence

In the Dublin senior championship quarter final, St Vincent’s, 2013 All-Ireland champions,  for example, conceded 1-5 “Grade 3” scores from 2-8 against a Lucan Sarsfield’s side who haven’t been past a Dublin quarter final in recent years.

With five conceded points coming in at “Grade 2” (a defender had to be taken on and beaten to score) and only three coming in at “Grade 3”, Slaughtneil have all the appearance of a side that will be hard to break down.

Furthermore, only one defender was responsible for the “key breach” for more than one score, and that was for only two scores. All things considered, it broadly looks like a solid and balanced defence.


Slaughtneil have obviously proven their worth already, reaching the All-Ireland final in 2014, and winning the Derry championship again, but even still, all of the aforementioned figures read extremely positively for them.

There s no single strategic element which they are overly reliant on, with scores and breaks won coming from a broad range of areas, and their defence not coughing up anything easily.

Quite simply, there appears to be no single strategic element which could knock the stuffing out of Slaughtneil. They simply appear to be too balanced.

Perhaps, if an opponent can dominate Patsy Bradley in the air, this is the one key element which could force a significant shift in all aforementioned patterns. Even still, they’d either have to be winning these kick-outs cleanly, or getting the better of various Slaughtneil individuals on the breaks.

All things considered, if Slaughtneil are to be toppled, it’s going to take an extremely good all round team. Without having analysed Kilcoo thoroughly, I dare not hazard a guess as to who the genuine favourites are. What I would say is that if Kilcoo are to beat them, they’ll have to be a damn good all round team.

For a break down of individual possessions and breaches from theUlster Final, click here

This article is in conjunction with our official partner, GaaProstats, a newly developed cutting edge G.A.A. statistics and video analysis program available to buy or have a free trial from early next week.logo-gaaprostats-finished

By Stephen O’Meara