St. Vincent’s Vs St. Jude’s – In-depth Tactical and Statistical Analysis

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With the dust settled, I can still only reflect on the clash of Vincent’s and Jude’s as having been a hugely disappointing anti-climax in the end.

From a point of view of tactical intrigue, it was the game I’d hoped the draw would give us last year, and it didn’t. Then we got it this year, and it appeared very finely balanced – until Jude’s had two men sent off.

The Red Cards

Though I wasn’t convinced watching the game live, in the end it was difficult to argue with Paul Copeland’s red card, Judes’ second. Though Mossy Quinn had caught an opponent around the neck in the first half, the key difference was that Copeland came off his feet when he caught Shane Carthy. It’s a significant difference between maybe a careless, but not dangerous tackle by Quinn, possibly worthy of a yellow at most, and a quite dangerous “close-line” by Copeland.

Copeland catches Carthy around the neck

And his feet come clearly off the ground

pole-axing Carthy

As for Mark Sweeney’s red card, while our camera didn’t catch the entire incident, he definitely went out of his way to shoulder Connolly three/four seconds after the half time whistle had gone. Whether the card came as a result of this or as a result of what happened in the few seconds that followed, I can only speculate.

The fact of the matter, however, is that if Sweeney had minded his own business and walked to the dressing room after the half time whistle had gone, he wouldn’t have gone into the second half on a card.

The half time whistle is gone

But Sweeney shoulders Connolly, blurred, on the left

You can see the distance the shoulder created between the two players

Roy Keane’s words ring around in my head, regarding the pointless first yellow, for giving out to the referee, which ultimately cost him the 1999 Champion’s League final through suspension.

Regardless, the second card was completely needless. The chances of a turnover were slim. He faced three opponents. The logical defensive thing to do would have been to have stepped back off all three of them, anyway, remaining goal-side until he got re- enforcements from spare Jude’s defenders behind him.

Broadly speaking, however, it’s the completely unnecessary first card, he’ll surely have to rue.

When push comes to shove, there’s an undoubted elephant in the corner of this Jude’s side who are tantalisingly close. They’ve have had five players sent off in their last six championship matches! It seems to be their Achilles, and it caught up with them, again, last Saturday.

The kick-outs

As ever, the tactical battle on kick-outs was key. Had Vincent’s not manged a goal off one of Judes’, up to the first red card, Jude’s had overwhelmingly won this battle. Of course, the concession of the goal illustrates the fine lines between success and failure when a plan is so methodical.

In the first half, Jude’s tried to choke off Vincents’ marquee score machine, the quick and short kick-out. Normally Vincent’s are devastating off these. Equally importantly, they are the only side in Dublin club football whose “Zonal Kick-out Analysis” figures typically show more scores gained off slow and short kick-outs than conceded on the counter-attack on the first turnover.

Even with Jude’s trying to choke them off, they obviously managed some to the full back line – two inside 9.5 seconds and six after 9.5 seconds. Again, illustrating Judes’ immense defensive capacity, they scored from none of these. Jude’s scored one point off the counter-attack.

The only kick-outs which Vincent’s did score off were from two of the three Michael Savage hit quickly to the midfield. It’s a textbook high percentage score-getter, illustrating the value of a keeper with a good eye and the boot to go with it. Savage is one of the best.

Savage spots the Jude’s backtracking after trying to choke off space

And nails it down, Lorcan Galvin’s throat, before his man gets back

Creating a man-on-man attack for Vincent’s

Interestingly, Vincent’s, initially, didn’t go man-on-man on Judes’ kick-outs. Perhaps wary of the set-play Jude’s sprung on Croke’s last year, they “split” up front and left one spare at the back.

Alluding to Judes’ significantly improved capacity to break down zonal defences, they got off seven to the full or half back line before the first red card.

Typically, a statistical loser, from the five not hit quickly, they actually scored two points and only conceded one. From two quick ones, they scored on both occasions, totaling four points gained off seven short kick-outs.

Most interestingly on the night, even with Vincent’s “splitting” them up front on the kick-out, they went with their tried and tested classic, over the top, four times. With Vincent’s remaining zonal, and not going man-on-man, it left things on a knife edge.

Whichever side would win the kicks would still attack into quite favourable circumstances. Looking frighteningly similar to how they ran up a plethora of points against Croke’s last year, Judes’s scored two point from the two long ones they won.

Vincent’s “split” four on five

But Jude’s still go over the top

The quick free takes out four players near the ball

Leaving Vincent’s with just one covering player, out of position

Allowing the direct attack to force a free

The problem, however, because of the way Vincent’s structured themselves, when they won two, it created equally dangerous attacking circumstances for them, with open road in front of them. From the two of Judes’ long kick-out that Vincent’s won, they scored 1-1.

Copeland goes long again

But Vincent’s win it with open road in front of them

One hand-pass and Mullins is through on goal

While the set-play was key, there is some finer detail we’ll look at further on.

The Broader game

I had speculated in my preview that Jude’s had yet to prove that they could break down a solid zonal defence to the tune of double digit scores. Within ten minutes they had already scored four points.

The speed with which they transitioned from one end of the field, in this opening faze, at least, appeared significantly greater than last year.

Ala Jimmy McGuiness’ Donegal side, when they turned possession over, it appeared as though two of the players closest to the man in possession would systematically tear forward, offering support on both sides of him, as illustrated for their first point.

Vincent’s play the ball in

But it’s intercepted

Two men are gone immediately

Kieran Doherty’s 60 yard run puts him in a good attacking position

Getting the ball to 14 ASAP

Stretching Vincent’s for the score

While it didn’t allow them to create man-on-man attacks, it certainly allowed them to create some attacks where Vincent’s only had one spare man at the back, as opposed to two or three spare, or alternatively with ten or eleven comfortably behind the ball.

In the broader scheme of things, this was crucial. Up until their first red card, “Zonal Defence Analysis” had shown that Jude’s had created twenty attacks. One was man-on-man, one came off a turnover high up field and eighteen were into zonal defences.

However, seven of these eighteen attacks were into a zonal defence with just one spare Vincent’s man. at the back. From these seven attacks they scored three points, a 43% attack to score ratio. The other eleven were into full on zonal defences, from which they scored two points from eleven attacks, an eighteen percent ratio.

It wasn’t so much that they’d radically improved on breaking down blanket defences, but they’d radically improved on getting the ball, and players from one end of the field to the other quickly (Phase 2 attacking, as we’ll see).

The speed of transition on these early attacks was crucial. With Chris Guckian, Niall O’Shea and Kieran Doherty, in particular, making key runs through the middle third, and Niall Coakley winning good primary ball up front, they attacked with a zest they hadn’t had last year.

What was particularly noteworthy was their defensive record against Vincent’s up to the first red card.

Vincent’s had only scored 1-4, but the smaller details were highly significant.

From eighteen attack into a zonal defence, they had scored just two points, a miserly eleven percent attack to score ratio! As ever, even against the most methodical of attacks, Jude’s defence was proving formidable.

The issue for Jude’s, as far as there was one, was that while they had created no overlapping attacks and just one man-on-man attack, Vincent’s had created two over-laps and four man-on-man attacks.

Once again, credit to Judes’ defence. Even from four man-on-man attacks, against the most potent of attacks, they had only conceded one point.

Paul Copeland was doing a stellar man-marking job on Diarmuid Connolly at full forward, as was Sweeney when Connolly went to the half forward line, and Rob Martina and Ciarán fitzpatrick were doing well on Enda Varley and Mossy Quinn, respectively.

It was from two overlapping attacks that Vincent’s had scored 1-1. Creating these, of course, is the essence of quality football!

Vincents’ ability to take out sections of the field with kick passes and their capacity to over-run opponents in the middle third are key to why they tend to create more ideal attacking circumstances than other sides. Most notably, however, their capacity to make the right runs at the right angles, to inflict maximum damage when they have the opposition stretched, is their greatest asset.

Even before their goal, Lorcan Galvin, Nathan Mullins and Shane Carthy were beginning to pull Judes’ middle third apart, a little.

For Vincents’ third point, Mullins had cut through the heart of their defence rather easily and both Galvin and Carthy were in position to have the ball put in front of them, behind the defence, at different points in the attack.

Jude’s should be well set up

But Mullins gets the run inside

Now Mullins and Galvin have the run on Jude’s

Now Carthy does

And it all creates panic stations for Varley to be unmarked

And Diamond points

While we can only speculate what direction the game would have taken, subtle patterns suggest that it was possibly swinging Vincents’ direction, before the sending off.

We’ve been here before with Vincent’s. A challenger looks like they might have their number, only for them to pull away in the third or fourth quarter.

Of course, there’s no guarantee, but the figures from “Zonal Defence Analysis” allude to Vincent’s having created more and significantly better chances than Jude’s. If the same proportions would have played themselves out in the final 23 minutes, you’d have to have expected the side who had created two over-lapped attacks and four man-on-man attacks to score more.

There’s also the fact that Quinn had missed a quite scoreable free just a few minutes before Judes’ first red card. On top of that, even though Connolly’s 38th minute point was against a fourteen man Jude’s, the attack came after a stoppage, so Jude’s were as well set up they’d have liked, even with fifteen on the field, with men behind the ball. It was classic Connolly magic.

Jude’s have 11 comfortably behind the ball

But Connolly carries it to the 21

And scores

It was only a missed free away from Vincent’s scoring two points to nil in this opening eight minutes of the second half, something which would very much tie in with patterns we expect from them at this point of a game.

Furthermore, after a blistering opening ten minutes, Jude’s had only scored three points in following 28 minutes.

Of course, they had kept Vincent’s to 1-3 in that same 28 minute period, but patterns did suggest that Vincent’s were creating better attacking situations.

Of course, we can only speculate.

On key factor, however, illustrated, once again, why Vincent’s are so clinical.

Phases of Defending and Attacking

It sounds familiar. Ballymun are red hot. They’re definitely going to be too strong for Vincent’s this year. Seriously? Will you give me a break!

When I coach defending or attacking, I look at four phases. Let’s look at them from a defensive point of view.

Phase 1 – The opposition have it in and around their full back line. Typically, it makes no sense to press here, unless you have the opposition cornered. It’s all about slowing them down so you can filter men back and meet them in more ideal circumstances in Phase 2. Sadly, fouling is often important here. Vincent’s understand it well. Mossy Quinn, for example, is a fouling and delaying machine in this phase.

Phase 2 – Typically in the two thirds of the field between their full back line and shooting range. This is where only the most tuned in onlookers spot the key detail. It’s where less than excellent defensive thinkers get the lines muddled and don’t drop into the correct space.

Crucially, what happens here tends to be the difference between creating overlaps or man-on-man attacks, or having to attack into blanket defences. As we’ve seen, this was key in this game.

Equally, it’s where excellent thinkers spot the moments when the opposition ‘s shape is compromised and exploit it to its max. As we’ll see, on key scores, Jude’s were less than meticulous in this regard on some key scores, and Vincent’s, because they’re the collectively smartest team in Dublin, by a country mile, exploited it, on the handful of occasions the opportunity arose.

They are undoubtedly the best side in Dublin at both defending and attacking this phase. It’s why even when you think they’re not great, they keep on winning.

It was key last Saturday, because they had had an eleven percent attack to score ratio into zonal defences. Jude’s had had a 28 percent ratio (including full on zonal defences and defences with just one extra man).

Phase 3 – This is where the attacking side are within one line-break or semi-line-break of kicking a score. Typically, it’s between about 48 and 55 metres from goal. As proven last Saturday, Jude’s are the best in Dublin at defending this phase. It’s not particularly important in the context of what we’ll looking a next.

Phase 4  – This is where the defence have to actively press the opponent on the ball or he’ll be able to shoot. Typically it’s inside 48 metres. Jude’s are the best in Dublin at defending this too, also proven last Saturday. It’s not particularly important on the context of what we’ll look at next.

Phase 2 Attacking and Defending

Apart from what appears to be a clear policy of Vincent’s holding five at the back at almost all times, the primary reason why they created six over-lapping or man-on-man attacks to Judes’ one is Vincents’ superior efficiency when it comes to getting “Phase 2” defending right compared to Jude’s and their mental ability to pounce when the opposition don’t get it right.

Let’s take a look at Jude’s trying to counter through “phase 2” first.

Jude’s are on the counter, in “Phase 2” and can potentially take seven Vincent’s men out of the play and create and ideal “Phase 3” attack.

But Vincent’s track back en-masse. It doesn’t matter who is marking who. They want to cover the space. There are better examples of them doing it in more complex situations, but this one is directly comparative to what we will see shortly.

Apart from the general tracking you’ll see in the next image, Galvin (marked with the orange arrow) is running hard to get behind the ball, into a good defensive position.

This allows Vincent’s to keep their spare defender in place, and for Galvin to cut off the space in front of the target and intercept the ball.

Let’s compare this to Judes’ “Phase 2” defending and Vincent’s “Phase 2” attacking.

In the next image you’ll see Jude’s with thirteen behind the ball, and perfectly set up to create a zonal defence.

Credit to Ger Brennan. The forty yard lateral pass to the chest reduces this to eleven men, but there’s still no drama for Jude’s.

As the next image shows, Vincent’s are three versus one on the Jude’s man in the central area. Jude’s are defending zonally. There’s no way he’s going to dispossess Vincent’s in this position. All he needs to do, like we just saw Vincent’s do, is drop in the hole, and set up the zonal defence.

But he follows his man toward the ball. Mullins spots the opportunity in a split second, and he’s on his way inside him.

Now Vincent’s, through quick decision making, have Jude’s on the rack. Mullins is miles ahead of the man who was goal-side five seconds earlier, and Vincent’s react like a picsaw with each new runner runners exploiting the new space as they appear.

And with quick-thinking, it’s a domino effect, with more runners exploiting the spaces, until they’ve turned attacking into a zonal defence to attacking man-on-man, where the Jude’s defence could effectively do nothing.

Now let’s take a closer look at Vincents’ goal.

When Copeland went long, Jude’s actually had a spare player in defence, six versus five (there’s a Vincent’s man just out of picture)

They lose it in the worst possible manner, with men grounded, and two Vincent’s men eating up ground, goal-side. However, an over-lap should still not be imminent. There are two Jude’s men in position to choke off the runners.

Once again, the key point here is that Jude’s defend zonally. But instead of choking off the space in “Phase 2”, where the urgent danger is, like Vincent’s do, look at where the men go. The one closest to choking off the space, walks away from the play and follows his man, who is relatively insignificant to the move. The one further away, who could have picked up that man if necessary tries to come from ten yards further back to choke off the danger.

As ever, that momentary lapse, and Vincent’s will exploit. By the time they’ve eaten up twenty yards, from a man-on-man position, they’ve created an overlap.

Mullins, again using his impeccable football intellignece, waits for the split second that the two defenders have gone for the other two attackers, and he breaks the line and scores the goal.

Like I say, it was a terrible anti-climax in the end. What might have happened in the final 23 or fifteen minutes is only speculation.

What is clear is that if jude’s could have kept Vincent’s to the same proportion of different types of attacks as Vincent’s kept them to, all figures suggest there could only have been one winner.

“Phase 2” attacking and defending is what kept Vincent’s in a game they were struggling in. “Phase 1”, “Phase 2” and “Phase 4” can be coached in a season or two by excellent managers. Elements of “Phase  2” also.

The finer details, however, are the essence of football. You learn them over a lifetime. That’s why Vincent’s just keep on coming, even when they appear to be struggling.

By Stephen O’Meara



The analysis in this article was compiled using Gaaprostats, statistical and video analysis software, available to buy or download for a free one month triallogo-gaaprostats-finished