Throughout the 2013 Ulster Senior Championship, Ulster GAA will be compiling a report of the key statistics from each match. The reports will look at a range of factors contributing to game play, including possession breakdown, kick out success, possession to scores ratios and turnover stats.
The purpose of this project is to identify the key differences between team performance, and possibly help pin point where the key differences existed. Ultimately, it is hoped to identify the key area each team needs to address ahead of their next championship outing in 2013.
Ball in Play
The final quarter final fixture of the 2013 USFC offered us an opportunity to analyse Cavan for the second time this year following their preliminary round victory against Armagh. In the preliminary match, the ball was only in play for a total of 44% of the game time. Thankfully, as the championship has progressed we have been witnessing gradual improvement in this statistic, with this latest game between Fermanagh and Cavan, delivering the highest volume of ‘active’ game time so far, a total of 41 minutes and 35 seconds, which equates to 56% of the total game time (Figure 1). Using the previous games as a bench mark this is certainly a positive outcome, however, there is still almost 33 minutes of game time which is consumed by inactivity and stoppages.
This week’s fixture returned to the pattern we witnessed in the first 3 matches of the championship, with the eventual losing team, Fermanagh achieving a 52.2% share of possession, compared to 47.8% achieved by the victorious Cavan team (Figure 2). Once again, Cavan were able to deliver a victory from an inferior share of possession, albeit they did enjoy marginally more possession against Fermanagh than against Armagh (45.6%).
Despite the picture painted by the overall possession share, what we have evidenced over the previous few matches is that when we look at possession share on a half by half basis we are seeing that the team dominating possession in any half; tend to have a greater impact on the scoreboard. In effect, what this appears to confirm is that the team better able to maximise their possession, in terms of scoring, will emerge victorious. This game provided further evidence of this, with figure 3 showing that Cavan had a marginally superior possession share in the 1st half, and enjoyed a subsequent 4 point lead at half time (0-07 to 0-03).
As with the preliminary round match, Cavan surrendered the majority share of possession in the second half (Figure 4), with Fermanagh taking almost 10% more possession (54.6%). And, once again, Cavan allowed their healthy half time lead to narrow to 2 points by the end of the match (0-13 to 0-11).
While there is little startling about these results, there is maybe a lesson to take from the results in terms of application and approach of teams to the second period. Monaghan were able to demonstrate last week that by continuing to secure possession in the second half, they could build upon the lead they enjoyed at half time. Maybe there is a degree of truth in old mantra that “attack is the best form of defence”, and that surrendering possession and attempting to defend a lead does not necessarily result in success.
Figure 5 depicts the USFC possession share for each team so far this year, with Monaghan remaining the only team to win having secured more possession than their opponents.
In keeping with the previous matches of the USFC 2013, successfully securing possession from kick outs appears to be largely unrelated to the outcome of the game. This match possibly demonstrated this more clearly than any of those than were analysed previously, with Fermanagh winning over 65% of all kick outs. From a Cavan perspective, these figures were almost identical to their previous match, and while they have won both games, they may struggle against teams who are more efficient with their possession.
When we look at the breakdown of the kick outs (Figure 7), Fermanagh will likely be satisfied with the findings, securing 14 possessions through short kicks, and also winning 11 from 13 of Cavan’s kick outs that were played long. On the other side of this statistic will be Cavan, who only won 2 from 13 of their own kick outs when forced to kick long. Both teams will no doubt pay close attention to the success of the short kick for securing possession, with this game having the highest number of short kick outs so far in the USFC 2013.
Possession to Scores Ratios
Our findings to date leave little doubt that the key to success is efficiency in possession, most notably the ratio of possessions that a team can convert to scores. The winning teams so far have been able to deliver a higher percentage of scores from their possessions.
Fermanagh (54) secured marginally more possessions than Cavan (49), however, figure 8 provides an excellent demonstration of how Fermanagh were inferior in each of the stages following the securing of possession. Despite having more possessions, Fermanagh were only able to generate the same number of attacks as Cavan (38), which equates to a 70% conversion rate for Fermanagh, compared to 77% for Cavan. From the same number of attacks Cavan were able to manufacture 29 shots (76%), while Fermanagh had to settle for 24 shots (63%). From all possessions, Cavan had a scoring success rate of 27%, compared to a 20% success rate for Fermanagh.
Unlike previous weeks, neither team has a single clear cut area where they can identify as being problematic. Both displayed similar patterns between each stage, with Fermanagh’s ratios slightly less favourable at each stage.
While a 27% success rate from possessions is reasonably positive, Cavan will be disappointed that this has fallen from a 31% success rate against Armagh. The main area where there was a noticeable difference between the games was in generating a shot from attacks, with their success rate falling from 77% to 70%.
Fermanagh required 5 possessions for every score (20%), which compares closely with the other losing teams so far in the USFC 2013 (Figure 9). On the evidence of figure 8, above, their main area for concern appears to be in constructing an attack when they gain possession. Almost 30% of their possessions did not progress past the opposition 45m line, which would suggest they are having issues with possession retention and penetration of opposition defence.
As with all previous games, it will be important to measure how teams have lost possessions that they have not converted to scores. In this game the turnover stats explain certain previous statistics, most notably why Fermanagh were unable to build upon their impressive dominance from kick outs. Fermanagh (35) coughed up almost as many turnovers as Antrim last week (36). Cavan (23) may be disappointed that they had 8 more turnovers when compared to the preliminary round match (15), however, they once again turned over possession fewer times than any other Ulster team to date.
Comparison of the turnover stats in this match provides a clear conclusion regarding Fermanagh’s issues to convert kick out and possession superiority to shots and scores. While most of their turnover stats compare favourably with Cavan, and indeed with most other teams in Ulster, they did lost 14 possessions in the tackle. This is the highest number of turnovers in the tackle by any team so far in 2013. Again, Cavan will be reasonably satisfied that they did not have any major issues with turnovers lost, but they will once again be delighted with the number of times they forced opposition turnovers through tackling. So far in the USFC 2013, Cavan have been able to force 25 turnovers through their tackling, an average of 12.5 per game, which is almost double the average across all matches (6.4).
Another factor that Fermanagh, and all teams, must consider is the use of the short kick out. While this may secure possession, it does so in a very deep defensive position, therefore meaning that the team will need to cover more ground to create a scoring chance. However, this also provides the opposition with greater opportunity to organise their defensive set up and create pressure with the aim of forcing a turnover. It raises the question as to the value of using the short kick out, and maybe this is something that could be investigated further. It is notable, Fermanagh secured possession 14 times from short kick outs; a number that is equalled by the number of times they lost possession in the tackle.
Once again, the key statistic, in terms of outcome, is the ratio of possessions to scores. Ultimately, a team must be effective at creating scoring chances when they do have their share of possession. Cavan were the more clinical team in each phase of their possession which translated to a victory. Fermanagh provided an excellent demonstration of securing possession from kick outs, but unfortunately for them cancelled out this good work by conceding too much possession through turnovers, in particular in the tackle.
Fermanagh were very keen to use the quick and short kick out, and this appeared to be an excellent tactic, securing 14 possessions uncontested from their own kick outs. They will also have to be happy with having picked up a high volume of the Cavan kick outs, in particular from break ball.
There is no doubt they will have identified the number of turnovers as their main concern, in particular the 14 possessions lost in the tackle. An element of their training ahead of their clash with Westmeath will no doubt focus on how to reduce this number, either by improving their ability to break the tackle, or ensuring they off load possession before the contact occurs, or both. From a coaching perspective they can also point to the fact they only forced 5 Cavan turnovers in the tackle, therefore any activities or games at training can work on both sides of this issue; improving their tackling and improving their ability to retain possession in the tackle.
There are undoubtedly other issues that may need to be addressed, but given the fairly short period of time ahead of their All-Ireland qualifier match, this may need to be the area where most focus is placed. Adding an element of shooting to any activities may also help to address the issue of 7 shots that were blocked or came up short during this match.
Cavan will be happy to have progressed to the USFC semi-final, but will be keen to address any weaknesses ahead of their clash with Monaghan. Once again, the biggest issue presented to Cavan will be their success from kick outs. Following 2 USFC victories they have only won 33 from 95 kick outs, a success rate of 35%. Given the positivity of many of their other statistics, if they can secure more possessions from kick outs it is likely that they will increase the volume of scores they can deliver, thus making them a very difficult opponent to overcome.
More in depth analysis will reveal that they allowed 14 opposition kick outs to be played short, and they only won 2 from 13 of their own kick outs that were played long. Development of strategies to deal with these scenarios should enable them to improve upon their kick out statistics ahead of the semi final.
USFC 2013 Semi Final Preview: Monaghan v Cavan
Now that we know our second semi final pairing, and having compiled statistics for both in the past couple of weeks we can have a look at how their stats may compare and how the match up might look. Using previous statistics from both teams during the USFC 2013 we can attempt to forecast how the teams may fare up when they meet each other.
On the basis of the possession share witnessed so far, we might speculate that Monaghan will enjoy a superior number of possessions, approximately 55 to Cavan’s 50 possessions.
On the basis of Cavan’s two games played already, if Monaghan do secure the predicted 55 possessions, Cavan will allow them to build 40 attacks, create 27 scoring chances, of which Monaghan will convert just 9 to scores. However, it is worth noting that Monaghan will be expecting to improve on their shooting success rate, which was just 33% following their quarter final against Antrim.
If Cavan secure 50 possessions, Monaghan will allow them to build 29 attacks, from which they will create 22 shooting opportunities and convert 10 to scores. This is based upon the average numbers that Cavan have produced thus far, but what we must take into account is the fact that Monaghan may present a more difficult opponent than either Armagh or Fermanagh have done to date.
The predictions above would point towards a tight, low scoring semi final. However, both teams will be aiming to improve on their weaknesses identified from previous outings and this will no doubt have an impact on the statistics and ultimately the outcome of the match. While Cavan will be hoping to secure a greater number of possessions than managed previously, in particular directly from kick outs, Monaghan will be hoping to sharpen up their finishing. It all points towards an intriguing match up that could be in the balance right into the last few minutes.