We need to talk about Work Rate

GAA is obsessed with Work Rate. It is probably the single greatest point raised by coaches, pundits and fans when assessing a team’s performance. How often are we told that the winning team had incredible “Work Rate”, how many dressing rooms have been told to “up their Work Rate”?

But what do we mean? What is Work Rate?

As a hurling man I know it is usually based on the holy trinity of Hooks, Blocks and Tackles (I’m sure teams may add in rucks won, etc). Without these three fundamental principles a team cannot win. I don’t disagree with this principle, in theory.

What I do think we need to talk about is: using a straight count of Hooks, Blocks & Tackles as a measure of Work Rate.

How do we assess a rugby performance – Tackles Made? No.
When Ireland recently beat Canada 52 to 21, Ireland made 101 tackles, Canada made 172. Is this a reflection that Canada showed a much higher work rate?

The top three tacklers in the Premier League at the moment – 1. Burnley, 2. Hull, 3. Middlesbrough. Are these teams showing more “Work Rate” than the others?

My opinion, based on analysis done on dozens of hurling games, is that:
We need to focus more on the logic behind “Work Rate”

My Logic

  • You can only tackle the opposition player when he has possession
  • If one team has more possession of the ball then there are more opportunities to tackle them.

For example – Tipperary play Kilkenny in the 2017 NHL.

  • Tipperary have 20 Hooks, Blocks and Tackles
  • Kilkenny have 40 Hooks, Blocks and Tackles

Kilkenny have shown the higher work rate? My argument is that this simple measure is flawed.

Say Kilkenny had 100 possessions of the ball and Tipperary had 200 possessions of the ball – are we still of the same opinion?

Kilkenny had made 40 hooks, blocks and tackles on Tipperary’s 200 possessions – i.e. Tipperary have been tackled for every 5 possessions they held (200/40).

Tipperary meanwhile have had made 20 hooks, blocks and tackles on Kilkenny’s 100 possessions – i.e Kilkenny have been tackled for every 5 possessions they held (100/20).

So both teams have tackled each other for every 5 possessions the other team had. Equal “Work Rate”. Not simply Hooks/Blocks/Tackles showing 40 v 20 as most basic statistics will show.


A Better Measure of Work Rate

Work already printed by Colin Trainor in Statsbomb has created a measure to show that the quantity of tackles made by a team can only be relevant to the passes of the opposition – his measure PPDA is calculated by:

PPDA = Number of Passes made by Attacking Team / Number of Defensive Actions

We can amend this formula to meet the differences in style between hurling and soccer. A defensive action in hurling would obviously be – Hooks, Blocks and Tackles. Number of Passes in hurling is not a major factor, possession of the sliotar would be an arguably equivalent measure.

Hurling PPDA = Number of Possessions by Attacking team / Number of Defensive Actions


Possessions of Team A / (Hooks + Blocks + Tackles by Team B)

This, for me, is a basic starting point in calculating “Work Rate”.

This is not an ideal complete measure, but telling a team it “allowed 4 possessions for every tackle” is more relevant than telling they made 5 hooks. It is a measure that can be compared to any other match.


Optional Improvement – Add in Location

Based on the Hurling PPDA two measures should be recorded post-match:
1. Possessions by Location
2. Hooks/Blocks/Tackles

With one extra note of detail when collecting the measure we can have a much more incisive measure, if we also note the location of both counts then we have an even better measure.

We can now split the pitch into say three segments for location:


Now when we calculate the Work Rate we can refine it to cover the 3 areas of the pitch. This can tell us, for example, how much pressure our forwards applied inside their 45:
Opposition Possessions in Area 3/ Our Hooks, Blocks,Tackles in Area 3

Training can be made to focus on real areas of weakness based on this measure.


Optional Improvement – Add in Time

Noting the time of each possession and hook/block/tackle can allow us to further understand if our team dropped their “Work Rate” over a certain period of the match – (Personally I have broken the match into 6 equal time segments with 12 minutes each taking injury time into account). Does the Hurling PPDA drop for the last time segment? Does the team maintain an average Hurling PPDA throughout the 6 time segments, are we consistent?



This post was written to try and open a debate on how we calculate the obsessive term “Work Rate”. It’s a very basic and simple idea but it is aimed at opening a discussion. I could only cover so much detail in one post. Other elements such as the quality of tackle and effect of tackle which can be weighted in the calculation.

I would love some responses from analysts or hurlers about their experience of the “Work Rate” obsession.

I understand that a coaches intention is to get his team to increase their tackling numbers so that they battle harder but I can only imagine that player must find it hard to listen to a tackle number being low when they have been in control of the sliotar.



Tony Kelly’s performance against Glen Rovers

Tony Kelly played a major role in Ballyea’s Muster success. His legend continues to grow at the age of 23! I thought I’d have a look at his performance in detail.


Kelly scored 5 points from play against Glen Rovers. A huge score for the average hurler from play but just another Semple Stadium performance for Kelly. I have mapped his shots below:


Looking at the shot map you can see Kelly will not be happy with his distance shooting. His scores came from possession collected between midfield and the 45, where he ran at the Glen Rovers attack like the score below:

Source – GAA Beo TG4


Sometimes it feels like when you watch a match with Kelly that he is everywhere and Sunday certainly felt like that. Kelly played in midfield and covered a huge amount of ground. The pitch below shows each time in the match where he received initial possession on the field.


You can clearly see that Kelly covered both sides of midfield but also played a huge role in defence. He picked up the ball 9 times deep inside his own 65. Kelly rarely ventured into the opposition 45 looking for ball as you can see from his single possession inside the Glen Rovers 45, his role was grounded in covering midfield and defence.

It also should be noted his 20 possessions came despite having few Glen Rover’s puckouts sent in his direction.


Possessions are a meaningless statistic unless you look deeper into how effectively someone used the sliotar.


The numbers above show that Kelly’s 20 possessions led to 10 shots for Ballyea – 8 from Kelly and 2 scoring assists. With Kelly’s 5 points and 2 scoring assists he had a direct contribution to 7 of Ballyea’s 22 scores. This was a very effective performance by Tony Kelly.


Finally the important side – the tekkers. What was most exciting of all was the skills shown by Kelly on one of the biggest stages in hurling. Who says November is a tough time to hurl…

Source – GAA Beo TG4

I think I’ll leave the final say on Kelly’s performance to Austin Gleeson:



O Loughlin Gaels dethrone Oulart-The Ballagh

Wexford Park saw a re-enactment of the film Cocoon as Martin Comerford showed us that 38 is the new 23. Taking fearless shots and scoring points Tony Kelly would have been proud of.

The final score showed O Loughlin Gaels ran away with this match by a score of 3-17 to 0-17 but there were some key reasons for this victory.

Key Reason 1 : 12 Minutes of Gael’s Dominance

Once the match resumed in the second half, Oulart pulled 2 points back and it seemed we were due a dogfight to the finish between two serious outfits. But a 12 minute period saw the match blown apart.

The scoring timeline below shows the period where O Loughlin Gaels took control:


From the 36th minute to the 48th minute O Loughlin Gaels scored 1-7 without reply. In this period Kilkenny men took 11 shots to Oulart’s 1.

O Loughlin Gaels shooting standards were excellent in this period.olg-shooting-36-to-47

Paddy Deegan’s monster left-sided points were followed by Martin Comerford’s exquisite point from the right sideline. These took the match away from Oulart.

(Video Source – TG4 – GAA Beo)

O Loughlin Gaels showed their ruthless side and hit Oulart hard when they were reeling.

Key Reason 2: Oulart’s Lack of Bite

Another key reason for the result was Oulart’s lack of goal-scoring chances. This website has mentioned previously that the only 2 occasions when Oulart lost in Wexford over the past 6 seasons has been when they failed to score a goal. Apart from the last 10 minutes scramble for a goal Oulart failed to create any goal chances. The scoring chart below shows that Oulart had no shots inside the red-zone.


In total Oulart scored 17 points from 25 shots. A very high scoring rate. But given their own errors, mentioned below, they gave themselves a deficit that needed them to score goals to have any chance of winning.

Huge credit must be given to the O Loughlin Gaels back 6 as few clubs have managed to handle the movement of Kirwan, Mythen and Jacob mixed with the strength and skill of Sinnott. It is a rare sight to see Oulart fail to open up the full back line, but they never looked dangerous against the Kilkenny backs.

Key Reason 3: Oulart’s Mistakes

At two key points in the game Oulart gave O Loughlin Gaels huge initiative. It is hard to focus on two errors from a team that has proven themselves on too many big days, but a review of the game cannot be complete without covering the two mistakes.

In the 19th minute a Mark Bergin shot from 65m dropped into the net past goalkeeper Conor O Leary, which gave O Loughlin Gaels a huge jump back into a match they had been trailing by 0-9 to 1-1.

In the most bizarre moment of the match, at the 37 minute mark, Sammy Johnston capitalised on an overshot handpass by Anthony Roche that ran straight through to the Kilkenny forward 35 metres from goal. When Johnston collected the ball there were no Oulart defenders between him and the Oulart keeper. He ran through and buried his chance, which opened the door for the Gaels avalanche of scoring.

(Video Source – TG4 – GAA Beo)

Where to Next?

O Loughlin Gaels head on to play Cuala of Dublin in the Leinster Final. Cuala have a very strong contingent with 9 Dublin hurlers in their first XV along with Con O Callaghan an under 21 footballer with the county who scored 1-3 in the semi final. A tough battle lies ahead but O Loughlin Gaels have now beaten the past 2 Leinster champions (Ballyhale Shamrocks and Oulart-The Ballagh) in back-to-back games so they should have no doubts over their ability to win Leinster.




The Cody Era – The Numbers – Part 1

You can now see Part 2 HERE!

Brian Cody’s recent announcement to stay on for his 19th season in 2017, made many a Wexford man shudder. He has to lose heart and pack it in someday…he has to!

After I’d shed a few quiet tears I thought I’d look at the numbers behind his reign as the greatest hurling manager.

Cody’s Main Men

In Brian Cody’s 214 League and Championship games over the past 18 seasons he has seen 144 hurlers from 30 clubs play for Kilkenny. Some have been given the chance to impress in an early February league opener, others have taken their chance and led the Cats into battle season after season.

Below is the table of the 20 most capped players during the 18 seasons.


In that list we see some of the greatest hurlers to have picked up a hurl. Jackie Tyrell’s recent retirement saw the 4th most capped player leave the stage. Eoin Larkin, a fellow Village man, now leads the list of most capped active players.

Incredibly 2014 saw the retirement of 5 of the top 11 most capped hurlers that Cody had used. The All Ireland Final Replay of 2014 had 17 players carrying an average of 60 NHL & SHC appearances each, Kilkenny’s next match in the 2015 league opener fielded a team with an average of 29 NHL & SHC appearances each – the squad experience was halved in one winter. Despite this huge loss Kilkenny drove on to win the 2015 All Ireland, surely one of Cody’s greatest achievements.

Cody’s Top 15 by Jersey

The team below is based on the most times any player wore an individual jersey over the past 18 League and Championship seasons.


Not a bad team. Martin Comerford has an equal number of appearances in the number 10 jersey as Walter Walsh but we can’t have ‘Gorta’ taking 2 spots on the XV.

One thing noticeable from looking through the selection history is that Cody constantly rotates players through his team. Henry Shefflin wore the number 11 in only 36 of his 128 appearances. Eddie Brennan wore the number 13 in only 31 of his 113 appearances. Settling into a jersey seems to be discouraged.

Cody also gives players try-out in multiple positions, Tommy Walsh wore 9 different numbers on his back, DJ Carey and Cha Fitzpatrick wore 8 different numbers, Richie Hogan also has had 8 different jerseys to date. Many of the players Cody has brought through have been moved from Forward to Midfield to Back (e.g. Cillian Buckley, Tommy Walsh, Padraig Walsh). Players are given opportunities until they find a place they can excel in.

Beware the dreaded 13

I named this website after my favourite hurling tactic, the removal of the corner forward, every GAA managers first call to action when the game needs a change. Well….Brian Cody certainly knows best……


As you can see from the table above the poor auld corner forwards (13 & 15) have been the most likely players to be subbed by Cody. The two most subbed players in his reign? Eddie Brennan (30 times) and Aidan Fogarty (29)!

Beware being handed the number 13 jersey for Kilkenny…..

Keep Pearse Stadium out of Leinster

The real reason why Galway can’t play at home in the Leinster Championship?

Brian Cody’s record in Galway : Played 7 Won 2 Lost 5

Galway has been where Cody has had his worst record as a manager.


Surely Ned Quinn and his county men don’t fear crossing the Shannon?

The only other major ground where Kilkenny have a losing record under Cody is Pairc Ui Chaoimh.

Cody has beaten 8 different teams in Semple Stadium and 10 different teams in Croke Park.

More to come…..

I will be posting a few more articles on Codys reign in the next week so stay tuned.

Provincial Club Hurling Championships – The Past 10 Years

With the provincial club hurling championships already underway in Ulster and nearing it’s start in Leinster & Munster I thought I’d take a look at the past decade of provincial championships to see how each county’s champions had performed.

Munster Club Championship

The past decade of results within the Munster Club Championship is shown below:


The table shows that Limerick’s champions have been the best performers in Munster. Recently they have started to dominate Munster winning the past 3 titles. Limerick City side, Na Piarsaigh have won 3 of the past 5 Munster Club titles.

On the other side of the table you see Clare and Cork with the poorest records. The champions of Cork have now gone SIX seasons without a single win, the last Cork club to win a Munster Club Championship match was Newtownshandrum in 2009.

Clare on the other hand have now gone 16 years without a Munster club title. Crusheen came closest to banishing this famine when they lost a Munster Final replay in 2012 to Na Piarsaigh. Interestingly, the Clare county championship has been the most open of all Munster Club Championships over the past decade with 7 different winners in 10 years, whereas the Limerick county championship has seen Na Piarsaigh, Killmallock and Adare all win 3 county titles in the past 9 years. Does this lack of dominance in the Clare Championship lead to a lack of strength in the Munster Championship?

Leinster Club Championship


Unlike the inter-county scene, Leinster has seen a decade of competitive provincial battles. Kilkenny and Offaly have won the most titles and Wexford’s Oulart the Ballagh have won through to five provincial finals in the past six years, losing four before finally succeeding in last years final.

Mount Leinster Rangers’ win in 2013 was a phenomenal achievement for Carlow hurling. Their win in 2013 is surprisingly the only time a Carlow club has won a provincial club match in the past decade.

Dublin has failed to produce a club to win a Leinster title in the past 36 years. Crumlin’s win in 1979 remains their sole success. Only Ballyboden (2007) and Cuala (2015) have reached the provincial final in the past 10 years.

Offaly’s inter-county demise has not been reflected in the club scene. Birr, Kilcormac/Killoughey and Coolderry have all taken the provincial title in the past 10 years. In the past 10 seasons Offaly Champions have won matches away to Dublin Champions three times, turned over the Wexford Champions in Wexford Park in 2014 and even beaten Ballyhale in Nowlan Park. Club hurling in Offaly is alive and well.

The Laois champions’ dismal performance is quite surprising as they have been competitive in inter-county hurling in recent years. It is quite shocking to see that Rathdowney-Errill’s win in 2013 over Westmeath’s Clonkill was their only win in Leinster in the past 10 years. Rathdowney-Errill came close to a major win against Kilmacud Crokes in 2015 losing by a single point. Camross also nearly upset the then Dublin Champions, Ballyboden St Endas, in 2007, losing by a single point.

Ulster Club Championship


Unsurprisingly the Antrim champions have been the team to beat in the Ulster Club Championship. Portaferry (Down) secured a huge victory in 2014 when they beat Cushendall by 8 points to win their first Ulster title. Slaughtneil of Derry had also taken Cushendall to a replay that season.

Kevin Lynch’s of Dungiven, Derry had also taken Cushendall to a Ulster Club replay in 2006, the only other occasion in the past 10 seasons where the Antrim Champions failed to win out.

Wexford SHC 2016: Top Scorers – Kirwan is King

Oulart-The Ballagh once again prevailed as the Pettits Senior Hurling Champions with their 10th title in 13 seasons – an unbelievable achievement. With Oulart now moving onto face the Offaly champions I thought I’d have a look back over the scoring charts for 2016.


The table above shows the top scorers (from play and frees) for 2016.

Nicky Kirwan hung onto the top spot despite exiting the county final at half time with second place scorer, Harry Kehoe, having 30 extra minutes to try to take the top spot.

Six of the 21 players listed above were part of the Wexford Senior hurling panel in 2016.

Scoring From Play

The table for the top scorers from play also sees Nicky Kirwan topping the county. Garrett Sinnott had held the top spot heading into the semi-final but two goal assists from Sinnott to Kirwan in that match saw Nicky pass out his clubmate and take the top spot.


It is encouraging to see two of this year’s county minor hurlers make the top 20 with Rory O Connor (tied 7th) and Connal Flood (tied 14th) making the list.

Seven of the 24 hurlers listed above were part of the Wexford Senior panel in 2016.

Also notable is Ciaran O Connor of Rathnure who finished tied 5th in scoring from play and 6th in overall scoring having played only 5 games. O’Connor played 3 games less than Kirwan (1st) and 2 games less than Sinnott (2nd) & Moore (3rd). O’Connor’s club Rathnure exited the championship at the group stage. Not bad for a 19 year old.

Note: All scores are taken from local newspaper reports.


Final Tipperary Senior Hurling Rankings 2016

Following the dominant Thurles Sarsfields three-in-a-row win in yesterdays county final I have updated my rankings for the final time in 2016.


The rankings show clear gaps between Thurles and the rest. On the other end of the rankings 2 of the bottom 3 ranked teams, Moyne-Templetuohy and Moneygall, have dropped to Intermediate.

In the divisional rankings we can see that following those relegations the Mid and North championships have both lost their lowest ranked teams. It may be a temporary reduction in number for the North as Newport (North) are now in the Intermediate County Final, looking to gain promotion.


The final list of biggest movers has seen Thurles Sarsfields jump into the top 5. Their impressive clear win of the county final against the second rank team placed them onto the list of most improved teams.


Silvermines secured their safety in Senior hurling despite the largest drop in ranking points of any club this year. All five of the biggest fallers in 2016 came from the North division.

The Top Gaelic Football Clubs – Home of the All Stars

In the same vein as my look into the clubs that produce All-Stars in hurling I thought it would be interesting to have a look at Gaelic Football.

Which clubs in Gaelic Football have produced the most All-Star footballers? Are there any dual All-Star clubs?

With 675 All-Stars handed out to 400 different footballers since 1971 it’s interesting to see which clubs produce the most All-Star footballers. The table below shows all clubs who have produced 4 All Star footballers or more:


The initial expectation I had was that Kerry, with 138 All-Stars (next best Dublin with 103) would have the top club, but having omitted divisional sides – focusing on the footballers club of origin, St Vincents and Nemo Rangers stand clear with each having 9 All-Stars footballers.

Templenoe (Kerry) have 13 All-Stars from 3 Spillanes so fail to make the list. Dr Crokes, also in Kerry, have 9 All-Stars, 8 from Gooch Cooper.

In the chart below you can see which decade each club has collected All-Stars.


Austin Stacks (Kerry) and St Vincents (Dublin) were very dominant in the 1970’s whereas An Ghaeltacht (Kerry) and Moy Tir Na Nog (Tyrone) collected the vast majority of their All Stars in the 2000’s.

Despite St Vincent’s top ranking they have won one All Star in the past 24 seasons through Diarmuid Connolly. Second place Nemo Rangers have not won an All Star since 1995. The past 15 seasons has seen the rise of Kilmacud Crokes, including three different winners in the past 5 seasons.

Dual Clubs

Twelve clubs have won All-Stars in both hurling and football, an incredible achievement. Six clubs from Cork, 3 Dublin clubs, 2 Offaly clubs and 1 from Laois have won All-Stars in both codes.


Ray Cummins of Cork won All-Stars with Blackrock hurling club and St Michaels football club in Cork City.


Note: Every effort has been made to be accurate in researching the clubs of the All-Star winners (the 70’s was full of transfers during careers). If you feel like your club has been “shafted” please let me know!

The Top Hurling Clubs – Where All-Stars are born

With the All Stars approaching I thought I’d have a look at the history of the All-Star awards. Which clubs have produced the most All-Star hurlers? Which clubs have produced all star hurlers over various eras?

(Edit: you can now check out the Gaelic Football version)

The All Star awards began in 1971, so the records I’m looking at cover 46 seasons leading up to this years awards. The awards therefore don’t include the one or two Cloyne might have picked up for that Ring chap who was decent enough or the awards that Rathnure might have won with 3 Rackard brothers.

The table below shows the clubs that have produced 4 hurlers or more to win All-Stars.


James Stephens of Kilkenny have incredibly produced 10 different hurlers to win an All-Star. This along with giving the hurling world a certain Brian Cody.

(Note: Previously had 11 for James Stephens – double count on Joe Hennessy , h/t Enda McEvoy)

Club Eras

Blackrock in Cork are in second place with 9 different hurlers winning 21 awards. Huge numbers despite not having won an award since Wayne Sherlock’s 2004 All-Star, 12 seasons ago.

Ballyhale on the other hand have won 22 of their 27 All Stars over the course of the past 15 years. 6 of their 8 award winners have played for Kilkenny since 2000.

Below I have charted the clubs who have won 10 or more All Stars. The chart shows them by year.


This chart (unfortunately a little small) shows us how Ballyhale have collected their vast majority of awards since 2000. Also we can see the dominance Finbarrs & Blackrock held in Cork in the 70’s and 80’s.

My analysis has shown me that groups that grow up together can raise their own standards – awards for clubs are picked up by multiple players in certain eras. Club players push each other to further greatness.

  • Ballyhale Shamrocks  – 6 winners of 16 awards (2009-15)
  • Blackrock – 6 winners of 13 awards (1974-84)
  • Mullinahone – 3 winners of 10 awards (2000-11)
  • James Stephens – 3 winners of 5 awards (1999-02), 2 winners of 6 awards (2007-10), 5 winners of 12 awards (1973-79)
  • St Finbarrs – 4 winners of 11 awards (1971-78)
  • Seir Keiran – 4 winners of 9 awards (1994-00)
  • South Liberties 3 winners of 13 awards (1971-81)

Take Young Irelands as an example- 3 winners of 13 awards (1997-02) – DJ Carey, Pat O Neill and Charlie Carter won multiple awards but since that group Young Ireland’s have won none and prior to their success Young Irelands had no all-stars. Club players seem to drive each other to the highest level of success.


What links many of the top clubs is their location in their respective counties.

  • James Stephens – Kilkenny City
  • St Finbarrs, Blackrock, Glen Rovers – Cork City

This makes the achievements of Ballyhale Shamrocks (8 winners, 27 All Stars) and Fenians (7 winners, 20 All Stars) all the more remarkable. Producing multiple All Star winners is exceptional for a non-city club.


Tipperary Senior Hurling Rankings- Post Semi Finals & Feedback Adjustments

I have received feedback from last weeks post of ELO ratings of team. The input from Tipperary fans has helped me adjust the weighting of the matches in my ranking formula. Below are my adjusted rankings which include the 2 semi-finals and the 2 relegation play offs.


The new weightings has seen some movements up and down the table. I have added greater initial weight ot the Roinn 1 teams as they entered 2014. I have also reduced the weight of Roinn 1 wins over Roinn 2 wins and increased the Divisional results weighting. The current ranking system was correct in predicting 63% this years results.

The rankings expect a tight county final.

On the bottom of the list we can see already-relegated Moneygall are propping up the 30. The current rankings expect Moyne-Templetuohy to join them with Silvermines and Knockavilla surviving.

All feedback is 100% welcome.