The Top Table – NHL – Division 1A

With the glorious arrival of the mighty Yellowbellies to the top table of league hurling I thought I’d take a look at the trends in Division 1A and see what dangers await Davy and his men on their quest to belong at the top table.

Fixtures Disadvantage

Division 1A has 6 teams with 5 rounds – which doesn’t compute fairly – 3 teams have 3 home games and 3 teams have 2 home games. This immediately seems unfair – but has it impacted the results in Division 1A ?

The answer appears to be YES!

Over 6 season with this format – 9 of the 12 teams to face the relegation playoff had 2 home games that season! 50% of teams who had 3 away games have been in the relegation playoff – only 16% of teams with 3 home games have played in the playoff.

3 teams play 2 home games this year – Clare, Cork and Wexford (gulp).

Some solace can be taken by last years league when Clare and Dublin both made the relegation playoff despite having 3 home games – previously 9 of the 10 playoff teams had had 2 home games.

Home Advantage

Overall home teams have won 60% of group games in Division 1A with away teams only winning 31% of the time. But which teams are best at hammering home the advantage?

It’s no surprise to see Nowlan Park and Semple Stadium as two tough venues to collect your points. Unfortunately for the new boys, Wexford are the only team who have to travel to both teams in this years League (the odds are really stacked against Davy – no better man).

Waterford are on a poor run at home. They have taken 1 point from their last 4 home games in the group stages. Wexford arrive there in Week 1 and will be looking to extend this dismal form.

Away Raiders

Waterford are the only team who have won more away games than home games. This year sees them travel to Cork and Tipperary. Last year they won all 3 away games to avoid the relegation battle.

Clare will need to vastly improve on their away form as they face 3 games on the road – to Kilkenny, Wexford and Waterford.

Points Needed to Avoid the Relegation Playoff

I’m sure most managers are targeting a certain record over the 5 games to avoid the relegation play-off and make the quarters. Looking at past results (below) it seems 5 points is a healthy target.

The obvious logic is win early and make sure you win your home games. But only 6 of the 14 teams who failed to win away have avoided a relegation playoff. Points earned on the road are vital.

Dangerous Early Assumptions

After the inter-county hurling famine that is the winter there is a huge emphasis put on the first round of league games. Last year Cork turned in a huge performance against Clare and everyone thought the form was set in stone – the very next week Dublin went to Cork and won while Clare gave Brian Cody his biggest ever beating in a 13-point drubbing.

  • In 6 years of Division 1A only 5 teams of the 36 to start have won their opening 2 games – (14% of teams)
  • 66% of teams who have lost their opening game have won the next day out.
  • No teams has won all 5 games and no team has won their first 4 games.
  • The highest points total in Division 1A has been 8pts – 3 teams have achieved this and 2 of those lost their opening game.
  • Only 4 teams (from 11) who lost 2 of their opening 3 games have been in the relegation playoff – finishing strongly is key.

Finally

With Galway, Clare and Waterford having won the League from Division 1B there may be a clamour towards the relegation playoff.

Galway had the luxury last year of trying their full panel in the group stages of 1B. 1B teams had used an average of 27.2 players by week 3, whereas 1A teams had tried out and average of 25.3 players.

Maybe with the 1B effect and the home/away disadvantage highlighted above there might be a few adjustments to the league layout in the coming seasons.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 2017 SHC – Defying Expectations

I have wandered down the road of Expected Points (ExPts) for hurling. This is a much vaunted way of judging the accuracy/finishing of players used mainly in soccer. Following from @dontfoul’s gaelic football model and using Dartfish’s excellent x,y capability I started down the road of tagging as many shots by location and by outcome. My model is very much in it’s infancy. I currently have only over 2,000 shots logged from club and Inter-County and will not be happy with a model until I reach 10,000 (sometime around Wexford’s next All Ireland!) – although the early signs are promising.

Looking at the 15 SHC games between the top 9 teams in hurling in 2017 gave me interesting results. I do caution about the system I use being in it’s early days but hopefully this will iron out in time.

Scoring Table – 2017 Season

This table takes the average Expected score for and against for each team in 2017. Galway are leaders in both categories. They generated the highest Expected Score For in their games (28.35) and had the lowest Expected Pts Against (20.85). A remarkable achievement to dominate both sides of the field.

Dublin’s season was a disaster from the sending off against Galway to the goal-fest Tipp put on in Semple Stadium. 2018 can’t come sooner. The numbers show their defence is where Pat Gilroy has to fix – conceding a massive 34.32 ExPts per game – 8 pts worse than the nearest team.

Tipperary’s failure to claim back to back titles appears to have come from a defensive lapse. Cork scored freely in Munster and Clare missed their chances to score on Tipp. The second highest ExPts Against of all nine teams is something a team aiming for an All Ireland cannot afford.

Scoring by Team

Above is a table showing how each team scored in relation to how the average shooter would perform in the same locations. This table shows us:

  • Tipperary scored nearly 13 more pts than expected from the shooting areas they were in. Although a massive 10 pts of this was against Dublin where Tipperary ran riot.
  • Waterford were nearly 8 pts above expected despite starting out against Cork with -3.96 pts on day one. They shot above expected for every game remaining.
  • Most surprising is Kilkenny sitting bottom of the table. Their numbers for the year show that their forwards were completely off form this year. Ger Aylward, Chris Bolger and the great Richie Hogan all sit in the bottom 10 of 2017 shooting accuracy from play.
  • The all conquering Galway team sit mid-table, yet beat all around. This comes down to their shots per game – Galway took on average 43.25 shots per game – 5 more than the nearest team! Galway played the long game and shot from distance, rarely driving inside the 21 (scoring 2 goals in the 4 games recorded and with no goal shots in either Final).

Conceding by Team

The table above shows how much a team conceded compared to what score we would expect them to have conceded from shots taken on them.

This might suggest Tipp having a good defence, as they conceded 5pts less than was expected, but the reality for the Premier County is that they were giving up a huge 39.5 shots per game (8 more per game than Galway) and survived by forcing some misses.

Kilkenny’s defence was only average, which by Cody’s standards is not good enough, but they can argue that they were not the weaker part of the team.

Sharp Shooters

Above is a table of the players who scored more points from play than would be expected from the location of their shots.

John McGrath was the clear leader scoring over 8 pts above ExPts. He beat the ExPts in all 4 games recorded.

Kevin Moran and Jamie Barron were rightly recognised with All Stars and Player of the Year nominations and their shooting was of the highest standard. Both midfielders were in the top 5 most accurate shooters. Kevin Moran shot above Expected in every game after Munster.

Diarmuid O Keeffe is the only defender to make the top 10 and what a season he had, scoring in every NHL and SHC game he played for Wexford. Davy has made a menace out of the St Anne’s defender.

My Expectations

I hope to use the database of shots to work ahead on next season’s SHC, offering post game ExPts results. The data will build and should take weather  and game state into account as it grows.

Any questions – then please comment.

National Hurling League – Some Numbers up to Round 3

The National Hurling League has gone through three rounds of mud-battling to leave the public very confused. Cork were back, then Dublin were back, then Kilkenny were gone….and above all Wexford are back WOOHOO!

Unlike the many games of the Premier League or Major League Baseball, us hurling fans are not used to the week-in week-out changing nature of sports. We like to watch one-off matches and judge teams for that match alone. Players and Managers have been abused on the back of one poor performance – In baseball The World Series champions, the Chicago Cubs, lost 58 regular season games! Cody struggles with two.

I’ve had a look at some of the numbers behind the league to date…..

Selections

Looking at team selection details can tell you a little. Which teams are experimenting in the league, or which teams are picking a strong first team looking to win.

Looking at the three tables above you can see that both Galway, Laois and Limerick have been chopping and changing. Galway have had time to try out 30 different hurlers in the three rounds to date, Michael Donoghue is using their first trip to Division 1B to see their full panel.

Limerick have collected a good few years of strong under-age teams and seem to be struggling to find the best combination of young talent to start. Eamonn Kelly, meanwhile, is scouring his new county of Laois for talent, and they have worked hard at under-age in the past while so he may yet find a few gems.

On the other end of the scale Wexford and Waterford are working off of smaller panels. Seven of Waterford’s team has been constant throughout the 3 rounds. Derek McGrath has picked the same names in 5 defending positions and at goalkeeper, this is understandable as he has faced Tipperary, Kilkenny and a trip to Dublin in his first 3 games. Wexford have been pushing hard for promotion with opening games against Galway and Limerick limiting Davy Fitz’s selection policy.

Much has been made of Brian Cody’s search for a new Kilkenny team but the selection’s show he has built this new team around seven key players who have started every game – Eoin Murphy, Paul Murphy, Padraig Walsh, Conor Fogarty, Cillian Buckley, TJ Reid and Richie Hogan. These seven have had 18 different players tried around them in different lines of the pitch. Conor O Shea already looks like a solid addition to their side.

The Main Clubs

I’m always interested in seeing which clubs are providing the most key players to each county team. Last year Cuala had more hurlers selected for their county than any other club in Ireland, it is therefore no surprise to see them reach the All Ireland Club Final to face Clare’s Ballyea. This success of Cuala has had a major impact on Ger Cunningham’s Dublin in the league so far. Below is a table of the clubs who have had hurlers play the most minutes to date in the league.

Kerry hurling is clearly reliant on a small group of clubs with 5 clubs making the top 20. Kerry have picked their squad from 7 clubs in the county and Clarecastle in Clare.

The 2016 All-Ireland Club Champions, Na Piarsiagh of Limerick are alongside Borris in Ossory-Kilcotton (2016 Laois Champions) and Kilmacud Crokes with 6 hurlers selected for the league, an impressive achievement for any club.

The Set-Piece Battle

Looking at the results to date we can break down the scoring numbers for each county by their differential on scoring from set-pieces.

This table shows us that both Limerick and Wexford have outscored their oppositions by 9 points from frees, 65’s and sidelines. Wexford have made an excellent start to their league with tight wins against Limerick and Galway, this can only have been aided by conceding only 1-10 from placed ball in total over the three games. Limerick would argue that a blown penalty call in Wexford Park would see them further ahead in this table and also top of Division 1B!

On the bottom of the table you see Kerry and Dublin. Kerry have given away 2-27 from placed balls, seven points more than any other team and this is something they should be focusing on reducing. Dublin have a worryingly low scoring balance of minus 11. They have lost games against Waterford and Tipperary conceding 0-10 and 0-9 from placed balls in those games. Even in their win against Cork they were outscored 0-7 to 0-5 from placed balls. This leaves them 9 points below from their nearest Division 1A team, Kilkenny.

Top Scorers

Below are the top scorers from play for Division 1A and 1B. I have separated them out as Galway have been obliterating the table with huge scores against Laois and Offaly.

It is no surprise to see John McGrath top of the table. Stephen Bennett jumped up to the top after his 2-2 scored against Dublin at the weekend.

Division 1B sees a plethora of Galway men take over after their monster wins. Conor McDonald has made the top table after games against Limerick and Galway, in a team with a sweeper – no mean feat.

 

Notes

All numbers and information has been taken from our trusty newspapers and the42.ie. Any changes or emails from Podge Collins to lower John McGrath’s score is more than welcome!

 

Offaly Hurling – The Long Road Back

As a Wexford man growing up in the late 80’s/early 90’s I saw Wexford fall to great Offaly teams. Offaly stood for a long period at the hurling top table. Not only did they win two All Ireland’s in style in 90’s but they did so with great style.

It should always be noted that this period was against all odds, Offaly does not have a huge population (78,000) and is split between football and hurling – never easy for any county. Carlow is the only hurling county with a smaller population.

Currently Offaly are living up to the expectancy of a smaller county. Their hurling standard has dropped significantly. Many outside of the county have been surprised but the signs of decline have been clear to see for their Leinster competitiors.

Underage Signs – Minors

Over the past 10 seasons Offaly’s Minors have winning records in Leinster knockout stages against only Carlow, Kildare and Meath. Westmeath (2 wins – 2 losses) have made great strides in their underage hurling for some time now and have competed with Offaly.  Also in that period Offaly have lost to their neighbours, Laois, 4 years in a row (2012-15) including a 15 point drubbing in 2013.

Prior to the last 10 years Offaly minors had contested 10 Leinster Minor Finals from 1982 to 2003, winning 4 titles, their last in 2000. This drop in performance at minor level has also been shown in the Leinster Colleges “A” Hurling Championship where Birr Community School last made a Leinster Final in 2005.

Underage Signs – Under-21s

Not surprisingly Offaly have followed their Minor form into the Under 21 Championship. 2007 and 2008 saw the last hurrah of their Under 21’s with wins over Kilkenny and Wexford. Since then they have only succeeded in winning 4 Under 21 games against Laois, Westmeath, Carlow and Kildare.

Last year saw Offaly cling to hope of a revival at underage as their Under-21’s reached the Leinster Final but this was largely down to a fortunate draw which saw Kilkenny, Wexford, Westmeath and Dublin make up the other side of the draw.

Only 6 Offaly hurlers played in the Fitzgibbon knockout stages from 2013 to 2016, with only one hurler, Padraig Gunian playing significant time in the Fitzgibbon Cup weekend. Offaly hurlers played a total of 413 minutes of knockout hurling in the past 4 years of the Fitzgibbon, with Laois hurlers having more than double that with 926 minutes played, in contrast Tipperay are top with 10,579 minutes hurled. Offaly need more young hurlers competing at the top levels.

The Future

The purpose of this article is not to state anything obvious but more to remove the expectancy within and outside of Offaly of a quick revival. Underage development work leads to better players for senior teams. Offaly are only beginning to restructure their underage development system, Brian Carroll is now the Director of Hurling Development. The sad part is that it has taken a decade of decline for this to emerge.

Any hope of a quick fix at senior level would be based on hopes and wishes rather than reality. For Offaly to compete at the top table soon they would require extraordinary work by a manager with skills beyond that of Brian Cody. Patience and hard work are needed. Offaly hurling may even get worse before it gets better.

 

 

 

Wouldn’t it be nice to win something? – Wake up Gaelic Football

How long can a county go without a trophy? For some Gaelic Football counties that answer seems to be – forever. I am mystified why Gaelic Football counties will not accept a two-tier championship.

Lets be clear on this – some teams have zero chance of winning an All Ireland (sshh you Leicester City fans). How do they cajole themselves to train for months to face the Championship season? Players aren’t fools, they know the reality.

Stark Reality 1

Of the 33 teams entering the All Ireland Football Senior Championship

  • 17 haven’t played in an All Ireland final in over 60 years
  • 8 of those have never played in an All Ireland Final.

Stark Reality 2

  • 16 of the 33 teams entering the All Ireland Championship have not faced an All Ireland Semi-Final in the past 20 years.
  • 6 of the 33 teams have only had a single Semi-Final out in the past 20 years.

Stark Reality 3

12 of the teams in the All Ireland Championship haven’t won a Provincial Title in 48 years, 4 of these have never won one.

 

Two-Tier Approach – Why Not?

Every county enters their team into the current system. They pay a fortune preparing the team to compete. Yet those same counties all operate club championships that are tiered! When it comes to Inter-County they’d rather face 130 seasons of losing than start a season with a chance of winning or even competing.

Winning Lower Tier competitions can be fun! Just ask Joe Brolly’s twitter!

Inter-County could easily be treated like Club, allow for promotion/relegation. Scrap the imbalance, allow for competition. I’m sure there are 100’s of inter-county footballers who would prefer this. The league has now become the premier event for many counties as it offers them a fair challenge with a serious chance of success.

Pride vs Reality

It takes a few years for tradition to take hold but eventually teams will build a history of competition in the two tiers. Nobody likes to be a second-rate citizen but the charade is sapping the enjoyment of football for many counties. Imagine your county facing a semi-final that is winnable and meaningful? That is only a reality for the top teams.

If your county is “above” a second tier then go prove it, win the Tier 2 competition, go on and compete in the top Tier. Back up your belief.

130 more years?

Paraic Duffy has created a super-8 championship plan. I wonder who that benefits? It’s a two-tier championship at present, that is evident and Mr Duffy is rubber-stamping that. Only the current two tiers have no enjoyment for the second tier teams.

 

 

 

The Cody Era – The Numbers – Part 2

This is a continuation of my look into the 18 season management of Kilkenny by the legend that is Brian Cody.

You can read about his most capped players and his love for substituting the brave corner forwards in Part 1 HERE

The Importance of Michael Fennelly

Next I thought I’d look at what the Americans called the “winningest” players under Cody. Hurlers with the highest Win Rate in the past 18 season (League & Championship).

winners

From this table you can see that the loss of Michael Fennelly to Kilkenny for this years All Ireland Final was substantial. He is the “winningest” player under Cody at an incredible 86% win rate. The only hurler currently active to make the Top 20. Joey Holden at 21st is the next highest ranked active hurler.

Cody’s trusted selectors James McGarry and Derek Lyng both make the list, showing Cody knows his winners well. It is incredible to see that Kavanagh, Shefflin & Brennan had an 80% win rate over 100+ games played.

Winter Plodders vs Summer Hurlers

Much like the horse racing season there is a time for your tough plodding stayers in the mud of winter and there is a time for your thoroughbred stars in the glorious sun of the summer.

Cody’s selection is no different. I took the list of hurlers with more than 30 appearances under Cody and compared how many league games they played compared to their championship appearances.

During Cody’s era he has led Kilkenny into 130 NHL matches and 84 Championship games. The average split of League to Championship is around 60:40.

Just as a quick example the table below shows the average and the two extremes. Willie O Dwyer was a League man for Cody, making 70% of his appearances in the league. On the other hand it is King Henry who was brought out when the sun shone and the big shiny cup was there to be won. Shefflin played 56% of his games in the Championship.

nhl-to-shc-split

The full list of splits for hurlers with more than 30 appearances is shown below. Eoin Larkin, DJ Carey and Cillian Buckley are the three alongside Shefflin who have appeared in more Championship matches than league matches.

nhl-split

Canice Hickey (Dunnamaggin) and Michael Grace (Rower/Inistioge) both played 12 NHL games without a SHC appearance.

 

Club Preference

Below is a table of the Number of Appearances made by each club under Cody’s reign.

apps-by-club

Unsurprisingly Ballyhale Shamrocks (Shefflin, Reids, Fennellys) and James Stephens (incl. Tyrell & Larkin) have topped the table with the most selections. the list shows how exhaustive a search Cody has made with 30 clubs providing players.

(I have tried to find the right club for each player  (searching yearbooks and websites) so if any club feels under-represented please let me know.)

 

Players Per Club

Below is the table showing how many players from each club were picked by Cody in 18 seasons.

hurlers-by-club

Kilkenny have failed to field a James Stephens hurler on only 6 occasions in 214 of Cody’s matches and on 4 of those occasions, in early 2005, James Stephens were contesting the All Ireland Club Championship! From the period 26 Feb 2006 to 30 March 2014 (99 Games, over 8 years) Kilkenny had a James Stephens man selected in every match.

Ballyhale have had a representative in 194 of the 214 matches.

Only three clubs – James Stephens, Ballyhale Shamrocks & O Loughlin Gaels have had a representative in the Kilkenny colours in all 18 seasons. 2016 was the first season Dunnamaggin had no representative.

Possibly More to Come?

I will aim to delve further into the numbers, if I find any more worthwhile info I may squeeze a third post.

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

or

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:

pitch-zones

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?

 

Conclusion

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.

 

 

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.

codys-generals

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.

most-capped-15

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……

subbed

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.

venue

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.

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.

all-stars-by-club

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.

all-stars-by-club-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.

Location

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.

 

The Changing Geography of Wexford Hurling

The upcoming club semi finals in Wexford contain 2 teams who have yet to win senior title (Ferns & Glynn Barntown), a club without a title since 1993 (Cloughbawn)  and the dominant Oulart-The-Ballagh (champions in 6 of the past 7 years). It made me wonder how much the county has changed in terms of club dominance over the past 40 years.

The table below of Wexford SHC winners shows the historical dominance held by Rathnure, Buffers Alley, Oulart the Ballagh
top-wexford-club-wins

This year sees the traditional powers of Buffers Alley & Rathnure failing to make the semi finals for the fourth consecutive year. Buffers Alley have now gone 24 years without a county title after winning their 12 titles in the previous 24 years.  Rathnure are currently in their leanest spell without a county title since 1947, their last title was in 2006. Adamstown who lie 4th in titles won, last won a county title in 1942 and St Aidans of Enniscorthy in 1959.

I decided to delve into the impact the dominance of clubs has had on the county panel throughout the years in order to try and show how the traditional dominance in Wexford has changed. I mapped the hurlers that made up the county panel in two eras – 1976 (All Ireland Final Runners Up), 1996 (All Ireland Champions) and compared them to the hurlers who played championship for this year’s team. A 20 year gap between each group.

Below shows the county map, with a jersey for each panel hurler placed on their club location. the jersey size placed on the club location is based on the number of hurlers from that club on the county team (i.e.bigger jersey = More players from that club)

wexford-hurling-map

Looking at the three maps you can clearly see the change in the geography of Wexford hurling.In the map below I have shaded the traditional hurling belt which covers Oulart the Ballagh, Buffers Alley, Enniscorthy & Rathnure.

wexford-hulring-map-shaded

From the shaded area you can see that 1976 saw a dominance from three clubs – Buffers Alley (6 hurlers), Oulart & Rathnure (4) along with 3 hurlers from Wexford Town, south of the shaded area (Faythe Harriers).

1996 saw a slightly larger spread south of the shaded area, in the area around Wexford Town, with Glynn Barntown and St Martins having 3 hurlers on the county panel.

2016 sees a strong geographical change from the 1976 panel. Now the dominance held by the traditional hurling clubs is much reduced. Oulart had 3 hurlers playing in 2016 (notably with injuries to David Redmond & Shaun Murphy their number would be 5), Buffers Alley (1) and Rathnure had no hurler play in the 2016 Championship for Wexford. Outside of Oulart’s 3 hurlers we see a widespread of clubs represented with 1 or 2 hurlers. The southern area below the shaded area has seen an outbreak of hurling influence on the county team.

The numbers below show the wider spread of clubs with players represented on the county panel from 1976 to 2016.

club-spread

The numbers and maps appear to show that Wexford Hurling is now a county-wide sport. The south of the county now holds many senior and minor hurlers. Numerous smaller clubs dotted throughout the county have also produced hurlers capable at playing at a high level.

The traditional big 3 are still holding their ground in the Senior level of the County Championship but their dominance as a group has been reduced.