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!

 

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.

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:

scoring-timeline

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.

oulart-shooting-1st-50-mins

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.

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.