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!

 

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.

 

 

 

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.

top-combined-scorer

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.

top-20-from-play

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.

 

Mission Impossible: Ferns?

How do you solve a problem like Oulart?

  • 9 county titles won in 12 years.
  • An average winning margin per game of over 8 points in the past 6 seasons.
  • 39 wins, 1 draw and 2 defeats in their past 42 Wexford Championship matches.

When Ferns St Aidans line out next Sunday to face the men from Oulart-The Ballagh they know they are facing a monumental battle to dethrone the champions. The table below shows how dominant Oulart have been for the past 6 seasons:

screenshot-2016-09-26-19-58-08

(This table doesn’t include results from Oulart’s 4 titles from 2005-10!)

So how can Ferns try to stop the black and red monster rolling on?

MISSION 1: Stop Oulart scoring goals.

In their past 42 games (2011 to present) in the Pettits SHC Oulart have scored at least 1 goal in 36 matches……with a record of 35 wins and 1 draw.

Stopping Oulart’s forwards is far easier said than done, but a focus on keeping the sliotar out of the Ferns’ net must be the number 1 priority. The table below shows Oulart’s win record based on how many goals they have scored in a match.

oulart-goals-scored

Oulart’s two solitary defeats in their past 6 Pettits SHC seasons have come when they have been held goal-less. This year Mickey Laffan has built a tight Ferns defence, conceding only 1 goal in their 6 matches to date (to Oulart!), so this is a target they can really aim for.

MISSION 2: Take a different approach

Ferns have locked horns with Oulart 4 times in the past 6 seasons. each time coming out on the wrong end.

In each of these 4 matches Ferns have scored 17 times (1-16 three times and 0-17 once). Scoring 17 times or less against Oulart has never seen them beaten in the past 6 seasons (35 wins, 1 draw).

Ferns also have the undesirable record of having conceded the most of any team against Oulart over the past 6 years:

ferns-v-oulart-avg-score

Ferns have conceded an average of 3-21 in their past 4 matches against Oulart. Some change has to be made from their previous approach, 17 scores have proven not to be enough and Fern’s have yet to get to grips with Oulart’s attack.

MISSION 3: Wear Blue & Green!

Ferns should look at previous ways teams have taken on Oulart and maybe the tactics/style employed by the Glynn Barntown men is the way they should work.

In their 3 meetings over the past 6 years Glynn Barntown have held Oulart to their lowest average score – 20 points (some 10 points less than Ferns’ average concession). Barntown’s results against Oulart read alot easier than most teams who’ve been put to the sword, Barntown have lost by 5 points, 1 point and had a shock win in 2014 through a last minute Rowan White goal.

Mickey Laffan would do well to tap into his home clubs experience in handling Oulart’s attack.

MISSION 4: Stifle the 4 Headed Beast

Dessie, Nicky, Rory & Garrett. Four names that defenders all over Wexford shudder to hear. Oulart Coach Frank Flannery likes to draw defences out and play ball into space in front of the four men that lead his charge.

This year these four Oulart forwards all make the Top 10 scorers from play in the Wexford Championship:

top-10-scores-play-wexford-shc

Ferns match-ups will have to be spot on in order to stifle the movement and speed of this front 4. Any space allowed to these four forwards can lead to disaster as Naomh Eanna found out within 2 minutes of their quarter final.

Conclusion

Mickey Laffan and the men from Ferns have their work cut out on Sunday. Their previous round upset win over St. Martins must give them great belief. Oulart are the standard bearers in Wexford and it will take one hell of a performance to oust the champions. Oulart found out in 2014 against Glynn Barntown that past dominance matters for little in knockout hurling. As a neutral I can only hope for a cracker.

 

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.