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Two Key Stats To Watch Out For In This Weekend's Super 8s

Two Key Stats To Watch Out For In This Weekend's Super 8s
Mark Farrelly
By Mark Farrelly
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Across the opening weekend of the Super 8 fixtures we witnessed different strategies, close games, hammerings and the challenges presented by the unreliability of the weather but one trend remained constant throughout all of the four matches: not one of the winning teams lost the kickout battle.

This season has seen more and more teams push up on the opposition kickouts, forcing more contested ball and placing a lot more pressure on goalkeepers to deliver pinpoint passes from the tee. Of the four teams who won last weekend - namely Tyrone, Dublin, Monaghan and Galway - three won a higher percentage of their own kickouts than their opposition, while Monaghan and Kildare were tied even.

These stats -  provided to us by Sure, the official statistics partner of the GAA - are the only clear pattern evident among those who emerged victorious. Dublin won far fewer turnovers than Donegal, Galway had more wides than Kerry and Monaghan conceded more frees in their own half than Kildare but no winner conceded the battle for restart supremacy. In the first match of the weekend, Tyrone lost five of their 25 kickouts, while Roscommon lost 8 out 31. On Sunday, Galway won 15 out of 21, compared to Kerry's 17 out of 26.  Fine margins but it is on fine margins that games can be won and lost.

This was most evident in Dublin v Donegal on Saturday evening. The Ulster champions stayed in the hunt for large periods but struggled in winning their own kickout, losing 10 out of 25. Sure inform us that Dublin scored 0-3 directly off those lost kickouts but there was also the fact that it was clear to see how losing your own kickouts can suck the momentum out of a team, particularly when chasing a game. Down the other end of the pitch, Stephen Cluxton had no such issue. He also took 25 kickouts, with all but two of them finding a Dublin jersey.  It's no surprise that the four winners from round one have arguably the four most accurate goalkeepers in the game.

Super 8s

What will be interesting this weekend, however, is the match between Tyrone and Dublin. Playing a defensive structure as extreme as Tyrone's makes it very difficult to push up on kickouts. When they lose the ball, their first instinct is to funnel back into defence, but a lost kickout while pushed up makes this almost impossible to do. It makes their efforts against Roscommon - a team who like to go short with their kickouts - all the more laudible but the issue they now face is that Dublin are equally comfortable going short or long. Should they try to press the kickout, Cluxton will just look for the likes of Brian Fenton, Michael Darragh MacAuley or Brian Howard (who caught more marks on his own last weekend than any other team in the Super 8s) out around the middle of the field. Damned if you do and damned if you don't.

Another key stat to keep an eye on in that match will be the amount of fouls Dublin commit in Tyrone's half. Mickey Harte's attacking plan centres around winning the ball back in defence and counterattacking at breakneck speed. Will the Dubs allow this to happen? They didn't against Donegal. They conceded nine kickouts in Donegal's half compared to just three in their own, thus slowing up the Donegal transition and allowing themselves regroup in defence.

They're cute and I don't mean cuddly.


Sure is the official statistics partner of the GAA




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