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Dublin: 2°C Sunday 11 April 2021

The story of Donegal and Armagh’s battle in possession, shots, turnovers and kickouts

What were the key stats from last Saturday’s game in Croke Park?

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Please find a refresher on the definitions and how the numbers are compiled here.



Given the defensive nature of both teams it might be surprising to see so many attacking possessions in the game. But it is the defensive nature of the teams that leads to these high volumes – when the opposition has the ball they are allowed come forward and are only engaged somewhere around the 45. Thus attacking possessions are achieved quite easily.

The low Shot Rates further emphasise this philosophy. In their three games to date Donegal have allowed the opposition Shot Rates of71%71% and 64%. You may have the ball, even be allowed into the 45, but you will have to work extra hard for any shots you carve out.

Given that Donegal manufactured eight extra shots they will be very disappointed to have only won by a single point. Whilst they were in control of much of the game, and looked comfortable, they never should have been in a position where a goal put them under such pressure. Their usual third quarter supremacy was in evidence (they were winning the second half shot count 10-3 at one stage) but their lack of accuracy meant that it was not shown on the scoreboard.

Where attacks originated

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Two things stand out from the above table. The first is how much more successful Donegal were at getting attacking possession from Armagh’s kickouts than was the case the other way around. The second is where the turnovers were received. Only 5 of the 31 turnovers that were turned into attacks emanated from outside either side’s 45. Unlike what Mayo did to Cork there was no real high pressing of defenders and no attacks, and thus points, were achieved cheaply.

Shots from Play

Very good shooting from Armagh, especially when you consider that only 4 of the 22 shots were taken from a central location. Tony Kernan (3 from 4) and Stefan Campbell (2 from 3) were the main protagonists.

Looking at the shot chart below it is quite surprising to see that Tony Kernan’s long range effort in the first half was the only shot attempted from further than 35metres. Donegal “give” teams the wide channel, as they protect the central shooting area, and Armagh were content to shoot from there rather than try to tease the defensive shield out by shooting over it.

Donegal’s shooting from play was atrocious. There’s no real way around it. And this despite the fact that they converted three of their last four attempts; up until then Donegal were running at a 20% Success Rate!

We have seen poor shooting from Donegal before (they hit 21%, 3 from 14, in the 2013 Ulster Final) but not this year. In their three games on the way to the Ulster championship their returns from play have been 50%, 50% & 53%. I guess Donegal will write this off as “one of those things” and move on.

Armagh, like the aforementioned Monaghan team in 2013, are a physically imposing team so some of this poor return could be attributed to them. Only 57% (13/23) of Donegal’s attempts at a point were done so under pressure however.

Instead I would attribute a lot of the poor returns to poor shooting – Gallagher’s effort in the second half – and poor options – McGee’s second attempt from the right plus Murphy’s two very long range efforts. Yes Murphy can convert these attempts but would the better option have been to work the ball in closer as they did for the penultimate point?

Shots from dead balls

Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

For 70 minutes Donegal showed excellent disciple in defence only allowing Armagh two shots at goal from frees. That collective discipline dissolved when the ball was kicked away to give Armagh that last opportunity but otherwise they can be pleased with their efforts.

Murphy was having a very good day from frees until he missed a fairly routine free c40m out in front of goals with his last attempt. His weighting is badly affected by that miss. Similarly McFadden missed a central kick that badly affected his weighting but his was just inside the 45m line and to the right.

For an area of their game that was such a strength in 2012 Donegal are returning below par performances this year. In the four games to date Murphy & McFadden are a combined 64% (18/28) with a weighting of -1.205.


The nature of both teams’ philosophy can be seen in how few turnovers there were. A combined volume of 44 is quite low whilst both teams struggled to transfer the turnovers won into shots. Part of this was due to where the turnover ball was received – all bar one of the 44 turnovers were received in the opposition’s half.

Now Donegal are known for their ability to transfer turnover ball into scores however against a team like Armagh, who are set up with a defensive mindset, the space to run into once the turnover was won was not there. Also due to their own setup nothing was scored easily … none of their 22 turnovers were won outside their 65.

On the flipside Donegal only gave up three of their turnovers outside Armagh’s 45. Armagh were given nothing easy – the only turnover Donegal gave up in their own half was when Gallagher lost the ball in the tackle between his 45 & 65.


Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Donegal, for the main part, were in control of their own kickouts. Of their 22 kickouts we did not see where 2 landed. Of the remaining 20 45% went short with Donegal manufacturing 5 shots and scoring 0-01.

On the eleven that were contestable (dropped past the 45) Armagh “won” the initial possession battle 6-5. Surprisingly for three of Armagh’s wins Durcan managed to pick out an Armagh player standing on his own.

Armagh had a much tougher day on their kickouts only winning 50%. Given this fact it was surprising that Armagh went short only four times (we didn’t see where two of the kickouts landed). Of the 22 contestable kickouts Donegal won possession 13 times getting a shot off on nine of them. Armagh managed seven shots from the nine possessions they won – which is a good return – however they would have been better taking a few more short kickouts thus depriving Donegal of attacking ball inside the Armagh 65 whilst also ensuring more attacking possessions for themselves (given the low turnover rate they were attaining.

Shot Charts



x = missed, disc = score, yellow = deadball, black = 1st half from play, white = 2nd half from play

Players with >= 2 shots from play

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO


Reproduced with kind permission of James Robinson (@dontfoul ). This article first appeared on the Don’t Foul website.

About the author:

TheScore Team

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