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Dublin: 4°C Wednesday 20 January 2021

The story of Donegal's win over Dublin in possession, shots, turnovers and kickouts

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

Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

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



So the Donegal plan, going in to the game, was simple. Defensively use the first 25 minutes in the Monaghan game as your template and maintain that for 70 minutes. Offensively – take every opportunity that came your way.

Well, on the offensive side Donegal followed this to a tee. A 68% success rate is the best recorded in the last three year’s worth of championship games (75 games & 150 teams at this point). But we knew that Donegal could do this – the record prior to this game was their own 67% success rate compiled against Tyrone in their opening encounter last year.

On the defensive side they kind of followed the script. Below are Dublin’s averages in the four championship games to date compared against how Donegal fared.

Donegal did not stay on the Monaghan trajectory (that was projected to be 42 attacking possessions) but they did limit the attacks Dublin had and managed to keep their shot rate to an average level. This meant that Dublin managed a full 6.5 shots less than they had averaged to date. A mixture of Donegal pressure (both in terms of on the shooter and where they allowed Dublin to shoot from) as well as scoreboard pressure ensured that Dublin’s accuracy was also well down on where it had been previously.

Lower attacks + lower shot rate + lower Dublin accuracy still equalled 17 points. But it was enough to keep give Donegal an achievable target and once they got into gear they flew. Getting 3-1 from four attempts on goal does not do any harm either.

Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Shots From Play

As exceptional as Donegal’s shooting was – it could have been better! Four of their five misses were very central (see shot chart below) with Murphy, Toye and McHugh all dropping shots into Cluxton’s hands. The fifth miss from McFadden, inside the 20m line on the left, was also one he’d like back.

That of course is nit picking. Donegal were, as a team, exceptionally accurate though their success rate was helped by the shots they took. Only McBrearty took a shot from outside the 20m line in the second half whilst only three shots in the entire game could be deemed to be outside the optimal shooting zone (and they converted two!).

Dublin’s shooting returns may come as a surprise but there was a real split in both their accuracy and their shot type between the two halves.

When going for points in the first half Dublin recorded a success rate of 67% (10 from 15) with a weighting of +3.528. They were taking, and converting, multiple long range shots – 5 of their points came from central shots around 40 metres out (out of six shots).

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

In the second half their long range point taking disappeared. Never mind 40 metres out, only one shot was attempted from further out than the top of the D. They stepped into the traffic where the Donegal defence was and thus 55% (6 out of 11) of their point attempts were taken under pressure. In the second half their point taking was 45% with a success rate of +0.564. Average but not the stellar heights they hit in the first half.

Then there were the goal chances. Whereas Donegal hit 3-1 from their four goal shots Dublin missed all five of theirs. Apart from the execution perhaps the strangest thing is that in the second half, when they were chasing the game, this goal hungry team didn’t have an attempt for a goal until the 66th minute. Another notch on Donegal’s defensive belt.

Shots From Deadballs

A very poor return from Dublin converting only 27% of their chances.

Admittedly Cluxton’s three attempts from the right were of the more difficult variety but on average one in three of those are converted. For a player of Cluxton’s ability you expect one to be converted and hope for two.

Brogan’s chances were much easier. He converted the attempt from in front of the posts but missed the two from the left. Combining this year’s four games, and the six games in 2013, Brogan was running at an 88% success rate (21 from 24 on deadballs). Undoubtedly the majority of those were taken when well ahead on the scoreboard.

Perhaps the two he missed on Sunday, when Dublin absolutely needed them, were the best examples of the pressure the game situation had created.

Donegal’s discipline in defence is something we have touched on time and again but to only give away four frees inside the 45, considering the volume of attacks they faced, was immense.


Not much between the teams here. Considering how many attacks Dublin had, and thus how often they met the Donegal defence, it was a good effort to only lose the ball 16 times through a tackle or a misplaced pass.

The overall quality of play was quite high. The total number of turnovers at 47 is on the lower end. In their two semi finals Kerry & Mayo averaged 56.5 (over 70 minutes).


Dublin dominated their own kickouts.

Cluxton was too quick for the cameras on four of the 23 kickouts. Of the other 19 Dublin went short with seven (37%). They carried the ball into Donegal’s 45 on six occasions with three points resulting from four shots. Donegal’s three wins all came from kickouts that landed past the 45 but even here, when the defending team is more favoured, Dublin still won the possession stakes 8–3.

Donegal were not as interested in the quick kickout as Dublin and as such the cameras only missed where one landed. This also had a knock on effect on how often they went short. Only three (10%) of their 30 kickouts went short – and Dublin managed to win one of those.

Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Early in the first half Donegal had an excellent outlet to MacNiallais on the left in the “mid” range (between the 45 and 65). He was found three times but Dublin closed off this avenue soon after and only two more kickouts were hit to this mid range thereafter.

That leaves the vast majority of Donegal’s kickouts going long – 73%. Donegal struggled early losing six of the first seven – they just couldn’t get their hands on the ball thus enabling Dublin’s initial attacking onslaught. After this though they got a grip and won the next 15 long kickouts 10-5.

Shot Charts

Donegal’s shooting

Dublin’s shooting


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

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