Tuesday 21 January 2020

Kingdom give rival finalists a real kicking in handpass stakes

Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

KERRY relied on the handpass more than any of their counterparts, according to match data from the four provincial football finals.

They were the undisputed handpass kings, slinging out between 39pc and 90pc more than the seven other finalists. That will come as a surprise to those who say Kerry use a more direct style than other counties.

It's a significant statement on Kerry's approach against Limerick, where they handpassed the ball 132 occasions -- 37 times more than their rivals. It was also 37 more than Tyrone used against Monaghan in the Ulster final.

Louth relied on the handpass less than any other provincial finalist, deploying it just 69 times against Meath (83). The lowest aggregate was in the Leinster final, which returned 152 handpasses, 12 fewer than Connacht where Roscommon-Sligo returned 164. Ulster had 189 and Munster 227.

The handpass has been under the spotlight since the experiments with the fisted pass last spring. They were thrown out at Congress, but a slight adjustment was made to the old format, requiring an upward striking motion. That proved controversial in the early stages of the championship as players complained about refereeing inconsistencies and while there are still occasional frustrations, things have settled down.

Overall, the number of handpasses was down by an average of 19 per game on last year's provincial finals. Whether that's due to the amended handpass or the individual styles of the competing counties, is difficult to assess.

Clean catching from kick-outs averaged just over four per county, with Monaghan best on seven and Sligo and Louth worst on one each. This was another area of experiment in the league where a 'mark' applied but like so many of the proposals, it was voted down at Congress.

Remarkably, Louth, who have highly rated midfielders in Paddy Keenan and Brian White, caught just one kick-out against Meath, which was also matched by Sligo. Tyrone proved that catching kick-outs is not necessary to construct an easy win as they managed just two, whereas Monaghan fielded seven in last Sunday's final.

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As for shots at goal from outside the 20-metre line, the Connacht final was a clear winner with Roscommon and Sligo producing a total of 45, which was eight more than Meath-Louth, 13 more than Tyrone-Monaghan and 18 more than Kerry-Limerick.

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