Kerry’s patient approach helps throw off Tyrone’s blanket
One third of their scores came from extended periods of possession
Connor McAliskey of Tyrone battles for possession with Kerry’s Fionn Fitzgerald during the All-Ireland SFC semi-final at Croke Park. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
Kevin McStay made an interesting point on The Sunday Game after the Kerry-Tyrone match, pointing out with the help of a diagram that the preponderance of Kerry scores had, despite Tyrone’s system, come from positions deep inside the defensive line.
Another slightly counter-intuitive point to emerge from the match was that beating the blanket can be about retaining possession as well as hitting quickly on the counter-attack.
In theory the longer a team recycles the ball against a defensive system, the higher the risk that they will be turned over in possession and leave themselves open to a breakaway attack.
Kerry’s experience was rather different and more than one third of their scores – seven points – on Sunday came from extended periods of possession, which culminated in the creation of an availed-of scoring opportunity. For these purposes an extended phase of play means a move featuring at least 10 passes.
The Munster champions were so efficient at this that all of these instances led to scores – either kicked over by the last player or resulting in free kicks that led directly to scores, including one quickly taken free that provided a converted scoring opportunity for the first receiver.
The most extended sequence came in the lead-up to James O’Donoghue’s 55th-minute free, which was the culmination of 32 uninterrupted passes. The other six scores came at the end of moves ranging from 10 passes to 17.
Tyrone hadn’t the same success. Their longest passages of retained possession were 23 passes – ending in Connor McAliskey kicking a ball that fell harmlessly to a Kerry defender – and 13 at the end of which Tiernan McCann fouled the ball.