THE Armagh quarter-finals are being held this weekend and a statistical analysis of the unbeaten teams involved suggests that are plenty of reasons why those winning runs can continue.
BMAC Performance Analysis has looked in depth at a number of the teams involved and while Clann Eireann are the most vulnerable of the winners as they face heavyweights Crossmaglen, there were signs in their last match to suggest that they can give the Rangers a solid test.
The Lurgan side had two points to spare over Dromintee in round two and there were pleasing aspects for manager Kieran Robinson.
Conor McConville scored their first two points and they both came via forced turnovers. Indeed, four of their first-half points came via forced turnovers with sweeper Jack Wilson responsible for one of those with Conor Turbitt pointing as a result.
That meant that they started the second half 2-5 to 1-2 in front, and McConville quickly extended that with a free. Dromintee were pushing hard though, and Conor Bell had to be alert to clear the ball off the line.
A worry for Robinson is that Dromintee scored five of the last six points, and his side struggled to break the momentum – but they got home in the end.
County champions Maghery were 3-7 to 1-8 winners over Crossmaglen in the second round, but they will still be hoping for a massive improvement against Sarsfields on Monday night.
Maghery set out their stall early with the first four points of the game as they dominated the aerial battle in centerfield with James Lavery and Ben Crealey winning the game’s first five kick-outs. Three of their first four points originated from kick-outs.
Shane McConville’s side then started to really struggle. Crossmaglen began to hold their own in the middle of the field and won seven of nine from Maghery kick-outs. Oisin O’Neill became more prominent, having 12 possessions in the opening 20 minutes, however it was the younger O’Neill brother, Rian who brought Cross back to within a point of the champions with a converted free in the 23rd minute. This proved to be the final score of the half, leaving Maghery ahead, 0-4 to 0-3.
At half-time it was obvious both had plenty to work on.
Crossmaglen’s ability to break the ball in the middle of the field, along with their tenacious tackling, provided two of their three points from turnovers. Having 23 attacks, they only converted 25% of their 12 shots to scores though.
Thirteen of their 23 attacks came up the right hand of the side, the side Rian O’Neill was stationed on although he only had five possessions of the ball in the first half.
Maghery’s defence were on top for a lot of the first half with 10 turn-overs coming in their defensive third – however only one score came as a result of these good plays.
Maghery scored all of their points in the opening seven minutes of the match as they won 100% of the first five kick-outs. They struggled for the remainder of the half, winning just four out of 14 kick-outs.
Crossmaglen’s defence dominated the opening stages of the second half. They turned over 80% of Maghery’s first five attacks. It took Maghery until the 15th minute of the second half to register a point, Stefan Forker kicking his side’s fifth of the evening. Maghery had converted 31% of their 18 shots by this period in the game, four going wide and five dropping short.
Maghery would not complain about their next shot dropping short. A long ball into the full-forward line by James Lavery sailed over Paul Hearty’s head and nestled into the bottom corner of the Crossmaglen goal.
Cross answered superbly with a well-taken Paul Hughes point to level the game with seven minutes remaining. Although still in the game, Crossmaglen seemed to lose their way as the champions began to push for home. Again a high ball troubled the Cross full-back line with Ronan Lappin, now playing full-forward, scoring the game’s third goal to put his sidethree three points ahead.
Crossmaglen now seemingly rattled, Hearty misplaced his kick-out and played it over the sideline, providing the scene for one of the most unusual goals seen in the Athletic Grounds. Aidan Forker’s shot from the sideline dropped short but once again it flew over the Cross defence and ’keeper to end up in the back of the net.
A brilliant long-range point from Ben Crealey followed leaving Maghery 3-7 to 1-6 ahead. Cross managed to score the final two points of the game through Aaron Kernan and substitute Paul McKeown. However, it was too little too late.
Although the scoreline may suggest different, the statistics show how close a game these two heavyweights played out. The sides were level entering the final 10 minutes of the match. Each team had 34 turnovers while Crossmaglen marginally won more kick-outs, winning 18 while Maghery won 17.
Although Crossmaglen had six more attacks than their opponents, it was Maghery’s improved finishing in front of goal, along with a bit of luck, which told the tale in the second half. They converted 60% of their 10 shots into scores, compared to their 33% shot accuracy in the first half.
Crossmaglen’s shot accuracy let them down as they only converted 36% of 25 scoring opportunities; kicking nine wides and four short. Crossmaglen continued to attack down the right hand side of the pitch, 23 of their 44 attacks coming through this wing.
Maghery’s defence, after a poor start to the second half, came good as they turned the former champions over 12 times in the second half.
Ballymacnab, meanwhile, will be full of confidence as they meet Madden following the destruction of their rivals Granemore by 15 points.
Ballymacnab’s accuracy in front of goal drove them to an impressive victory converting 69% of 29 shots. Returning a score of 2-18 from 42 attacks.
In the first half, Ballymacnab controlled their own kick-outs, winning seven from nine and converting three of the retained restarts into scores. From 19 attacks, Ballymacnab attempted 12 shots converting 75%. Four of their scores came from turnovers.
Granemore made 11 turnovers in the first half, five of them coming in midfield. They created 15 attacks and 10 shots. However, they only managed to convert 50% of their shots into scores; kicking four wides and dropping one shot short.
By full-time the ‘Nab had secured 27 turnovers (12 in defence) which led to 13 of their scores. They retained 75% of their 12 kick-outs, bringing them four scores, while they also got three scores coming from Granemore kick-outs.
While Granemore won the majority of their own kick-outs (18/28), 15 resulted in breaking ball in the middle of the field. Granemore won just over half of those with their opponents winning seven.
Granemore had 16 shots from 27 attacks, only scoring 1-6, giving them a 44% shot accuracy.
The final quarter-final will see Armagh Harps attempting to repeat their round two win over Cullyhanna when they meet this evening at the Athletic Grounds.