Kilkenny and Tipperary falling behind other counties due to their use of possession.

Tipperary and Kilkenny will not be involved in the All Ireland Final for the second championship season in a row. Over the last ten years the two teams have featured more than any other county on All Ireland Final day.

Both counties will also be without a provincial championship title for the second year in a row.

People would point out that in this championship both counties gave many players their championship debuts. The counties are now in a period where their players need to get championship miles on the clock before they can see some success again.

But rewind back to the beginning of the 2017 Munster Championship where Cork started with 5 championship debutants against Tipperary. The Rebels have gone on to win back to back Munster championships since then.

What has happened over the last two seasons is that teams like Galway, Clare, Limerick and Cork have improved their attacking threat with their use of possession to compliment their movement.

We have analysed Kilkenny and Tipperary’s use of possession in 2018 to explain their recent lack of success. We compare it to their successful All Ireland winning performances and we also compare it with some performances of the teams left in the championship this year.

(We measure their use of possession by analysing clearances from Kilkenny and Tipperary players which they have made from outside their oppositions 65 yard line during play.

Possession that was soloed in to the opposition’s 65 yard line were not included. Attempted clearances were the only action used in our analysis)



Cats Success.

Kilkenny’s success was based on their two wing forwards dropping deep and their players being able to launch ball in to their forwards who were able to win possession.

The old Kilkenny teams had fantastic aerial ability all over the pitch. Their backs had an ability to deliver clearances in to space but also could rely on their forwards strength in the air when hitting deliveries.

In the 2011 All Ireland Final win over Tipperary.

  • They retained 60.86% of their clearances in to their forward line from clearances outside the opposition’s 65 yard line.
  • Kilkenny made 46 clearances into the Tipperary half of the field.
  • The Cats retained possession on 28 occasions and lost possession 18 times.

(Kilkenny’s excellent use of ball with movement)


In the 2018,

Kilkenny have tried to move the ball through the lines in the earlier stages of the league and championship. But as the championship went on the Kilkenny team reverted back to their old way of launching possession from their defence in to attack.

The stats for Kilkenny’s use of possession in the All Ireland Quarter Final showed that the Cats were having problems transitioning the sliotar from defence to in their forward line.

All Ireland Quarter Final loss to Limerick.

  • Kilkenny retained 43.47% of their clearances in to their forward line.
  • The Cats made 46 clearances from their defence in to Limerick half.
  • Retaining the possession on 20 occasions and losing possession to Limerick 26 times.

(Kilkenny’s poor use of possession)




Premier County

Tipperary over the last decade have been a team which loses a high amount of clearances that go in to their forward line. The Premier county rely on their forwards excellent shooting accuracy when they do win possession. They also rely on a huge tackle and turnover count by their forwards in order to win back possession lost.

Their All Ireland win against Kilkenny in 2016 saw them combine movement and placing of clearances in to space so their forwards could utilise their pace.

In the 2016 All Ireland victory over Kilkenny.

  • In that final Tipperary retained possession on 44.44 % of their clearances from outside the opposition’s 65 yard line
  • They made 36 clearances in to the Kilkenny half of the pitch.
  • Retaining possession on 16 occasions and losing possession 20 times.

(Excellent use of possession) 



In 2018,

Tipperary have seen a regression in the retention of their clearances during the Munster Championship.

  • The Premier men retaining only 29.20 % of their clearances over their 4 Munster Championship games this year.
  • From 113 clearances made over the course of the Munster Championship. Tipperary retained possession on 33 occasions and lost possession 80 times.


During 2018, the Premier county dropped their wing forwards deep but because their use of the ball was poor. It often meant that all the good work of winning possession and working back down the field was cancelled out by clearing the ball back to free opposition defenders.

(See the video below)


How do the Kilkenny and Tipperary teams of 2018 compare to some of the performances of the teams still remaining in the 2018 championship?

  • Clare in their Quarter Final victory over Wexford had a retention rate of 65% from their clearances. In that game their forwards retained 26 clearances from a total of 40 made in the game.


  • Galway, the reigning All Ireland champions had retention rate of 58.53% in their Leinster Final replay victory over Kilkenny.  In this game Galway won 24 from a total of 40 clearances from their defence.


  • Limerick’s quarter final victory over Kilkenny in Thurles last Sunday saw them finish the game with a retention rate of 59.52 % from their clearances. The Treaty men retained 25 of their 42 clearances from their defence.


  • Cork won their Munster final against Clare with a retention rate of 73% of their clearances. The Rebels game plan involves running a lot to possession against oppositions defence. In that game Cork retained 17 of their 23 clearances from play.


Time for Change?

The Tipperary and Kilkenny supporters are always looking for a powerful and fast hurler with aerial ability to be introduced to their county team.

The 2018 championship has seen forwards like Grahame Mulcahy (5″9) , Daniel Kearney (5″9), Podge Collins (5″7) and David Reidy (5″7) playing vital roles for their counties forward lines.

While Richie Hogan can survive in the Kilkenny system due to being one of the best hurlers to ever play the game. It would be a fair assumption that to say that Mulcahy, Kearney, Collins and Reidy would not survive in a Kilkenny or Tipperary set up. The likelihood is they would not be inter county hurlers in these counties.

Is it time for Kilkenny and Tipperary to improve their use of possession to get them over in these tight games? Could an improvement in their use of possession open opportunities for players of a smaller stature in the counties?

Over the past two seasons, Kilkenny’s losing margins have been by 3 points to Wexford, draw with Waterford then losing by 7 points in extra time, 8 points against Galway and 2 points against Limerick.

The Premier county lost by 4 points to Cork and 1 point to Galway in 2017. In 2018 they drew two matches while they lost by 6 points and to Clare by 2 points.

Could better use of possession close the gap again?









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