For the last few years it’s been an annual job for me at the end of January to do a round-up on who lined out for us in the FBD campaign just concluded and to take a look at how a few numbers stack up against those from previous years. Here’s the 2017 edition of this pre-season analysis.
The table below summarises – in tabular form, cos that’s what tables do (aside from being used to eating the dinner on and what-not) – who played for us in the three pre-season matches. A tick denotes a starting appearance while an S indicates a substitute one. Scores recorded by each of the players are also included:
As I’ve discovered when conducting this exercise over the last few years (here, by the way, are the pieces I did on the last three FBD campaigns: 2014, 2015, 2016), each pre-season is different in terms of players used and how we fared out. This one is no different – in that I mean its difference is no different from how other January campaigns have been different. Distinct, even. Let me explain.
Let’s start with the number of players used over the three games. As the rather long table above would suggest, this year we maxed out on that metric. We did that, for sure – a total of 40 players saw action for us in this year’s FBD. This compares with 32 in 2014, 35 in 2016 and a measly 26 last year.
The fact that virtually the entire 2016 panel were still in South Africa when the ball was thrown in against NUIG on the 8th of January clearly was a factor in this regard. It also explains the high number of debutants this January, with a total of eleven players making their first starting appearances for the county that day against NUIG, while another six newbies joined the fray the same afternoon off the bench.
Six players – Fergal Boland, Liam Irwin, Danny Kirby, Donie Newcombe, Ray O’Malley and Michael Plunkett – started all three matches for us in this FBD campaign, while another (Shane Nally) played a part in all three games. If you need a list of fringe lads who really put their hands up for inclusion in the squad for the League, you needn’t look any further than this cohort. Last year, by the way, five players started all three matches, none did so in 2015, while four did in 2014.
The seven who played some part in the three games this year compares to 13 last year, seven in 2015 and just five in 2014. Last year – when injuries meant things were really tight regarding player availability early on – is the obvious outlier here.
Kevin McLoughlin was our top scorer in each of the previous two FBD campaigns but he failed to raise a flag at Kiltoom the last day, his only appearance for us this month. This year, the scoring honours go jointly to Alan Freeman and Liam Irwin, who both bagged 1-7. The Aghamore man secured his haul in a single outing – against IT Sligo – whereas the Bear in the Square played (and scored) in all three matches.
It’s in relation to our aggregate scoring that this year’s stats veer wildly away from previous years. In short, we scored way more (in particular goals) but we also conceded far more. This year we ran up an aggregate total of 7-48, leaking an equally eye-popping 4-52 at the other end. Last year it was 2-38 for and 1-31 against, in 2015 it was 2-38/3-29 and in 2014 it was 3-28/3-27. Maybe those marquee forwards mightn’t be as much of a problem in sourcing as we thought? Perhaps we’d want, though, to bolt the door at the back?
Finally, and this isn’t a stat I have any time series data on, we had a player sent off in all of our three FBD matches this year. That’s a trend we really need to see stopped in its tracks and pronto.
Right, that’s the sum total of the analysis on this year’s FBD.