Every year for the last few years I’ve done a wrap-up post on the League campaign that’s just ended for us, detailing the players used, who scored what and all that. This is the 2019 version, here are the ones from previous years – 2018, 2017, 2016.
A slight statistical oddity this year compared to the previous three years relates, of course, to our participation in the final. This means that the analysis of the eight matches we played in 2019 is set against that for the seven outings in each of the other years so it’s not a like-for-like comparison in the strictest sense.
Okay, let’s start with the usual table detailing all the players who were involved, who they played against and what they scored, including what they bagged from play. As in previous years, a tick denotes where a player was in the starting fifteen, an ‘S’ shows where the appearance was as a substitute.
It’s a well established fact that we used plenty of players in this year’s League campaign. And we did – 34 in all, of whom 31 started in at least one of the eight games. What might surprise you, though, is that we used 35 players last year (but only 27 started at least once), with 30 deployed in 2017 and a whopping 36 the year prior to that.
One of the differences this year, however, is that there was far less continuity in terms of players used. Only two – Aidan O’Shea and Jason Doherty – started all eight matches. Last year, five players were lined out in every match, it was seven in 2017 and four in 2016.
Only one other player – Donal Vaughan (who started six games) – played a part in every match this year. Last year two other players took part in every game, with four in this bracket in 2017 and two in 2016.
Greater continuity this year came when looking at that group of players who only missed one game. Included here are Keith Higgins (seven starts), Lee Keegan (six) and Andy Moran (three), all of whom sat out the Monaghan match. Neither Matthew Ruane (six starts) nor Kevin McLoughlin (three) featured in the Roscommon game but were both involved in every match after that. Diarmuid O’Connor missed the Dublin game through injury but started in the other seven. Stephen Coen started five times and came on as a sub in two other games, failing to feature only in the final itself.
At the other end of the spectrum as regards game time, two players saw their involvement restricted to single appearances off the bench. Seamus O’Shea came on as a sub against Dublin (and went off to the sin-bin on a black card soon after) but injury kept him out thereafter. Jason Gibbons came on as a blood sub in the second half of the Monaghan game.
The large amount of experimentation undertaken this spring by James Horan is evidenced both by the number of players who got game time this year but who weren’t involved last year. This changing of the guard is also shown by the number of players who featured for us last year but who didn’t see action at all this spring. In both cases, that number comes to fourteen.
Most of the focus this year in that regard has been on the newbies but it’s worth noting that three highly experienced performers – Chris Barrett, Keith Higgins and Donal Vaughan – saw significant action for us in this Division One campaign but didn’t appear at all last spring. Chris and Donie were rehabbing from surgery then while Keith was off playing with the hurlers.
Aside from that trio, this year saw James Carr, Darren Coen (recalled to the senior ranks for the first time since 2013), Conor Diskin, James Durcan (who played Championship last year but didn’t feature in the spring), James McCormack, Fionn McDonagh, Colm Moran, Michael Plunkett, Brian Reape, Matthew Ruane and Ciaran Treacy all get a run at some stage. Every one of them started at least one match over the course of the eight-game campaign.
The fourteen who saw action – however fleeting – in 2018 but didn’t get on the pitch in 2019 (although two of them did make the match-day 26 this year) were Shairoze Akram, Caolan Crowe, Neil Douglas, Alan Freeman, Adam Gallagher, Michael Hall, Danny Kirby, Ger McDonagh, Barry Moran, Donal Newcombe, Cillian O’Connor, Conor O’Shea, Tom Parsons and James Stretton. Of these, Caolan and Conor regularly made it onto the match-day 26 but never saw action. Cillian and Tom were, of course, injured while Barry Moran has retired from inter-county action.
Our leading scorer this year was Jason Doherty. Entrusted with the place-kicking duties in Cillian’s absence, Doc landed 27 points over the eight matches, twenty of which came from frees. Our leading scorers from play were Kevin McLoughlin (2-5) and Mattie Ruane (2-4).
Our title-winning aggregate score this year was 11-89, which was well up on the 3-85 we bagged last year (it was 3-89 in 2017) but with the benefit of the extra game, in which, lest you need reminding, we loaded on 3-11. We conceded a total of 6-90 this year, compared to 7-89 in last year’s seven games and 4-80 the year before that. So, it would seem that defensively we’re a bit better (as 2-10 of that total came in the final) than in recent years but offensively we’re a good bit better, especially in the goal-scoring department.
And on that cheery note, I’ll leave you to ruminate on that load of information about our memorable and rather enjoyable League campaign of 2019.