Intensity level of forwards the key for Kilkenny

A couple of crucial figures in the performance stats of Kilkenny and Galway can help explain why Brian Cody’s men were crowned All-Ireland senior hurling champions.

The most telling of all was Galway’s profligacy in front of goal - the Connacht men shot 12 wides to Kilkenny’s 5.

When translated into score conversion ratios Kilkenny took a whopping 74% of their scoring chances on the day or 23/31 chances as opposed to Galway’s 55% (19/34). That 74% ratio would be good enough to win the majority of matches and Galway’s inability to punish Kilkenny ultimately led to their downfall. We heaped praise on Galway for the intensity displayed in their semi-final win over Tipperary. On that occasion they made 82 tackles but Kilkenny were to better that on Sunday.

Kilkenny finished the final with a staggering 83 tackles. In the second half alone they made a phenomenal 47 tackles which proved the catalyst for their 14 scores after the break.

Galway matched Kilkenny’s intensity in the opening 35 minutes but they levelled off in the second half and had 14 less tackles in that period. What will disappoint the Galway players and management even more is the forwards’ collective tackling stats.

Every one of Kilkenny’s starting forwards hadfive tackles or more and their cumulative total was 35. This level of intensity from their forward unit has been key to Kilkenny’s gameplan for years.

In comparison, Galway forwards’ collective tackle total was just 22.

The Kilkenny starting forward line also contributed 1-12 from play on the day with every one of the forwards scoring more than one point from play bar TJ Reid who scored the game’s only goal.

In contrast Galway’s forwards scored just seven points from play.

Galway’s use of possession was also a negative - they managed to puck the ball away on 22 occasions as opposed to Kilkenny’s total of 16.

On too many occasions Galway defenders showed a lack of composure in possession, choosing to drive the ball long into their opponents’ hands. One Galway player who does deserve special mention however, is midfielder David Burke. He finished the game with the most possessions (23), most puck-outs won (7), and most tackles made (11).

On the Kilkenny side TJ Reid had the most possessions with 19 which was in stark contrast to Galway’s star forward Joe Canning who finished the game with just seven possessions and onlyone in general play in the entire second half.

Galway’s other star inside forward Cathal Mannion finished the final with just one shot on goal. Kilkenny once again proved to best in the land in 2015 and the message from all the strength and conditioning coaches out there during the winter months is that you will need a tackle count of at least 80 more if you want to seriously match Kilkenny in an All-Ireland final.

That work begins now.

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