The first in a series of  articles that looks at the emergence of Performance Analysis in Gaelic Games, who is using it to best effect and what the future holds. 

There is a common consensus abroad in the world of Gaelic Games and much evidence to support the belief that change does not come quickly. However over the past few seasons there has been a dramatic move at the higher levels of both football and hurling to embrace Performance Analysis, using video and make it an integral of the training regime, writes Pete Kelly.

The pundits have hailed last year’s football championship as ground breaking – “resurrecting  football as an attacking game”. The Kerry Dublin semi final was the best game played in years with Pat Spillane saying it restored his faith in Gaelic Football. It is hardly a coincidence that both Kerry and Dublin make extensive use of Performance Analysis, pushing the boundaries with ‘live’ analysis available ‘to the sideline’ when required.

On the hurling front both Clare and Cork have used their Performance Analysis capabilities to the utmost. They have transformed their respective styles and play with a mixture of high tempo and cohesion that only comes with meticulous preparation. Both ‘Davy Fitz’ and ‘JBM’ have sought and been successful at maximising their own strengths rather than stopping the opposition.

Virtually all the top counties – defined by championship success – are employing Performance  Analysis using Avenir Sport’s  world leading Sportscode software as a vital cog in the wheel. No longer are teams only using “Stats” noted in isolation and with no objective back-up to inform their playing strategies. Total objective evaluation, whether of success or failure, leads to improved performance.

Avenir Sports is Ireland’s pre-eminent provider of the ‘Performance Analysis Toolkit’, Avenir is the catalyst that ensures that the combination of technology, equipment, software and analytical skills are used to maximum effect.

There have been historical changes,  albeit at a very slow rate,  in the world of the GAA over the last couple of decades, with rule changes,  facilities upgrades and a higher octane commercial attitude combining to move the association forward, most visibly off the field.

However on the field of play, fitness standards have continued to improve exponentially – staggering really for an amateur game and allied to this ‘new movement’ during the past decade is adoption of performance analysis on a more scientific basis, as opposed to the ‘old style’ post mortem. Mostly only losing performances were dealt with based on ‘back of a fag box’ notes hastily assembled during the heat of battle – generally they were inaccurate and subjective.

The use of  video to analyse performance has transformed the approach to game day preparation. It is objective, reflects what actually did happen and not opinions and is relatively easy to use given the advances in technology in recent years.

Virtually all the top teams at inter-county level both hurling and football have embraced Performance Analysis using video footage. It has become a key element in preparing country squads – an indispensible weapon in the armoury.  Classically the leading teams will use it to stay ahead and the aspiring counties will mimic what has brought success to the kingpins as they strive to climb the ladder to success.

By their nature both Hurling and Gaelic Football are hard to follow from the dugout.   The length of the playing field – the longest of any field game and the speed of transfer from defence to attack and vice versa always made ‘in play’ decision making more a of a ‘gut instinct’ thing than a calculated tactical deliberation.

Today’s inter county managers place great store in their backup team – they see them as a vital component to achieve success. Having an ‘analyst’ in the backroom team has become the norm as the more enlightened managers realise that proper analysis of the game can deliver improved performance, which after all is what is all about – at any level.

Follow Pete on Twitter @petekelly54

The next articles in this series will look at;

What is Performance Analysis – the technology and methodology.

Who uses it in Gaelic Games today and what they have to say about it