Where does your county rank in the gaelic football pecking order?
The National Football League gets underway this weekend. With a new season comes a renewed feeling of optimism for many counties. It’s easy to get lost in this sense of optimism however, from living inside the bubble of your own county.
So how can you tell where your county stands? One way to look at it is by examining team rankings. Of course, unlike soccer or unlike rugby union, there are no gaelic football rankings.
Instead, about this time every year, you’ll see articles ranking teams based on what’s happened last year, how teams have performed in pre-season and who has joined or left each county’s panel. These are all important considerations, but coming from a scientific background, this sort of method incurs too much subjective bias for me.
So what’s the alternative? The gold standard would be to use a mathematical formula incorporating both technical data (e.g. number of shots, number of turnovers) and GPS data (e.g distance ran at high-speed) with match results.
Unfortunately technical and GPS data are not available for every match, or to the general public for that matter.
The alternative we are left with is using previous match results to rate teams.
Two months ago, a scientific paper based on this very topic was published in the International Journal of Computer Science in Sport. The paper introduced the Elo Rating System for Gaelic Football. The formula takes into account match results over the past six years, home advantage and score margin. I won’t bore you with any more details of the formula, but you can read the whole paper here if you want.
So the real reason why you’ve opened this link was to see where your county stands in the rankings. The table below compares each team’s ranking from this January to January of last year.
Dublin, of course, are top of the table and it’s very unlikely that they will be moved from that spot over the course of the season.
The big movers over the last year are Tipperary and Clare. Tipperary
Tipp are up to 8th place after reaching the All-Ireland semi-finals. Clare meanwhile defeated Kildare in last year’s Division 3 final and of course reached the last eight in the summer.
Armagh and Down were two of last year’s biggest losers according to the rankings and they will both face each other in the Ulster Championship later this year.
With Jamie Clarke back in action, Armagh will surely improve on their position over the coming months. With ranking tables, there is always going to be discontent. This method is not perfect, but it’s a start and it gives us something to build with.
Shane Mangan, Pundit Arena