It was not a great season for those involved with Cork City FC . An early hammering against Shamrock Rovers could nearly be seen (in hindsight) as a harbinger of what was to come. Recruitment/team selection was scattered, with 30 players taking to the field over the 18 game season.

On the plus side, there were some shining lights to come from the season – the emergence of players such as Jake O’Brien, the return of Gearoid Morrissey and the late season improvements under Colin Healy that may give hope to everyone for the 2021 season. In this article, we will take a deep dive into the performance data output across the Cork City squad this season.

All stats highlighted are for players who played a min. of 270 league mins this season.

Goalkeeping – as mentioned in previous articles, our GK model is still under development. A statistical breakdown of Mark McNulty’s & Liam Bossin’s performances are not available at this point. It was a difficult season for both of Cork City’s goalkeepers; without clicking into punditry mode, it would not be a season that either keeper would look back on fondly.

Defensive metrics

Just 4 clean sheets from 18 games, with 1.67 goals conceded per 90 mins. 12 players who will have played at some point in a number of different setups at the back – the performances were a long way from the Cork City defence that fought tooth & nail with Dundalk just a few years ago.

Def 1v1: In the St. Pat’s article, we defined what we tagged as a defensive 1v1. In this metric, Gearoid Morrissey was the clear leader for Cork City. Gearoid led the way with 6.19 successful def. 1v1 situations/90. He was also first with the highest number of def 1v1 occasions (107), highest number of successful def 1v1s (82) and highest success rate (76.64%).

Notable mention for Alec Byrne, having played far fewer minutes than other players high in this metric, he came in 2nd for successful def 1v1/90 (5.93). He certainly got about the pitch during his 700+ mins through the season, with 81 def 1v1 situations faced. A player who worked hard to regain possession for his team.

Tackles: Ronan Hurley led the way in successful tackles/90 mins (1.83) over the season; a tackle being any sliding challenge made to dispossess an opponent. Hurley was involved in the highest number of tackle attempts (21) and had the most amount of successful tackles (15). He did not, however, have the best tackle success % – with Alan Bennett coming in at 87.50%. Notable mention here for Jake O’Brien, who had 100% tackle success rate but with a much lower tackle dataset.

Def Aerial duels: Alan Bennett stands out here by a long way. 4.53 successful aerial duels/90, across 50 aerial duels. He had an impressive 68% success rate in these defensive headers also. Jake O’Brien led the rest with a 73.91% success. Joseph Olowu was involved in the highest number of duels (74), coming in 2nd behind Bennett for successful duels/90 (2.88).

Progressive Regains %: Our final metric for ranking the defensive side of the game is the progressive regain %. As mentioned in our previous article, it gives a greater sense of what a player does once possession is regained. Joe Redmond led the way back before the first lockdown with an 85.00% progressive regain rate. Nobody came close to bettering this over the remaining 13 games, with Jake O’Brien again standing out from the pack since his introduction back in September (82.50%)

Summary: A difficult one to choose Cork City’s best defensive performer – muddied by the fact that so many players were used in a defensive capacity over just 18 games. We are pushed to choose between either Alan Bennett or Jake O’Brien (neither playing more than 700 mins each) but they were the two more consistent performers from the data.

Attacking Metrics

Goal Scoring: Cork City scored just 10 goals this season, from just 162 efforts on goal. Based on shot location only, their total season xG was 16.43 goals. Not as bad an under-performance as other Premier Division clubs. 8 different players shared these 10 goals however: both Dylan McGlade & Deshane Dalling top scorers with 2 goals each.

Chances Created: The ‘chance creator’ is powerless as to whether it is an assist or not (down to his teammates’ ability to finish), but using chances created as a metric, this gives a clear indication of who the creative influences in the side are. Daire O’Connor stood out for chances created/90 (1.43), impressive considering he didn’t feature in Neale Fenn’s plans towards the end. Kevin O’Connor ended with the highest number of chances created however, with 15 in total.

Attacking Aerial Duels & Hold Up: Kit Elliott stood out here, leading both metrics. 2.78 att. aerial successes/90 rate and 1.77 successful hold-ups per 90. Nobody came anywhere close to Elliott in the hold-up metric, but he was pushed close by Cian Coleman (2.43) and Scott Fenwick (2.74) on the att. aerial successes/90.

Attacking 1v1 & dribbles: When in possession, beating the defender in front of him, both Daire O’Connor (1.27) and Deshane Dalling (1.44) were well ahead of the rest. It should be noted that Dalling completed nearly twice the number of dribbles as any other Cork City player (35).

Summary: This area was a little easier to find a standout performer, we went for Deshane Dalling over the rest. Led the way in dribbles, efforts on goal, attacking 1v1/90 and goals scored.

Possession Metrics

Just over 4460 passing attempts were tagged for Cork City this season (both successful and unsuccessful). With regards to pass direction:

Who stood out, possession-wise? As mentioned in our last article, pass completion can be a poor indicator of “best passer”, due to lack of directional data. Alan Bennett ended with the highest pass completion rate (89.75%) from 244 passes. The same player also leads successful passes/90 mins (29.20). Kevin O’Connor ended the season with the highest number of pass attempts (457), especially impressive with four players having played much more game-time than him.

Again, in our previous article, we mentioned that progressive passes are a far more insightful possession metric; passes towards the opposition goal. Jake O’Brien leads this metric with 78.38% of his passes made towards the opponent’s goal; he was not the player with the greatest progressive accuracy, however. This fell to Alan Bennett, with a progressive pass completion rate of 85.29%. He was a long way ahead of 2nd placed Joseph Olowu, with 73.03% progressive pass completion.

Player of the Season: Our data collection is completely objective; no opinion, no punditry and no “should have done better there”.

Apart from attacking metrics, both sets of data output from Alan Bennett and Jake O’Brien stood out from the rest. Whereas both players only played a combined 1272 mins (less than Henry Ochieng in total), they were consistent across both defensive and possession performance metrics, standing our from their fellow teammates. With Alan Bennett retiring at the end of this season, and young Jake O’Brien standing up to be the next centre half to build the club around, we will leave it to the Cork City fans to decide who stands out the most between these two.