2023 Allianz Hurling League statistics paint a revealing picture:

By John Harrington

A statistical analysis of the 2023 Allianz Hurling League carried out by Gaelic Stats on behalf of the GAA has revealed some interesting trends about how the game has changed at the highest level in recent years.

15 Allianz Hurling League games from 2023 were analysed and compared to the 2022 and 2021 League seasons as well as Championship games from 2011-2022 to allow for longer comparison trends.

One of the most noteworthy trends has been the reduction in the number of fouls committed inside the goal-scoring zone.

Back in 2019, fouls in this part of the pitch accounted for 20% of all fouls committed, but in 2023, as was also the case in 2022, just 10% of fouls were committed in the goal-scoring zone.

Clearly, the sinbin/penalty deterrent for cynical fouls in the scoring zone drafted by the Standing Committee on Playing Rules is having a positive impact here

That temporary rule expires at the end of this current inter-county season. The statistics show it has clearly benefitted the game, so we can surely expect it, or some version of it, to come before the 2024 GAA Annual Congress for consideration as a permanent rule.

Another stand-out trend high-lighted by the statistical analysis of this year’s Hurling League is the extent to which puck-out strategies have evolved in recent years.

Compared to the 2021 Allianz Hurling League when 21% of puck-outs were hit beyond the attacking ’45, this year just 10% of puck-outs went that far.

31% of puck-outs in this year’s League were hit to a team-mate inside the defensive ’45, which is more than double the 14% of puck-outs that were struck short in the 2016 League and championship season.

puck-out data
This trend reflects the fact that maintaining possession is now a huge part of every county team’s game-plan, something that’s also reflected in the steady increase in uncontested puck-outs.

Back in 2018, 36% of puck-outs were uncontested, whereas now 49% of puck-outs are uncontested as teams put more and more thought on isolating players in space off puck-outs, and goalkeepers become more and more accurate with their deliveries.

The value placed on maintaining possession is also illustrated by the year on year rise in the number of hand-passes in a match.

In the 2023 Allianz Hurling League there were on average 104 hand-passes per game compared to 76 during the 2016 League and championship season.

The average number of stick-passes in this year’s League was 145, which is identical to the average for the 2016 League and Championship season.

Possession is all the more important in the modern game because the ball in play time continues to shrink, so when you have it you need to make the most of it.

The average effective playing time during this year’s Allianz Hurling League was the lowest ever on record, at just 38 per cent. That’s a five per cent drop on 2016.

The simplest explanation for this effective playing-time shrinkage is that because teams are now shooting and scoring more, there are more and more stoppages in the game for puck-outs.

Another interesting statistic from this year’s Allianz Hurling League is that there is no evidence to support the claim that hurling is becoming a free-taking competition.

65% of all scores in the 2023 League came from play, which is 2% more than what was scored from play in 2016.

There is also little evidence to support another popular claim – that hurling is becoming more and more a long-range shooting contest.

An average of just 10% of shots were attempted from inside a team’s own half, which is 4% less than what was the case in 2022.