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Which end is the “scoring end” at the Fitzgerald Stadium?

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The Lewis Road End of the Fitzgerald Stadium.

Every pitch has one, but what makes it “easier” to score into one goal than the other? Adam Moynihan investigates this strange phenomenon.

Your team is down at half-time and struggling. After a quick bout of soul-searching, maybe even some finger-pointing, the manager tells you to settle down as he launches into a season-defining team talk. More of this, less of that, these lads aren’t up to much etc. etc. You bounce on your toes and head back towards the pitch, but there’s still time for one more nugget of encouragement. One line that will render your lacklustre first-half performance meaningless, banish all self-doubt and restore the confidence you need to stage a heroic comeback.

“We’re playing into the scoring end as well, boys.”

On the surface it might seem like a silly thing to say, especially to the uninitiated. The posts are the same width at both sides of the pitch. The crossbars are the same height. It’s the very same patch of grass. But ask any footballer if they have a favourite end to shoot into and the answer will be a resounding ‘yes’.

For some reason players do feel as though they find it easier to score at one end of the ground, and whatever ground you’re at, there tends to be an overwhelming consensus between players (both home and away), officials and supporters as to which end is the “scoring end”. Everyone knows without really knowing why. Can this odd phenomenon be explained logically, or is it pure superstition?

THE PARK

The home of football is probably as good a place as any to start our investigation and the majority of people say that in Killarney’s Fitzgerald Stadium, the Lewis Road end is easier to kick into than the scoreboard end. I reached out to a number of Kerry players past and present and the majority agree that it is tougher to play down into the scoreboard end of the ground.

But why? They say the wind is the primary factor and some amateur meteorology on my part confirms that our prevailing south-westerly breeze would tend to blow from the Torc Terrace corner of the stadium (between the stand and the scoreboard terrace) diagonally across the field to the far corner of the terrace side.

That much makes sense. Now, let’s see if the stats back this up.

In Kerry’s last 10 matches in Killarney dating back to 2017, 181 points (including goals) have been scored into the Lewis Road end - and a total of 202 points have been registered at the scoreboard end.

That means that on average Kerry and their opponents have managed 2.1 points per game less while shooting into the supposed “scoring end”.

If we isolate Kerry’s totals in these matches, we see that the home team have kicked or punched 112 points playing into the “scoring” goal, and 116 points down in front of the scoreboard.

The opposition, meanwhile, have found the scoreboard end far more appealing. They have racked up 86 points at that side of the pitch, while notching just 69 at the Lewis Road end.

However, if we look a little closer, we notice an interesting trend. Points scored over the bar are identical at both ends of the pitch (160), but twice as many goals have been scored at the scoreboard end (14 versus 7). This is, perhaps, where the famous wind comes into play. As it is more difficult to kick points into the breeze blowing down from the scoreboard side, Kerry and their opponents seem to be going for goal more often when playing in this direction. The Kingdom have managed six goals in their last 10 halves of football facing the scoreboard, compared to four going the other way.

Their opponents have fared even better in this department, scoring eight goals into the scoreboard end and just three into the Lewis Road net.

Having said that, both home and away teams are still managing to score the same amount of points playing into the “scoring end” as they are playing into the “bad end”.

So, if this statistical snapshot is anything to go by (which, in fairness, it might not be considering it only covers intercounty matches played at the stadium since 2017) this idea that the Lewis Road end is easier to score into appears to be psychological.

Kerry's last 10 matches at the Fitzgerald Stadium (both teams combined):

Lewis Road End: 7 goals, 140 points (181)

Scoreboard End: 14 goals, 160 points (202)

Kerry's last 10 matches at the Fitzgerald Stadium (Kerry):

Lewis Road End: 4 goals, 100 points (112)

Scoreboard End: 6 goals, 98 points (116)

MINDS

Nevertheless, the fact remains that every ground has its “scoring end”, and without vast swathes of empirical data to debunk the notion, it will continue to play on people’s minds.

A poll carried out on my Instagram (@AdamMoynihan) confirmed that all of the local pitches have commonly defined scoring ends. For Dr Crokes, it’s the town end near Deerpark Pitch & Putt course. One player said that it always seems to be brighter at that side of the pitch, which could be explained by the fact that the opposite end is more sheltered with high embankments on all sides of the ground. Another described the scoreboard end goal as “deceptive”, and I have a theory on this myself.

As a handy free taker (and by that I mean “a taker of handy frees” as opposed to “a handy taker of frees”), I’ve always found it tricky to shoot into goals with open spaces behind them.

At Crokes, the top goal has an open area behind it and I think it’s harder to gauge distance when kicking into this kind of backdrop. With no fixed points immediately behind the target, it can feel like the posts are miles away.

The same can be said of the top goal at my home ground in Derreen, which has a second pitch running directly up behind it. Legion folk will tell you that the scoring end is down towards the car park and I can definitely attest to the fact that, psychologically at least, it feels easier to play that way.

There may be another reason that I personally prefer shooting into that goal, and it could also explain why every home team has a favourite end: familiarity. We almost always warm up at the clubhouse end, training drills are often staged there, and whenever I would go for a kick on my own, I would tend to kick into that goal more often than the top one. I would say that the vast majority of clubs and players are the same.

We are creatures of habit so it stands to reason that the more we train in a certain environment, the more comfortable we are there, and this transfers over to match situations.

For Spa, the goal at the road end is considered to be the easier one to score into, something the natives attribute to an apparent slope in the pitch. Maybe it’s a simple trick of the eye but if there is even a very minor decline, perhaps that could make a slight difference. Once again, backdrop may be a factor: the top goal has a wide open space behind it.

The same can be said for Fossa, who also have another pitch behind their top goal. Players seem to agree that the road end, which has a neat row of trees serving as a backdrop, is the “scoring end”.

Kilcummin’s pitch is a slight anomaly with regards to the backdrop factor. The scoreboard end is thought to be more favourable for forwards, but it is the supposed “bad end” that is more enclosed. However, it might actually be slightly too enclosed. The wall of tall, dark trees immediately behind the goal makes for an imposing structure, which, perhaps, is slightly off-putting for would-be scorers. I always found it tough to kick points up there anyway, although it would probably be unfair to blame that on the conifers.

Maybe it’s the prevailing wind. Maybe it’s familiarity. Maybe it’s the slant of the pitch. Maybe it’s the backdrop. Or maybe it’s all in our heads. Whatever the reason or reasons, scoring ends exist and in the ultra-competitive world of the GAA, their existence will continue to be a source of comfort to desperate teams in desperate times.

We might be down 10 points, but we’re playing into the scoring end this half. Anything is possible.

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Popularity of Ladies Gaelic Football on the rise

According to official TAM Ireland figures, 491,000 tuned into TG4’s coverage of the TG4 Ladies Football finals on Sunday with an average audience of 204,900 people watching the live broadcast […]

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According to official TAM Ireland figures, 491,000 tuned into TG4’s coverage of the TG4 Ladies Football finals on Sunday with an average audience of 204,900 people watching the live broadcast of the Senior Final between Meath and Kerry.

The match had a 30.6% share of viewing among individuals. Viewing peaked at 5.10pm with 279,800 viewers as Meath closed in on the two in a row to retain the Brendan Martin Cup.

A total 46,400 attended the match in person in Croke Park on Sunday, the first TG4 Ladies Football Final to have full capacity allowance since 2019.

Viewers from over 50 countries tuned into the finals on the TG4 Player with 14,000 streams of the game from international viewers. Over 20,000 streams were also registered from Irish viewers.

TG4 Director General Alan Esslemont said: “My deepest gratitude to all the counties especially Wexford and Kerry who battled to the end through this season’s Championship, hearty congratulations to both Laois and Meath and I am really looking forward to the re-match of Antrim and Fermanagh which will be carried live on TG4. A special word of thanks goes to the huge crowd which travelled to the Finals from all the corners of Ireland. County Meath especially have become a role model for other counties in how to build huge attending support for LGFA in both genders and at all ages. Sunday’s massive expression of Meath ‘fandom’ in Croke Park brought their county the greatest credit.

Sunday’s broadcast was the 22nd edition of the TG4 Ladies Gaelic Football Championship, a unique history of a sport minoritized by society being championed by a language media minoritized by the state. By consciously standing together we have grown together. As we approach the 50th anniversary of the LGFA in 2024 let us all hope by that time that we are even further along the road towards true equality of opportunity for both Ladies Gaelic Football and Irish language media.”

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Following her World Championships debut, Leahy is hungry for more

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Adam Moynihan met Killarney sprinter Sarah Leahy at the Killarney Valley AC Arena to chat about her recent appearance at the World Championships, her goals for the rest of the year, and a very special pair of socks

Hi Sarah. Thanks for showing me around Killarney Valley’s facilities. It’s an impressive set-up.

The track facilities here are perfect. We have everything we need and Killarney Valley are always looking to improve the facilities and the club itself. All the people behind the scenes at are the MVPs, people like Jerry and Tomás Griffin, Jean Courtney, and Bríd Stack to mention just a few.

You recently competed in the World Championships in Oregon as part of the Irish 4 x 100m relay team, finishing eighth in your heat. How did you feel the event went for you?

We’re very proud of each other, and we did well, but we definitely could have run better. We had more. We were aiming for and felt we were capable of running a national record. But on the day, it just didn’t happen.

Personally, it was a great experience. I loved every second of it. But I will admit that the actual running part is a bit of a blur. I came onto the track and there’s this huge stadium, but I was more looking around at the people I was running against. Ewa Swoboda – I thought she’d win the World Indoor – she was four people away from me and I was looking at her… She was probably like, ‘Why is this woman staring at me?’ I was very nervous. But it was still amazing and I hope I can do it again.

The fact that I was running against international athletes that have been to the Olympics and been finalists, I was kind of star struck. My trainers are like, okay Sarah, calm down. You’re meant to be here. Don’t act like you shouldn’t.

Can you describe your mindset before a race? Do you often get nervous?

On the line it’s all about how you’re feeling, what you can do. You just have to get mentally prepared for a good start. Especially for me. Get out, and run as fast as you can. Just getting in the zone, I guess. I’ll know if I’m not in the zone, because I’m thinking of other things. If I’m on the blocks my head shouldn’t be wandering. It should be blank and all I should be waiting for is that gun.

Would you say that you’re an ultra competitive person?

I’m a competitive person, obviously. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be competing at this level. But I also come from a team background, and I’m friends with a lot of these girls, so I want them to do well as well. And if they happen to beat me, fair play. You put in the training, you did very well. I’m very happy for you.

We all kind of get prepared differently. A lot of people for the warm-up, which is an hour or half an hour before the race, have the earphones on, gameface on, not talking to anyone, not smiling at anyone. I’m completely different. The more nervous I am, the more I’m going to talk.

There was a situation in Greece where everyone had their earphones on and I was mad to talk to everyone. That could change but as of right now I do tend to talk a lot. And then, going on to the track, obviously there’s no more talking. You’re getting ready for the race and mentally preparing.

Tell me about the socks you wore in Oregon.

[laughs] My socks were a Valentine’s Day gift from my boyfriend, Daniel. They had his face all over them and they say ‘I love you’. So yeah, I just ran the Worlds with my boyfriend’s face on my feet. He was delighted!

Daniel was the person who pushed for me to go back to running. He knew I was no longer enjoying the football and he heard the way I spoke about athletics. He helped me make the decision to go back. It was the best decision so it was only right I wore the socks and he was there in some way. I probably wouldn’t have been there without him.

Did you have some of your own supporters over there?

Yes, my mom and dad (Marie and Mike) actually travelled over. They spent the week and it was unreal to have them there. And then my cousins from Vancouver in Canada drove down which was I think over 10 hours. I was actually warming up before the relay and then I saw and heard my family with all their Kerry jerseys, Irish jerseys, Irish flags, roaring my name. That was really nice.

What’s the plan for the rest of 2022?

I was hopeful that we were going to send a 4 x 100 relay team to the Europeans but I just got an email saying that we wouldn’t, which is disappointing. I know some of top 2022 female sprinters aren’t available but some are and with any of them we would do well over there. We would be competitive. We held our qualification of being in the top 16 teams all summer so it’s a pity that, at the last second, we aren’t going.

In saying that, the women’s Irish relay will continue to work hard and we have a lot more to give. We will prove that next year.

You’re moving to Dublin for work later this year. How will this affect your training?

I might have to change coaches again, which I’m a bit sad about because I really liked the Limerick training group (Leahy was in UL where she trained with the Hayley and Drew Harrison). I think I performed well and I loved the training. I was surrounded by the right people who were really lovely. I hope to find a group like that in Dublin and keep running well and performing better.

And what about next season?

I’d like another good indoor season. I was talking to Lauren Roy in Stockholm and she told me that I have the European standard in the 60m from last year. Which I didn’t know! So that’s kind of in my head now to try and get there, to improve my time. I think I could actually run faster. I ran 7.39 and I’d like to run at least 7.30, hopefully get another European standard, and actually go to the Europeans. I think it’s in Germany. That’d be my target.

And then next summer, there’s the Worlds again. So it’d be nice to continue making the Irish relays and definitely improve my time, because there’s more. I can definitely run faster over 100.

What is your current PB in the 100m? Are you close to bettering it?

I ran 11.67, which I was delighted with. But it was my first run of the season. It’s quite rare that you run a PB in the season opener. But I ran it, and I haven’t ran it since. The closest was 11.70 in Switzerland. So I definitely think there’s more in there. And I think I have a lot to learn as well. I’m still new to the sport and I’m a powerful kind of runner. I was doing a lot of gym work at the beginning of the year, before I ran my PB, and then afterwards usually people taper it off. So I did what other people do. I think that affected my running a little bit. I’m slightly weaker. So I’ve learned that maybe next year I shouldn’t do that. Then hopefully I’ll be running PB after PB, instead of just a one-off.

Onwards and upwards. Chat to you again soon.

Thanks Adam!

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