So the blog may have come to a sleepy end – between work commitments and whatnot – but the spreadsheets logging the Elo ratings are still updated every weekend after various matches and draws.

You won’t find weekly reviews/previews here any more, but you’ll still find all the latest ratings – and all the gory statistical data you’ll never need – in the spreadsheets for Gaelic Football and Hurling.

Hurling review: He’s the boss, he’s a pip…

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IT WAS NOT a champagne season, it must be said. And while the final looked to be genuinely in the balance for 45 minutes or so, the nature of Kilkenny’s late dominance meant that even Galway’s injury-time goal would not be enough to inject some excitement.

Kilkenny may not be as outwardly overjoyed about their 36th All-Ireland but outsiders have to realise that being top dogs – or rather, Top Cats – is the new normal on Noreside. The team’s identity is to be All-Ireland champions; anything other is a source of tragedy (see the loss of the 2010 final, and the back-door travails of 2013).

In the grand scheme of recent years, this Kilkenny team are not the greatest – but one of the beauties of our Elo model is that we can compare the sides with their predecessors. The Cats finish the year with an Elo rating of 2280, slightly higher than their final outcome last year (2267) or 2011 (2220). Only the winners of 2012 – again, over Galway – had a higher rating at the end of a recent season (2306 – which would have been higher had Galway not pushed them to a replay).

So, in short, this Kilkenny side might not be the greatest of recent years – but in the grand scheme of things, they’re no pushovers either. And they have the medals to prove it.

Galway end the year in third, with Waterford and Cork bringing up the top five. Tipperary’s narrow semi-final defeat sees them hang onto second place over the winter. It’s a placing they would rather forget.

The changes listed below compare the side’s rating to the end of last season.

Hurling rankings
(end of 2015 season)
1 Kilkenny 2280
2 Tipperary 2090
3 (+2) Galway 2039
4 (+4) Waterford 1977
5 (-2) Cork 1910
6 (+1) Dublin 1853
7 (-3) Limerick 1833
8 (-2) Clare 1810
9 Wexford 1683
10 (+3) Kerry 1534
11 (-1) Offaly 1531
12 (-1) Laois 1499
13 (+3) Westmeath 1334
14 Carlow 1311
15 (-3) Antrim 1298
16 (+2) Kildare 1286
17 (-2) Down 1267
18 (-1) Meath 1199
19 Derry 1184
20 (+1) London 1097
21 (+4) Roscommon 1080
22 (-2) Wicklow 1061
23 (+4) Armagh 988
24 (+2) Tyrone 922
25 (-2) Donegal 894
26 (-4) Mayo 863
27 (-3) Fingal 768
28 (+2) Monaghan 743
29 (+2) Longford 610
30 (-1) Fermanagh 609
31 (-3) Louth 575
32 Warwicks 522
33 (+1) Leitrim 367
34 (-1) Sligo 364
35 Lancashire 173

Hurling preview: And now, the end is near…

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…AND SO WE face the final curtain of an All-Ireland championship which has, in all honesty, failed to match the frenetic brilliance of the last few.

Kilkenny (1st, 2242) face Galway (3rd, 2077) in a repeat of the Leinster final; just as they did in 2012, when Galway took provincial honours but Kilkenny emerged as national champions following a replay.

There seems to be a strange sense of ‘momentum’ about Galway – the perception that, because they shipped three goals to Tipp in the semi-final and still managed to beat them, that there is a fate written in the stars somewhere that This Is The Year. Maybe that’s the ideal use of Elo ratings – to defuse the emotion from the case at hand.

From this writer’s vantage point there doesn’t seem to be much different about Sunday’s match than to the Leinster final, when Kilkenny seemed to be able to muscle their way to victory without a huge amount of discomfort. The only differing factor is that Galway have since been through the wars against Cork and Tipperary and emerged smiling.

Is that a positive thing though? Can a team like Galway, which has yet to make the ultimate breakthrough, turn on that sort of intensity twice in a month? Time will tell but there’s some scepticism on these pages.

Elo says Kilkenny will win by 68.1%. We shall see.

Hurling review: After the apocalypse

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THERE USED to be a joke that after the apocalypse there’d only be cockroaches left to roam the earth. To that category we can now safely add: ‘and inter-county hurlers’. They’re a hardy bunch, aren’t they?

Galway’s epic victory has finally kickstarted the season – let us only hope that the final lives up to the same degree of intensity, and that Galway are able to bring their A game for two matches in a row. Their win doesn’t quite bring them ahead of Tipperary in our rankings – largely because of the narrow margin of victory – but that hardly matters when they’ll still be hurling in September.

Hurling rankings
(w/e August 14th, 2015)
1 Kilkenny 2242
2 Tipperary 2090
3 Galway 2077
4 Waterford 1977
5 Cork 1910
6 Dublin 1853
7 Limerick 1833
8 Clare 1810
9 Wexford 1683
10 Kerry 1534

A full list of ratings and rankings for every county is available on the first tab of our giant hurling ratings spreadsheet.

Hurling preview: Just One More Bite

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AND THEN THERE were three. Kilkenny are back into the All-Ireland final; including this year’s final and replays, the Cats will have featured in 17 of the last 20. What’s rare is wonderful: it’s always that bit more novel when Kilkenny aren’t there, but it’s also extraordinary to have a conveyor belt so rich. Either eventuality should be celebrated.

This week we find out who’ll join them. Will it be Tipperary (2nd, 2160), in a repeat of five of those last seven finals? Or will it be Galway (3rd, 2007), in a renewal of the two excellent 2012 deciders?

Tipp’s path to this point has been quite similar to that of Kilkenny – winning the bare minimum of two games en route to provincial honours, in matches of increasing intensity (a 16-point win over Limerick followed by a five-point triumph over Waterford). Last year’s rating, improved and augmented.

Galway have had the slightly more winding route. After their double against Dublin came a hammering over Laois, followed by the Leinster final. They arrive here after disposing of Cork. That all means three championship victories, one draw (in which they gained points) and one defeat.

Elo gives the nod to Tipperary, almost purely by virtue of the ratings inherited before the 2015 season. That said, Galway’s rating now is significantly higher than it was at the start of the year, and the Tribesmen certainly carry a sense of being a team on the rise. Kilkenny found a way to neuter them, but if Galway can bare some teeth against Tipp, it may well be closer than Elo suggests.

Elo’s verdict: Tipperary to win, by 67%.

Hurling review: Pushing up the Déisies

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EVERY NEW BEGINNING comes from some other beginning’s end. Waterford may not have made it to this year’s All-Ireland decider, but in 2015 Derek McGrath has sewn seeds that could yield a major bounty in years to come. On Sunday they fell short against a Kilkenny team which is in need of some buffing-up to get back to its lustrous best, but which has proven it still has the raw materials necessary to reap some silverware.

The six-point defeat means Waterford slide to fourth place in this week’s rankings; if Galway succumb to Tipperary next week (more anon) they are likely to go back again and Waterford will end the year in third place, being beaten in 2015 only by the two All-Ireland finalists.

Whatever shape you might want to put on Waterford’s season, consider this: at the end of last season, after their qualifier defeat to Wexford, the Deise had an Elo rating of 1761. At the end of the year they’re at 1977. This year’s team would have a 73% chance of beating last year’s side – a stat that yields statistical proof of just how far they’ve come this year.

Hurling rankings
(w/e August 7th, 2015)
1 Kilkenny 2242
2 Tipperary 2160
3 (+1) Galway 2007
4 (-1) Waterford 1977
5 Cork 1910
6 Dublin 1853
7 Limerick 1833
8 Clare 1810
9 Wexford 1683
10 Kerry 1534

A full list of ratings and rankings for every county is available on the first tab of our giant hurling ratings spreadsheet.

Hurling preview: One day more?

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AND SO IT is, just like they said it would be.

It’s the first of the two All-Ireland SHC semi-finals where Kilkenny (1st, 2202) face Waterford (3rd, 2017) on the neutral ground of Croke Park. From the outset it should be noted that Waterford are the only side other than Kilkenny or Tipp to have a rating above 2000 points; Clare stood at just 2061 when they won the All-Ireland and that year they had two finals in which to take points from Cork. They are far from a busted flush; Limerick pushed the Cats mighty close at the same level last year when rated at 1930 to Kilkenny’s near-identical 2208.

Despite their high rating and their incumbency status, there is an air of vulnerability about Kilkenny this year. Wexford didn’t take much beating in Nowlan Park; Galway were off their best in Croker. Those are the only championship outings Kilkenny have yet faced, and after a League campaign that saw them flirt with relegation they now seem a long way from the side that beat Tipperary last September.

On the flipside Waterford are having the time of their lives. Their Munster final loss to Tipperary – where they simply failed to live up to their previous showings – was their first defeat of 2015 and anyone who saw their Crossbar Challenge video can see the feelgood factor that Derek McGrath has nurtured there.

But yet, Waterford fell quite meekly to Tipperary, who are definitively a less-accomplished team than Kilkenny, and no matter how flat they might always seem, there’s a deep well of reserve in Kilkenny that seems to astonish even the players themselves. How many more times can they visit it before the well runs dry – and will they know the answer this weekend?

A photo posted by Yellowbelly (@yellowbelly_ie) on

Elo’s verdict: Kilkenny to win with 70.1% probability.

Hurling review: August Destiny

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AND THEN there were four. Waterford took their time to flex enough muscle to shake off the Dubs – they’re now in an All-Ireland semi-final with only one loss to their names all year – while Cork’s miserable weekend in both codes was capped by a serious slump to Galway.

Fittingly, the results mean Cork fall out of the top four, leaving the semi-finals as a combination of first-plays-third and second-plays-fourth. It might be the finale that this flat championship needs.

Hurling rankings
(w/e July 26th, 2015)
1 Kilkenny 2202
2 Tipperary 2160
3 (+1) Waterford 2017
4 (+1) Galway 2007
5 (-2) Cork 1910
6 Dublin 1853
7 Limerick 1833
8 Clare 1810
9 Wexford 1683
10 Kerry 1534

Hurling review: Bloodied but bandaged

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There’s life in the young dogs let. The on-screen banners might be misrepresentative (Patrick Horgan’s Championship debut was 2008?… oh, the year of the strike) but Cork’s young lads avenged the defeat of 2013 by finally topping Clare at the third time of asking.

All three of the senior matches in Semple this weekend were decent affairs – Waterford finally learning that sheer enthusiasm can’t get you everywhere. They will pose a stern challenge for the Dubs that will serve for the better of whoever wins it and ends up facing Kilkenny.

Cork meanwhile face a clash against Galway which ought to be a real acid test of whether this Cork side are now once again the real deal, or whether Galway’s flat-ish performance in the Leinster final was a blip on a firm ascendancy.

Tipp bridge the gap to Kilkenny but remain in second place; Cork are the weekend’s winners leapfrogging Waterford to jump into third spot. Antrim’s last-gasp win over Down to maintain their Ulster hurling honours (the only match we predicted wrongly) sees them jump back to 15th for the winter.


Hurling rankings
(w/e July 12th, 2015)
1 Kilkenny 2202
2 Tipperary 2160
3 (+1) Cork 2003
4 (-1) Waterford 1964
5 Galway 1914
6 Dublin 1906
7 Limerick 1833
8 Clare 1810
9 Wexford 1683
10 Kerry 1534
11 Offaly 1531
12 Laois 1499
13 Westmeath 1334
14 Carlow 1311
15 (+2) Antrim 1298
16 (-1) Kildare 1286
17 (-1) Down 1267
18 Meath 1199
19 Derry 1184
20 London 1097

Hurling preview: On the one road

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Three of the weekend’s four hurling matches take place on one patch of hallowed turf in Tipperary this weekend – but there’s more than one venue, and more than one provincial title, up for grabs this weekend.

After this weekend there’ll only be five senior championship matches left in 2015 – so let’s savour this weekend while we have it. Of the four games, only one (according to Elo) is at all clear-cut.

Munster SHC final

Tipperary (2nd, 2142) v. Waterford (3rd, 1982)
It’s been six years since Tipp had the pleasure of lifting provincial honours on their home turf; the last time Waterford took the title it was in Semple, in a replay over Cork (2010). Home venue doesn’t make the biggest difference in this particular instalment (if Waterford had an appropriate ground, it might) and so Tipperary’s record of reaching All-Ireland finals gives them a substantial 76% likelihood of winning out.

That said, Waterford have (literally) not lost a single game all year – and if they win this one, not only will their Elo rating get a huge boost, but they’ll look in a fairly strong position for the third Sunday in August.

All-Ireland SHC qualifiers: Round 2

Dublin (6th, 1875) v. Limerick (7th, 1864)
Semple plays host to a great double-header on Saturday too. The latter match will attract the eye as a repeat of the 2013 classic finals, but the curtain-raiser is the more even encounter. Dublin and Limerick don’t get to meet often in the Championship, and this one could be mightily close. The Dubs won back some pride with their hammering of Laois, after the heavy Leinster loss to Galway; Limerick had a similarly soft encounter against Westmeath to recover from the semi-final loss to Tipperary. Elo gives the Dubs the slenderest advantage, at 51.3%, but in anyone else’s language that’s a toss-up.

Cork (4th, 1979) v. Clare (8th, 1834)
The last time these sides met, it was in the absurdly brilliant All-Ireland replay of 2013. Since then, and until last weekend, Clare hadn’t won a single senior championship match – and that’s the main reason why their Elo rating is so much lower now than it was then. Cork were good, but not barnstorming, against Wexford – and they could use another solid fight, against Munster opposition, to really get their show back on the road. Elo says the Rebels are 66.1% favourites.

Ulster SHC final

Antrim (17th, 1279) v. Down (16th, 1286)
If you’re a regular reader of this blog you’ll already be sick to death of my harping on about how Ulster’s hurling championship is the model all others should follow.

I’ll simply leave it at this: Antrim have been relegated to Division 2A and the Christy Ring, and are on the cusp of their worst year in a long, long time. Down have been getting their stuff together, and now have an Elo rating slightly higher than that of their Saffron rivals – plus, this match is on neutral ground, meaning no perceived advantage for either side.

Elo reckons Down are 50.8% favourites. That means, in anyone else’s language, a cracking game should await in Owenbeg.