Mayo to beat Dublin by one point
All the Dubs and Mayo people will give you an answer, of course, but can data analytics predict the outcome of this weekend's All-Ireland final, or more impressive yet, the score?
Predicting the outcome of a single game is a difficult task, predicting a winner of a league competition would be a much safer bet.
In a league competition, teams would play a lot of games, diminishing the impact of losses on their overall performance. And although they may falter a few times, underperform, fail to capitalise on chances etc. over the course of a season, it is usually the best teams who come out on top. But in a knockout competition, anything can happen. Which is an argument for why Leicester City winning the English Premier League is a bigger achievement than Portugal winning the Euros. In the knockout competition, Portugal were crowned champions by only winning four games, only one of those in 90 minutes and one on penalties. How much of that success was down to luck, and if it was a league style competition, would they have still won?
But let’s say we want to work out who’s going to win the All-Ireland final this weekend, Dublin or Mayo, is it even possible? The short answer, no! But let's give it a shot anyway.
Now, some other sports (e.g. soccer) have the luxury of huge pools of data and statistics. With such sports, we can base the predictions for who will win games in the Euros and the World Cup with huge weightings on player performance rankings, and comparing performances when they’ve played against the same teams. But the GAA isn’t quite there yet in terms of individual player data. Also, the way the league is structured means that rarely do both Mayo and Dublin come up against the same teams on a regular basis (over the last four years, Dublin have played Kerry just twice and Mayo have also played Kerry twice).
What we do have to work with is the performance of both teams over time. Our data analysts broke this down and looked into key areas such as goal difference between Mayo/Dublin, point differences between them, regular differences in finals, average goals and points that season, differences between average goals/points that season and the finals etc.
By excluding any emotional bias and purely looking at the history and current form of both teams, Idiro Analytics have calculated a prediction of:
Mayo 1:15 - 2:11 Dublin
Mayo to beat Dublin by one point
Again, predicting the result of a single game is definitely not an exact science. That’s especially true with such a fast paced high scoring sport, where one misplaced pass or slip could sway the game one way or the other. But interestingly, by only focusing on the numbers and not the emotional elements of the game, our prediction seems to go against the general consensus of Dublin having the edge on Mayo.
If you were to base your opinion on who would win by just looking at the odds set by the bookmakers, you may be led to believe that Dublin are 8 times more likely to win. But the thing to keep in mind here is the relative number of people making the bets. The population of Dublin is roughly ten times more than the population of Mayo - and with matches like this, many punters bet with their hearts, not their heads - meaning the odds may look disproportionate. Another thing to remember here is that bookmakers set the odds solely with the intention of making a profit no matter who wins. So although Dublin may look like they have this all wrapped up, that might not be the case.
Our predictive model has Mayo to win by a margin of one point, which at first glance may not seem like such a big deal considering how evenly matched these two counties are (by looking at their results over the last number of years).
But for Mayo to be so close to Dublin really is a major achievement, again when we take into consideration the relative populations of each county.
According to the most recent Irish Sports Council’s monitor report, the percentage of people actively playing Gaelic football in Connacht is 3.7%, whereas in Dublin county it’s just 0.6%. But adjusting for population size, the number of active players the Dublin team could potentially choose from is roughly 8070 with Mayo only having 4014 players.
Now, if Mayo had the same population as Dublin (1 345 000 people), with an active player percentage of 3.7%, they would have a pool of players to choose from of 50 000, compared to Dublin's 8070.
The Mayo players will know that looking at the history it’s too close to call, but looking at how well they’ve played given the disproportionate advantage Dublin have in terms of population, they may just feel they deserve it more.
Dublin supporters might not want to be too confident.
Based in Dublin, Ireland, Idiro Analytics is an award-winning provider of analytics to businesses around the world.
For an overview of Idiro’s analytics services, see our homepage www.idiro.com.
Media contact information
Simon Rees, Clients & Marketing Director, Idiro Analytics.