All sports have a peak age but what is the peak age of a Gaelic Footballer? Ideally you would look at game time per squad for the last 10 years, but that info is simply not available. Maybe one day!
One possible way is to look at the age at which a player was when he received an All Star Award. Now I know the All Star’s have their detractors and results would show that it favours the All Ireland finalists more than it maybe should, however it can be used to see what age the ‘best’ players are.
Gathering the list of All Star Winners since 2001 (start of qualifiers) and matching to their DOB (or at least year of birth) it is possible to see the peak age at which players receive an All Star. As you can see in the graph below. The peak age is 25, with the Average Age being 26.
Odd that the 26 bucket has a few less than 25 & 27, but it’s not a massive sample. What is clear is that there is a big uplift once players reach the age of 23 and starts to drop off after 27. So it’s fair to say that based on this players start to play their best football at 23 and their peak performance will last until 27. There will always be exceptions to the rule but it is interesting to see a clear pattern.
It would be really interesting to see if this Age has changed over the decades? Is the peak age much younger than it was 20 or even 40 years ago? Work for another day.
Average Age of Squads
I wanted to see how the All Ireland Semi-Finalists stacked up against the peak age effect we saw. Do these teams have an average squad age of somewhere between 23-27? Well the Answer was hard to believe.
All 4 squads have exactly the same average squad age of 26 – the average age of an All Star! This is 1 year so it might have been a fluke but… If there are other teams out there with ambitions of challenging for Sam in 2015, it will be worth looking at their squads, will they have enough players in the peak age bracket and more importantly are those players any good?
Averages can hide a lot of variation and there are different ways to measure this. Donegal have the biggest variation in ages, despite the fact that they have an average of 26 the spread of ages is much bigger than in other teams. But what about Kerry’s ‘old’ squad? Actually not so, there spread of ages is very similar to Dublin’s. These figures take into account the entire squad rather than the starting 15.
When we breakdown the figure by position we do begin to see bigger differences (graph below). As you would expect GK’s peak at a later stage than any other position, but still under 30 which might be surprising.
No surprise that the FB and FF line are the young guns. Speed is probably king here, so age is on their side.
The half-backs and half-forwards peak slightly later than the full-back and full-forwards but there is really not much in the differences between positions.