Martin Breheny: Increased security leads to dramatic slump in scoring
The scoring rate in Division 1 of this year's Allianz Football League is down by 22 per cent on last year.
The overall decline across the entire league is 11 per cent, with Divisions 1 and 4 experiencing the biggest drops. Division 4 totals shrunk by almost 16 per cent, with the biggest slump coming in goals, which decreased from 75 to 39.
Indeed if it weren't for the London v Waterford game which, unusually, produced seven goals, the decease would have over 50 per cent. The goal count in the 28 Division 1 games reduced from 77 to 48, while the overall goal reduction across the four divisions was 23 per cent.
Cork, Mayo, Down, Galway and Laois were the only counties in Divisions 1 and 2 to average more than one goal per game. Cavan managed just one goal in their seven Division 2 games through Brendan Fitzpatrick (above), having failed to find the net once in their last three games in Division 3 last year.
As home to the eight top counties, most interest centres on Division 1, where the figures suggest a change of emphasis from last season's high-yield shoot-outs.
All eight counties scored less this season, ranging from Derry, who were an average of 6.7 points per game worse off, to Dublin, who decreased by 1.7 points per game.
Mayo and Tyrone were, on average, 6.5 points down on last year; Cork dropped by 3.3 points while Kerry were 2.4 points off 2014 returns.
On the defensive side, Mayo were the biggest beneficiaries of the scoring slump as their concession rate reduced by an average of 6.9 points per game. Tyrone cut their give-away by an average of five points per game but it wasn't enough to stave off relegation because their scoring rate dipped by even more.
Kildare's figures are interesting in light of their relegation from Divisions 1 to 3 in successive seasons. On average, they scored four points fewer per game in Division 2 this season than in Division 1 a year earlier. That's surprising, given the relative strengths of defences in the two groups.
There's no easy explanation as to why scoring rates in Division 1 have dropped this year, but it certainly feeds into the theory that a more defensive mindset is being applied. The reduction can hardly be a mere coincidence, especially since the league was the first big action since counties witnessed the ultra-defensive approach that dictated last year's Donegal-Kerry All-Ireland final.