Rebels must get back to raising the green flag
AN outbreak of shyness in front of goal in this year's championship presents Cork with an added pressure as they attempt to stay on course for a first All-Ireland senior football title since 1990.
They head into Sunday's clash with Dublin with the worst goal-scoring record of the four semi-finalists, having kicked just three in six games. And since both their Munster semi-final replay with Kerry and Round 4 qualifier with Limerick went to extra-time, it means they have averaged a goal every two hours and 13 minutes.
That's an incredibly low return for a team who are clear favourites to win the All-Ireland title. Dublin have scored six goals in six games, Kildare eight in seven games and Down seven goals in six games.
Worryingly for Cork, recent history shows that few teams win All-Ireland semi-finals without scoring goals. Tyrone (versus Wexford in 2008) and Kerry (versus Cork in 2006) were the only two of 10 contenders to reach the final via the points-only route over the past five seasons.
Cork's three goals this summer came from Daniel Goulding in the Munster semi-final replay with Kerry, against Cavan in the qualifiers and Roscommon in the All-Ireland quarter-final, with Pearse O'Neill accounting for the latter two.
Cork failed to score a goal against Kerry (in the drawn game), Wexford and Limerick. There has been a dramatic decline in their goal rate since last year's championship, where they scored nine in seven games, including at least one in every outing. They maintained a good average en route to winning the NFL Division 1 title last April, landing 10 goals in eight games.
Their reliance on points in the championship has placed a big onus on their defence which, so far, has come good in the championship, conceding a miserly average of just 0-11 per game.
The Dublin defence would have looked ideal facilitators to ease Cork's goal shyness after being hit for five against Meath in the Leinster semi-final but all has changed since then. Tipperary's Barry Grogan has been the only sniper to hit the net in Dublin's four games since the Meath disaster, which is compelling evidence that the security code in front of Stephen Cluxton's goal has been re-programmed and kept a closely guarded secret by the defence.
However, Cork will be hoping that the sight of the blue jersey re-awakens their goal-scoring instincts, as they hit two against Dublin in an easy NFL win at Pairc Ui Rinn last March.
SEMI-FINALISTS' GOAL RATE
Kildare -- 8 (7 games): James Kavanagh 2, Alan Smith 2, Eamonn Callaghan, Padraig O'Neill, John Doyle, Ronan Sweeney, 1 each.
Down -- 7 (6 games): Benny Coulter, Martin Poland, Martin Clarke, John Clarke, Aidan Carr, Ronan Murtagh, Ambrose Rodgers, 1 each.
Dublin -- 6 (6 games): Eoghan O'Gara 3, Bernard Brogan 2, Michael Darragh Macauley 1
Cork -- 3 (6 games): Pearse O'Neill 2, Daniel Goulding 1