Scoring suggests black card giving cynicism the blues
With nine games remaining in this year's All-Ireland football championships, the scoring rate is up by an average of almost three points per tie on last season.
The upward trend is not as high as in the Allianz League last spring, where the average rise was 4.6 points per game on 2013, but it's still a significant increase. Whether it's due to a reduction in cynical fouling, arising from the introduction of the black card, more creative attacking play or a combination of both, is a matter of conjecture.
Whatever the background, it's good for spectators, who are enjoying a higher strike rate in both points and goals. Goals have increased from 92 at the same stage of last year's championship to 116 this season and even when replays are removed from both, the total is still up by 19.
The biggest scoring total increase has been in the qualifiers, up by an average of almost five points per game. Clare (4-26 v Carlow), Down (4-18 v Leitrim), Galway (4-17 v Tipperary), Tyrone (2-21 v Louth), Tipperary (3-17 v Laois, 4-12 v Galway and 2-17 v Longford), Laois (4-9 v Tipperary and 1-19 v Fermanagh) were the leading contributors to the high returns in the qualifiers.
Meath (7-13 v Carlow) were the highest scorers in the provincial championships, but Dublin (2-25 v Wexford, 3-20 v Meath, 2-21 v Laois) were top shots on the consistency table.
The other three provincial champions, Donegal (3-16 v Antrim), Kerry (0-24 v Cork) and Mayo (3-14 v Galway) also showed their more creative sides before their arrival in the All-Ireland quarter-finals.
Clare (4-26 v Carlow) are the highest scorers, while the unfortunate distinction of returning the lowest so far rests with Cavan, who managed only 0-5 against Roscommon in the All-Ireland qualifiers.
It now remains to be seen if the high-scoring pattern carries into Croke Park for the remaining nine games, starting this weekend with the Armagh v Meath, Kildare v Monaghan Round 4 qualifiers and the Kerry v Galway, Cork v Mayo quarter-finals.
Most of the games in the closing stages of last year's championship were very high-scoring, led by the Dublin v Kerry semi-final, which yielded a total of 6-29.
While there have been fewer black cards than anticipated during this year's campaign, the threat of dismissal for even one cynical foul may well be a factor in the higher scoring yields, a foretaste of which emerged during the League where the average increase per game in Division 1 alone was 9.1 points.