Dubs must up net gains to make business end count
DUBLIN hurlers' bid to take what has been their best season for decades onto All-Ireland semi-final level is based on an unusual mix, not shared by any of the other five Liam MacCarthy Cup contenders.
However, whether it's a plus or a minus in the longer term remains to be seen. Almost six of every 10 Dublin scores in the Leinster championship have come from frees, while they have averaged fewer goals than all their rivals (they are level with Waterford, having played a game more).
The accuracy of Paul Ryan (pictured) from frees has yielded 2-30, which is almost 57pc of Dublin's total return. He took over the free-taking duties from Conal Keaney, who did well for much of the league, and has been reliable.
Dublin's scoring harvest from frees is 20pc higher than Waterford, who come second on that particular table. Newcomer Pauric Mahony has been Waterford's dead-ball ace, scoring 0-16 from frees in two games.
Only a quarter of Kilkenny's total championship return has come from frees; it's less than one-in-five for Limerick and one in seven for Galway, while 90pc of Tipperary's massive haul of 14-60 has come from open play.
The high proportion of scores from frees for Dublin can hardly be attributed to referees being especially nice to them, but rather to their style of play, which involves running at opponents and drawing fouls. It has worked quite well, but it must be a worry to Anthony Daly that they haven't been able to supplement it with a consistent strike rate from open play.
They managed it in the league final against Kilkenny, scoring 17 of 22 points on the run, but haven't carried it into this summer's championship, certainly not by comparison with their main rivals, including Sunday's opponents Limerick.
Dublin have also been goal-shy from open play, managing just one in three championship games, plus the National League final against Kilkenny. That came from Peadar Carton in the opening Leinster game against Offaly.
Daly's side have tended to drive a lot of deliveries into the corners, allowing defenders to funnel back and seal the routes to goal.
Dublin will rightly point out that their approach was good enough to beat Kilkenny (League final), Offaly and Galway (Leinster championship) but, on the basis that it's vital to have a good goal return for contenders who are hoping to make a real impact towards the business end of the championship season, they would need to become more prolific.