Thursday 22 February 2018

Rossies bottom of pile when it comes to net gains

Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

IF a consistent goal-scoring record is considered central to championship success, Fergal O'Donnell (Roscommon), Mickey Harte (Tyrone) and James Horan (Mayo) will have been keeping their attackers behind for extra practice in preparation for this weekend's big Croke Park tests.

Roscommon have managed just six goals in their last 11 championship games and while five of them came in this year's Connacht campaign, they were against New York and Leitrim, neither of whom would be noted for defensive solidity.

Prior to that, Roscommon managed just one goal (scored by Donie Shine against Leitrim last year) in eight championship games stretching back to 2009. It's the worst goal rate of the nine remaining All-Ireland contenders, but only marginally inferior to Tyrone.

Surprisingly, Tyrone have scored only seven goals in their last 10 championship games but they will be encouraged that four of them came this year, including two against Armagh last Saturday. However, they have drawn blanks in five of their last 10 championship outings.

Mayo's 11 goals in their last 10 games looks productive enough but it's misleading as eight of them came in the 2009 championship. Since then, they have scored only two goals in five games, one when losing to Sligo last year and the second, finished by Alan Freeman, against Galway in this year's Connacht semi-final.

They will be hoping that their return to Croke Park will increase creativity in line with their last visit there in March, when they scored 3-13 against Dublin in the Allianz League. Mind you, they conceded 4-15.

Together with Roscommon, Limerick may be the outsiders to win the All-Ireland, but they take the best goal-scoring record of all the contenders into the final stages, having scored 13 goals in their last 10 games.

That includes three against Kerry in the Munster semi-final, a return which few counties record against the Kingdom. Limerick added three more against Offaly in their second-round qualifier.

Donegal and Kildare, who clash in the quarter-final on Saturday, are joint second behind Limerick on the goal-scoring table (last 10 games), having scored 12 each. Kildare started the Leinster campaign with two blanks against Wicklow and Meath but have since scored six goals, while Donegal landed six in four Ulster outings.

Dublin have scored at least one goal in each of their last six championship games, a record matched only by Kerry. Dublin scored three goals in three Leinster games, a dramatic reduction on their return in the Allianz League, where they scored 18 in eight games.

Defending All-Ireland champions Cork boosted their return with five goals against Waterford in the Munster semi-final and hit two more past Down in a qualifier tie last Saturday.

Cork weren't especially impressive on the goal trail during last year's march to All-Ireland glory, scoring only four in their last six games.

However, despite Cork's essentially point-driven surge to All-Ireland glory last year, there's no doubt that a team who succeeds in increasing their goal return greatly enhances their prospects of landing the big prize.

Irish Independent

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