Saturday 16 November 2019

Croker crux: Unstoppable force v immovable object

Dublin's Dean Rock. Photo: Sportsfile
Dublin's Dean Rock. Photo: Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Something has to give in Croke Park on Sunday when the highest-scoring attack meets the meanest defence in the Allianz football League Division 1 final.

Dublin boast the top strike rate of all 32 counties, while Galway have the best defensive record in the top two divisions.

The unstoppable force against the immovable object angle adds a new and fascinating dimension to what will be the first clash in a final between the counties since the controversial 1983 All-Ireland decider, which Dublin won despite having three players dismissed.

Prolific returns have been a feature of the Dublin squad for the past five years, a trend they continued in the current league when scoring 8-107 (131pts) in seven games.

Led by Dean Rock, Ciarán Kilkenny, Niall Scully and Colm Basquel, it's 14 points higher than Kerry and Tyrone, who are in joint second place and 25 points better than Galway.

However, the Tribesmen's defence has been by far the tightest in the division, conceding only 1-80, 16 points less than Dublin and Tyrone, who are in joint second place on 5-84 and 4-87 respectively.

Monaghan's Kieran Hughes was the only opponent to score a goal against Galway. Even then, it had no real significance as it came deep in stoppage time when Galway were seven points ahead.

The Galway defence also did very well against Dublin in Round 7, restricting them to 0-13, their lowest so far.

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While Galway's give-away rate has averaged less than 12 points per game, their scoring average has not been particularly good. Only Mayo, who dodged relegation last Sunday, and Kildare, who lost all seven games, scored less than them

That's despite good individual returns by Barry McHugh, Shane Walsh, Damien Comer and Eamonn Brannigan. Effectively, Galway have been running a 'low income low spend' economy, which is in contrast to the traditional perception of the county as a progressive attacking force, but prone to defensive frailties.

The reduction in their give-away rate since last year has been quite remarkable. They conceded an average of three points more per game in Division 2 last season that they did against much better Division 1 opposition this year.

And when it came to last year's championship, Roscommon took them for 2-15 in the Connacht final, a total (1-18) Kerry matched in the All-Ireland quarter-final.

It's makes this year's turnaround all the more interesting.

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