Sunday 22 July 2018

Martin Breheny: Dublin and Tyrone have conceded only one goal each so far, but Sunday will be new ball game

 

Ronan O’Neill celebrates after scoring a goal for Tyrone in the Ulster SFC final against Down. Photo: Philip Fitzpatrick/Sportsfile
Ronan O’Neill celebrates after scoring a goal for Tyrone in the Ulster SFC final against Down. Photo: Philip Fitzpatrick/Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Something has to give on the goal front in Sunday's Dublin-Tyrone clash as two teams with prolific attacks and miserly defences battle for supremacy.

Each has conceded only one goal in their four championship outings this year while averaging 1.75 (Dublin) and 1.5 (Tyrone) per game at the other end.

The only goal scored against Dublin so far came from Kildare's Paddy Brophy late in the Leinster final, by which time concentration levels in front of Stephen Cluxton had probably dropped.

Carlow, Westmeath and Monaghan failed to find the net against the All-Ireland champions.

Michael Carroll's late goal for Donegal in the Ulster semi-final was the only time Tyrone goalkeeper Niall Morgan was beaten in a run where Derry, Down and Armagh drew blanks and suffered heavy defeats.

Miserly

Tyrone let in no goals in last year's All-Ireland quarter-final (Mayo) or in the Ulster final (Donegal) so they will arrive in Croke Park on Sunday having conceded only one goal in their previous six championship games.

Incredibly, they had conceded five goals in their previous two games - a draw and replay against Cavan.

They were in mean form in this year's Allianz League, conceding only four goals in seven games. Despite that, they finished sixth of eight.

Dublin, who reached the final where they lost to Kerry, were even more miserly - giving away only four goals in eight games.

Tyrone's goal rate improved dramatically as this year's championship progressed, going from none against Derry in the Ulster quarter-final to one against Donegal, two against Down and three against Armagh in the All-Ireland quarter-final.

The improved goal rate will have come as a relief to supporters as it was one area which appeared to be delaying the squad's development into genuine All-Ireland contenders.

Tyrone scored no goals against Donegal and Mayo in their final two games in the 2016 championship and managed only three in seven league games this year.

And when they drew another blank against Derry in the Ulster quarter-final, Mickey Harte faced questions on why they found it so difficult to score goals.

He insisted that it wasn't an issue, provided the rest of their game was good enough to keep them ticking over.

"It (goal rate) seems to be a concern for some people but not particularly for us," he said before highlighting that they had scored 22 points against Derry.

Obviously, he wasn't going to admit publicly to disappointment over the low goal returns so he will have been delighted by the improvement since then, peaking with three goals against Armagh in the quarter-final.

Admittedly, it wasn't particularly difficult to pick Armagh's locks but nonetheless it was encouraging for Tyrone to score their highest number of goals since they hit five against Cavan in last year's Ulster semi-final replay.

While Tyrone's goal rate has increased, Dublin have dropped from four to two to one against Westmeath, Kildare and Monaghan respectively.

The decline is probably of no great significance as they were comfortable in all the games and appeared content, against Monaghan in particular, to stay on the points route while keeping the opposition well behind them.

Bookmakers are offering odds of 11/2 against neither Dublin nor Tyrone scoring a goal on Sunday.

Harte has built the latest Tyrone model on defensive security but unlike previous seasons, when the attacking side of their game had limited impact, they have run up high scores in the current championship, averaging 24 points per game.

That's well above Dublin's average giveaway. However, they have conceded a total of 20 points twice in the championship over the past 12 months.

Kerry scored 2-14 when losing last year's semi-final by two points while Kildare posted 1-17 in this year's Leinster final.

Kerry also scored 0-20 in a one-point defeat of Dublin in this year's league final. However, Dublin have repeatedly shown over recent seasons that they usually turn the scoreboard balance their way in big championship games, irrespective of the general trend.

Irish Independent

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