DJ rues lack of 'risk-taking' in barren summer of goal-scoring
WHILE the country has been experiencing its own drought over recent weeks, hurling has been suffering from a different type of deficiency all summer with goal-scoring drying up at an alarming rate.
With five games left in the championship, fans will be hoping that the goal rate improves after a campaign in which Kilkenny and Cork, who've always been regarded as goalscoring counties, have managed only two between them from seven games.
The Munster championship returned a record low number of goals, with only five being scored in four games.
Three of them came in the opening round game between Clare and Waterford and the other two in the Tipperary-Limerick game, leaving the second semi-final (Clare v Cork) and the final (Limerick v Cork) as goal-free zones.
The Dublin-Kilkenny Leinster semi-final draw and replay produced only two goals, while the Dublin-Wexford draw and replay yielded three goals.
The most surprising aspect of the championship has been Kilkenny's unusually low goal return of two from five games, one of which went to extra-time.
Equally unusually, Kilkenny were at the receiving end of one of the rare goal rushes of the season when Offaly hit them for four in the Leinster quarter-final.
DJ Carey, a man with a proven record for goalscoring during his brilliant career, attributes hurling's goal reduction to a combination of packed defences, poor finishing, less risk-taking and an unwillingness by forwards to take on their markers in one-on-one situations.
"Teams are blocking up the defensive half more than they used to," he said. "There's a lot of bunching, leaving forwards with much less room. There are other factors too I don't see forwards taking on their markers the way they used too.
"It seems to be all about taking the safe option now and since it's easier to score a point than a goal, the plan seems to be to get as many points as possible on the board."
Carey also questioned the standard of finishing close to goal and believes that many forwards are being let down by their striking.
"The overall standard of ball- striking in hurling now is very good – except when it comes to goal-scoring. You have to give credit to goalkeepers, but the standard there was always good, yet you got more goals.
"Nowadays, most goals tend to come from long balls down the middle, with forwards working off the break. There's not as much running at opponents or trying to work moves to score goals. There's also less risk-taking – lads won't go for a goal unless it's almost impossible to miss."
Carey, who scored 33 goals in 57 championship games, believes the decline in goal-scoring detracts from the overall excitement of games and hopes that it's a phase which will pass.
"Hopefully, it's not here to stay. The game needs as many goals as it can get," he said.
Paul Ryan (Dublin) and Shane O'Donnell (Clare) are the top goal-scorers in this year's championship with three each.