KIERAN SHANNON: Black & White numbers for Jim Gavin

Dublin are on the verge of winning their eighth title out of an available nine since Jim Gavin became their general,with another clean sweep of league, Leinster and possibly All-Ireland. We track their scoring and appearance records and crunch the numbers to find some interesting trends.

FREE or ’45 to win the All-Ireland, just like he faced and nailed in 2011: only this time, will Stephen Cluxton take it?

The Dublin goalkeeper has yet to score in either league or championship this year. That’s some contrast to last year when he scored 0-15 in league and championship, or 2013 when he scored 0-16 in the championship alone.

In fact since he first began coming upfield for deadballs during the 2010 qualifiers, Cluxton would score at least once in 23 of his 27 next championship appearances prior to this year.

After his injury-time miss in the drawn game against Mayo, maybe Dublin have finally decided this just isn’t his year for them. But this is a man who has scored 47 times in championship football from range.

With it all on the line, wouldn’t Dublin want him to leave his and come upfield one more time?

Philly McMahon may have ghosted in from nowhere for that decisive goal against Mayo, but if you look closely at his year, it hardly came out of nowhere. The Ballymun back has now scored in seven of his last nine competitive games for Dublin for a tally of 1-10. That’s some going, given he’d only scored in three of his previous 18 games. In other words he’s scored in 77 per cent of his games from April on while prior to that he’d scored in just one in every six games since the start of the 2014 league.

In fact McMahon has scored more this summer than the Kerry backline combined for the entire year.

The Kerry backs have scored just 0-6 for the year. McMahon has raided upfield for 1-5 this summer. Lee Keegan is the only back to have scored more from play in this year’s championship, with 2-4. [Keegan and McMahon may be the summer’s two highest scoring defenders but they’re not its two most consistent scoring defenders. That distinction belongs to one player you’ve heard of and another you most likely haven’t. Dessie Mone kicked a point in each of Monaghan’s four championship game. But give it up for Declan Byrne. Louth may have had just the three outings this summer, but he scored in all of them, and 0-5 in all.]

Another teammate of McMahon’s is the leading scorer from play for a back for the year overall. Jack McCaffrey has scored 2-8 between league and championship in 2015. That’s a point more than what he even racked up in 2013 when he won Young Player of the Year — and an All-Ireland. Michael Fitzsimmons will be on at some stage. He’s come on in all of Dublin’s six championship games this year.

The slippage in Paul Flynn’s form this year can be shown in his scoring return. He has scored in just one of Dublin’s last five championship games — he’d strike for a goal and a point against Fermanagh — whereas last year when he was at the peak of his powers he scored in all five of Dublin’s summer outings and 1-11 in total. Even in last year’s defeat against Donegal he kicked 0-4 from range whereas in this year’s semi-final stage he went scoreless in both games against Mayo.

In all, he’s scored in just 33 percent of his games this summer, whereas while amassing his four consecutive All Stars he’d score in 72 per cent of his championship games.

Another thing to note: he also has never scored against Kerry in the championship, even though he’s started in each of the 2009, 2011 and 2013 encounters between the counties. And though the counties meet each other every spring in the league, Flynn has scored just the one point against Kerry since the opening round of the 2010 league when he scored a decisive 1-2 that gave Pat Gilroy’s new-look team Dublin’s first win in Kerry since 1982. The past two years Flynn hasn’t lined out against Kerry, while in the 2012 and 2013 league clashes he was held scoreless.

The rest of the scoring from the Dublin half-forward line has more than compensated for Flynn not hitting his usual heights.

Ciaran Kilkenny must be on the verge of an All Star for his consistency and scoring rate. Only once this summer has he failed to score three points or more from play, and even then he’d still score 0-2 against Mayo in the replay. In all, he’s kicked 0-18, an average of 0-3 a game, the same tally he’d put up in the league final against Cork which signalled he was on for a big summer.

And yet Kilkenny isn’t even Dublin’s leading half forward from play. Diarmuid Connolly has scored 3-10 from play this summer, to go with the 1-1 from deadballs he scored in the drawn game against Mayo. He wouldn’t score from play in the replay against the Connacht champions, perhaps distracted by suspensions and appeals, but that was the the first time in 11 championship games he’d go scoreless from play.

Although there’s been speculation about whether Dean Rock will start on Sunday after failing to score from play in both games against Mayo, the Ballymun man has started in all of Dublin’s 15 league and championship games this year. Only Johnny Cooper can boast the same.

You can see why Gavin has placed such faith in Rock. Prior to the Mayo games, Rock had scored from play in 10 of his 13 appearances, and a total of 3-18 from play, an average of almost three points a game, to go along with all his scores from frees.

The Bench has been the difference-maker in recent games against Kerry. Six months before Cluxton’s famous All-Ireland winning free in 2011, Dublin would also pip Kerry by a last-minute point (courtesy of Bernard Brogan) in a league game under the lights in Croke Park. Michael Darragh Macauley would come on that night at half-time to score 1-1.

Interestingly, Kevin McManamon would score a goal as a starter that day — and in the one-point league win over Kerry as well in Croker last year — but clearly his most telling interventions against Kerry were his game-changing goals from off the bench in the 2011 final and 2013 semi-final.

Dean Rock would also rattle the net in that 2013 semi-final upon his introduction. Earlier that year, it was a sub, Chris Dias, that scored the only goal to condemn Kerry to a heavy home defeat. Last year Paul Mannion’s two points from the bench shaded the game.

This year Barry John Keane’s two points off the bench was the difference between the sides in Killarney. In all though, the Dublin bench isn’t as strong as it has been in other years. Eoghan O’Gara has been out injured since March. Paul Mannion has been away travelling. The slippage has probably been best exemplified though by Cormac Costello. Last year in Leinster he scored 1-8 off the bench, prompting him to be called into the starting line-up for the All-Ireland semi-final against Donegal, in which he’d score just the one point. Last year in league and championship he’d rack up 1-19. This year he’s scored just 1-2. He hasn’t started a game since early March. The only time he’s come on this summer was against Fermanagh.

Alan Brogan’s acceptance of his new role has helped compensate, scoring in three of his last five appearances off the bench and helping set up his brother’s pivotal equalising goal against Mayo the last day.


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