Munster rivals indebted to ace marksmen Horgan and Mahony

Cork and Waterford are known as two of the most goal-shy teams around but don’t let that fool you. 

Munster rivals indebted to ace marksmen Horgan and Mahony

What they lack in finding the net they compensate for in winning frees. Oodles of them. Why else would Patrick Horgan and Pauric Mahony be so prominent from placed balls on the scoresheet?

Of course, it too goes a long way that the counties possess two of the finest marksmen in the country. In five seasons, the Division 1 semi-final was the 21st time Patrick Horgan has scored 10 points or more for Cork in league or championship. The first occasion came in 2011 against Tipperary when he took over free-taking duties from Ben O’Connor.

Mahony, on the other hand, hasn’t enjoyed primary free-taking duties as long as his Cork rival, having seen the likes of Richie Foley, Maurice Shanahan and Martin O’Neill preside over placed balls before he was given the nod on a permanent basis.

However, he has still managed to hit the 10-point mark on 11 occasions across two seasons. In five of Waterford’s seven league matches this year, the 23-year-old has contributed 10 points or more per outing.

Of his 1-79 total for the league, 0-61 has come from frees with one point scored as a 65. That equates to over 40% of Waterford’s total number of points only this spring.

Horgan’s tally is slightly better with less of it coming from frees - 2-80 scored, with 0-53 from frees and another seven points from 65s. Against Dublin in their last clash, he missed just two of an incredible 19 scoring efforts. His placed balls make up almost 38% of Cork’s points only sum in this year’s league.

His highest ever free return for Cork came in last year’s Munster semi-final against Clare when all 2-11 of his scoring that afternoon, including a penalty goal, came from placed balls, while he has hit Tipperary hardest, putting up 10 or more points against them on five occasions.

In comparison, Mahony’s best day on the frees was the 11 he fired over against Tipperary in Waterford’s otherwise forgettable 2011 Munster final. Like Horgan, he’s fared best against the Premier County.

The importance of Horgan’s sharpshooting was never more evident than in 2013 when his conversion rate was just over 90% for Cork’s four last championship matches - the quarter-final, semi-final and two final meetings with Clare.

The role of free-taking could become even more pivotal if the new advantage rule is to be implemented properly and referees err on the side of caution and call back the play for frees. But 2013 should be a lesson to managers.

Declan Hannon’s waywardness in the first half of Limerick’s All-Ireland semi-final served as a warning about primary free-takers being facilitated in teams.

Both Kilkenny and Dublin also had their issues that year with the men designated to stand over their scoring range frees.

Cork and Waterford may not be making the nets dance but with Horgan and Mahony they have swing.

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