Leaving aside the five goals they bagged across their three championship outings against Sligo, Galway, and Derry, Mayo’s point-taking from open play has been well below par this summer.
Cillian O’Connor, who’s been more willing than any other Mayo forward to swing for the posts, has kicked four points from 11 attempts. That’s a 36% conversion rate.
Andy Moran, the only other player whose shot count is in double-digit territory, has notched five white flags from 10 attempts. Kevin McLoughlin, with three points from eight attempts, comes in at 38%. Fergal Boland (60%) and Diarmuid O’Connor (67%) are among the better-performing students. Mind you, their shot count is far lower than the aforementioned trio. Against Derry alone, 40 scoring opportunities were engineered. Just 13 were taken.
What has Collins somewhat concerned is how his own troops fared in this department when Kerry came to visit last month.
Éamonn Fitzmaurice’s side outscored their hosts by 1-10 to 0-7 in the second period of the Munster semi-final, with Kerry’s second-half total achieved despite operating into the teeth of a strong breeze and being numerically disadvantaged following Donnchadh Walsh’s sending off.
“When we get things right, we can upset anybody,” says Collins. “But when you are facing a high-quality side like Mayo, every little mistake will be punished.
“There were a couple of chances we had against Kerry that, had they gone in, could have changed the course of the match. Kerry gave us a real lesson in shooting efficiency and finding the man best placed. Against the wind, their shooting was top-drawer. That was the main thing we took from the Kerry defeat. We improved on it against Laois and hopefully, we’ll be better again on Saturday. Our conversion rate has to be high.”
Taking into account their defeat to Galway and subsequent display during regulation time against Derry, out of sorts as it was, there’s a well-founded perception that Mayo are on the ropes. Whether there’s a team traveling the backroads capable of landing the necessary knockout blow, however, is questionable. Collins doesn’t see it as being so black and white.
“You are talking about the second best team in the country over the past five or six years. I would never attach the word vulnerable to Mayo. They have one of the strongest panels in the country. We know we’re going to have to be at our best on Sunday.”