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Tuesday 12 November 2019

Frank Roche: 'Dubs certainly not near to their efficient best'

TOP SCORER: Dean Rock. Photo: SPORTSFILE
TOP SCORER: Dean Rock. Photo: SPORTSFILE

Two things we haven't heard since last Saturday night: the Dubs are on the slippery slope and five-in-a-row is finished!

But the manner of the defeat - as much as the actual result and the statistical si gnificance of failing to reach a league final for the first time in the Jim Gavin era - was worrying. Especially when taken in the overall spring context of losing three NFL fixtures for the first time under Gavin.

Much of the forensic post-match debate has focussed on Tyrone's tactical template of kicking early and often to a pair of full-forward target men who caused all kinds of trouble, and sometimes even panic, for the Dublin full-backs.

An entirely valid topic for discussion.

But here's something else we spotted when sifting through the wreckage. The 1-11 posted by Dublin was the lowest score the team has recorded in Croke Park since February, 2017.

Parity

Perhaps it's no coincidence that the 0-10 scored to secure parity at the death on that occasion also came against Tyrone.

In those 25 months, across league and championship, Dublin played 21 times in Croker and, each time, tallied more than 0-14, be it through any combination of goals and points.

There have been a few sporadic examples of Dublin scoring less than 1-11 - they were confined to 0-13 against Galway 12 months ago, 1-8 against Donegal and 0-13 against Kerry in the 2017 league. But all those games were away from home, played in either difficult weather conditions or a hostile environment or both. You are not talking like for like.

Thus, when you see Dublin struggle to attain their usual forward fluency in their northside citadel, it's only inevitable that you'll ask why?

After all, HQ is more than just a second home; it is their de facto home.

Part of the reason there was such a fuss kicked up over that Donegal motion to Congress is because Dublin are so accustomed to everything about the place (its dimensions, its bounce, its speed, even its aura) having played over 70pc of their fixtures there under Gavin.

For whatever reason (although injuries scarcely helped) that didn't confer much of an advantage as they laboured through 70-plus minutes at the weekend.

A quick trawl through those last two years confirms that Dublin have tended to post huge Leinster SFC tallies when playing off the Jones's Road, veering from a 'low' of 1-25 against Laois last summer to a high of 4-29 against Westmeath in 2017. In truth, this has as much to do with the opposition and summer conditions as the venue itself.

The scoring rate drops once you get to the All-Ireland series - but they have still averaged close to 25 points in seven contests there.

Lower

League scoring returns are invariably lower for reasons of fitness, sharpness and especially weather. And yet, on closer inspection, there has been a dip this spring as Dublin tallied 1-15 against Galway, 1-12 against Mayo and now 1-11 against Tyrone.

It's likely that no one noticed prior to last weekend because Dublin still shredded both Galway and Mayo.

Yet when you lose, everything gets viewed through a more critical microscope. They have hit 28 wides in those three home outings - almost ten per game.

Not a scandalous level of wastage; but not quite the ruthlessly efficient Dubs we have come to expect either.

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