Gavin is bringing Diarmuid Connolly back for the day he may need Ja Fallon’s points

I suppose unless you are a Galway GAA fan you won’t remember the specifics of the second half of the 1998 All-Ireland final. Galway started the second half three points down. The short synopsis is that a number of Galway players stood up to the plate in the latter half and in the end Galway came out on top by 4.

No player epitomized that second half performance more than Ja Fallon. There was an episode late in the second half where Fallon was in possession and his marker Glen Ryan, bamboozled by 25 minutes of feints and jinks fouled him close to goal leaving a cast iron point on offer from a free. Ryan sank to his knees and began beating his fists into the Croke Park turf in frustration. Frustration with himself rather than the referee. The Kildare light all but extinguished.

Ja Fallon scored three points in the second half of that match. They were the type of points that you never see scored in Football anymore. Unless of course you are from Kerry and your last name is Clifford.

The first, from play, was from out on the Cusack Stand sideline, outside the 21 yard line, which meant on the diagonal kick it was a 40 yard shot.

The second was a sideline kick on the Hogan stand sideline which again on the diagonal shot was over 50 yards out.

The third was a typical Fallon burst from his centre forward position and lofted over on the run from about 40 yards out.

All this was brought to mind by a Joe Brolly article on Sunday which was an ode to the efficiency of the current Dublin forward line.

This sort of efficiency has never been seen in the history of Gaelic football. They are all quarterbacks, their entire haul of 5-13 from play coming from inside the 30-metre zone. Not a single shot was attempted by them from beyond 30 metres, which is a mark of their unrivaled chemistry.

There is not much to argue with in the facts of what he was saying and yet the article didn’t sit right with me. It was then that I thought back to the 1998 All Ireland and those Fallon scores. Not alone is nobody scoring those types of points with any regularity anymore, nobody is even trying to. With the notable exception of perhaps one team.

There has been much commentary in recent years about Inter county teams aversity to taking risks. The defensive nature of a whole raft of counties in response to the juggernaut that is Dublin and the template set out by Jim McGuinness. What there is almost no commentary about is the dearth of forwards and forward lines prepared to take a gamble. A percentage shot in front of goals. A risk in shot selection.

Almost no county nowadays will take on a shot at goal if it is not within a 25-30 yard box – 5 yards either side of the uprights. Nobody scores Fallon points anymore. Dublin are now infected with the same disease. Bernard Brogan and Diarmuid Connolly were Fallon players and scored Fallon points. Both were probably even more majestic than even he was at it. Both are now gone though.

Where Joe Brolly lauds the Dublin teams efficiency as one their great strengths, I look at it as potentially a big weakness. Brolly has the stats on both their scoring rate from play and their overall chances created. On first glance they look impressive

In that first half, they registered 2-9 from play from a possible 2-10. By the final whistle, they had managed 5-13 from play from a possible 6-16.

The first thing to do is merge the goals and points element and look at it from a number of chances perspective. 6-16 is 22 scoring opportunities. The match lasted 76 minutes or so. Roughly a scoring opportunity every 3.5 minutes. That is a quite a long spell between opportunites in my opinion. Or to look at it another way – It is fortunate that this Dublin team are so efficient because creating 22 scoring opportunities in a match is not nearly enough in most circumstances.

It is not a case that the Dublin midfielders and forwards are not capable of creating more chances, rather it is a case that to yield a 90% plus conversion rate takes time. Time to work the ball into that 30 yard box I spoke about earlier and not alone that but work it into that box where the shooter has an unpressurized shot. This type of slavishness to patience requires the team to create and score goals. Against Cork in the last 10 minutes their patience was rewarded and tagged on 3 goals.

This is obviously a management strategy. However I think it is one that has a big hole. By taking less risk and waiting for the 95% shot they are creating less chances. If you know a team are only going to shoot from a certain area it’s a big help in setting up a defensive shape.

In the immediate aftermath of the Cork thrashing Jim Gavin announced that Diarmuid Connolly is somewhat mystifyingly re-joining the Dublin panel. Diarmuid Connolly is returning for one simple reason.

As unlikely as it seems – Jim Gavin is planning for the day he may need 3 Ja Fallon points and like all great forwards Connolly gambles that 90% of the time he’ll land the 3/1 opportunity.

Written by: Gerry O’Neill

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