Inter-County

Dublin Mayo Replay Preview

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Much has been made of Dublin’s apparent under performance against Mayo a fortnight ago. Apparently all that has to happen is that Jim Gavin will have looked at the video of the game, work out where it all went wrong, put everything right, and normal order will resume. Dublin will blitz Mayo and bring Sam home for the party.

The problem with this theory is that in my original preview to the first game, I illustrated that there were patterns from Dublin’s two previous championship encounters with Mayo and Kerry respectively, which spelled potential trouble for Dublin. In previous games,  where Dublin were deprived the opportunity to get kick-outs off quickly (under nine seconds as opposed to the magic six seconds I keep hearing about), they had problems. I correctly predicted that if Mayo could deprive them of this life source, it would be close to a 50/50 game. And so it was.

From start to finish in the first game, Dublin got off four quick kick-outs from which they earned an immense return of 1-1. The problem is that from every other kick-out, they failed to register a single score and conceded 0-4 (including initial turnovers on short kick-outs). Though more spectacularly on both ends of the spectrum, these figures more or less correlated to stats I’d taken from their two previous encounters against both Mayo and Kerry (four games). Frankly, if Mayo manage to deprive this life source again, all patterns suggest that it will once again be a close game.

Yes, Dublin missed a plethora of kicks on a wet day and surely that won’t be the case again! Yes, there is an argument to be made that the wet conditions favour Mayo. Eoin Listen made a very insightful point after the initial game that Mayo gets three times more rain than Dublin, and therefore the Mayo players are more used to rainy conditions. In fact, bear in mind that north Dublin, where Dublin train, gets barely half the rain that south Dublin gets, you can say that Mayo players are five to six times more used to training/playing in the rain.

Certainly, it looked like Mayo were better adapted to the wet conditions. Looking on,  I wondered occasionally if some of the Dublin players remembered that childhood advice….”don’t bounce the ball on a wet pitch”.

And Cillian O’Connor’s success rate from dead balls relative to Dean Rock’s radically below par tally, are almost certainly symptoms of Liston’s insightful point. More than anything, this is probably the most significant factor in terms of trying to make wet day/dry day calculations.

For all of that, however, Dublin kicking wide after wide from play follows the same statistical patterns as Mayo’s previous championship opponents. All of them have had lower kicks to points ratios than in previous games. That alludes to the fact that Mayo have a highly structured and efficient defence. Dublin were shooting in more pressured environments than normal. Add on the wet conditions and that meant a lot less scores than usual. The wet conditions may or may not be there again on Saturday evening, but Mayo’s efficient defending will be.

Undoubtedly, even putting aside the geographical conditions, the side who set up more defensively are at a greater advantage when it rains. Mayo are more likely to score flowing counter-attacking points under less pressure. Dublin, unless they can get those kick-outs off quickly, are more likely to have to “pick and poke” their way through the Mayo defence, something made all the more difficult by the rain. The points typically kicked in the blink of an eye by the likes of Bernard Brogan, Dean Rock, Diarmuid Connolly and Kevin McMenamon are multiple times more difficult when it’s wet. Kerry learned this the hard way against Donegal in 2012 when it started raining after Donegal took an early five point lead, and there’s no shortage of rain in the Kingdom. To that end,  a drier day will undoubtedly suit Dublin more. And Saturday’s forecast is miserable.

Even if the expected rain stays away, there remains a fact which many people appear to have forgotten. In three championship games between the sides in sixteen months, the table reads two draws and one Dublin win. It’s hardly the stuff of “they can’t be so bad again the next day” and therefore must win.

As initially alluded to, Jim Gavin’s Dublin have typically overrun even top opposition like Kerry from the sixtieth minute on. This has been largely in part due to getting those quick kick-outs off and playing the game at a hundred miles an hour, with the opposition chasing shadows. We’ve now established that Mayo have the capacity to more or less prevent that, making me more confident now than I was a fortnight ago that this is a 60/40 game for Dublin at best.

The reason that I wouldn’t say 50/50 is because Dublin have the more likely capacity to create one on one goal chances. In the first game, they created three while Mayo created one (plus a shot from outside the box that was blocked). All average expectation calculated Dublin’s Estimated Value on those three shots comes in at 5.7 points, so in the overall scheme of things, there’s no reason to think they were lucky in getting two goals.

This, indeed, will be key. There’s no evidence from basic score-lines or more subtle statistics taken by Gaaprostas that Dublin are likely to get more scores than Mayo, never mind a lot more. What you can expect is that they’ll get more goal chances.

Forced to call it, I’d be surprised if there will be more than three scores more scored by either team. In fact, previous statistical patterns would edge me towards Mayo kicking a score or two more. What I would expect, however, is that Dublin will have more goal chances.

If I’m correct, the split seconds surrounding these kicks, and the respective keeper’s timing, will be difference. We’re possibly dealing with the two best keepers in the country when it comes to one on ones. If such circumstances arise, if Dublin score half of their goal chances or more, they’ll probably do it. Score less, and I see no previous patterns that they necessarily will.