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Mayo shooting returns a cause for concern

Sport

Analysis
Edwin McGreal

IT will not surprise readers to discover that Mayo had an indifferent league campaign when it came to shooting. It often feels as if it has been ever thus.
Across seven league games, Mayo had 193 shots. That averages out at just over 27.5 shots per game – a reasonable level of productivity.
Mayo’s return from those shots – a total of 93 scores – gives them a shot conversion rate of 48 per cent. That’s too low, and while Mayo did face four Ulster teams who defend in large numbers, Stephen Rochford and his management team would be much happier if that figure was nudging up towards the 60 per cent mark, or above.
Mayo hit an average of 13 scores per game. With a 60 per cent conversion rate, that average would have been up at 16.5 scores per game and would very probably have seen them into a league final.
To give some more context, across both last year’s drawn All-Ireland and replay, Mayo had a shot conversion rate of 61 per cent. Their shot average was 24.5, somewhat on the low side but helped considerably by a healthy conversion rate.
All analysis of Mayo’s shooting must begin with Cillian O’Connor. His importance to Mayo is illustrated in two statistics. He had 30 per cent of Mayo’s shots in the league and 37 per cent of their scores.
That latter figure ought to be higher as O’Connor’s conversion rate is, typically, among Mayo’s highest. During this season’s league, however, he did struggle by his own high standards.
In total O’Connor scored 34 times from 58 shots at goal (chalking up a total of two goals and 32 points). That’s a shot conversion rate of 59 per cent.
Broken down, he had 15 shots from play, scoring eight – a conversion rate of 53 per cent. From frees and 45s, O’Connor was at a conversion rate of 59 per cent (24/41) – 21/33 from frees and 3/8 from 45s.
From penalties, O’Connor was two from two.
The greatest concern for O’Connor would be his conversion rate from frees and 45s. That figure of 59 per cent is well below his standard from dead balls.
In the 2016 championship, for instance, he had a conversion rate of 73 per cent, and that even included some uncharacteristic misses. Across the two All-Ireland finals, when he was up near his best, O’Connor converted 14 out of 16 dead balls (a conversion rate of 87.5 per cent).
People do not forget his last one – the missed free which would have brought the replay to extra-time. But it is worth remembering there was no way Mayo would have been as competitive across both games had it not been for O’Connor’s reliability from frees. It’s why his figures are always worthy of closest analysis – he is that important to Mayo’s hopes.
His misses were more frequent in this year’s league, unfortunately. While some of them were from long range, lower percentage areas, his miss from the 20-metre line, right of centre against Donegal, and two relatively straightforward misses in the first half against Kerry, were of the type O’Connor would normally put over in his sleep.
When we break O’Connor’s frees down into close-range and long-range – we use inside and outside 35 metres to differentiate – we find out more revealing information.
O’Connor is 19/24 from frees inside, which is a high figure, but not as high as he would like. He’d normally expect to convert every single one of those that he missed inside 35 metres. It must be added that he’s the only Mayo free-taker capable of such, something not reflected in some discourse after the Cavan game that his place ought to be under threat.
That said, more worrying is his return from outside that point, where he is 4/15 from long-range frees and 45s. He’s 3/8 from 45s, which means he is just 1/7 from long-range frees.
That point came from a free off the outside of his boot into the wind in Omagh in the first half against Tyrone. But the high number of misses here begs the question: should O’Connor be taking on so many of the long-range shots? Or for now, would Mayo be better off trying to work something short?
The Ballintubber ace looks like he is working on a new technique and there’s certainly no point waiting for championship to start trying something new. But O’Connor will hope that he has ironed out any creases in the transition by the time midsummer comes along. So will all of Mayo.

WHAT’S NEXT?
SEE next week’s edition of The Mayo News for analysis of where Mayo players are shooting from, Mayo’s statistics when going for goal, how they are faring on kick-outs and which players are in possession of the ball the most.

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