More Advanced Role For Ciaran Kilkenny Has Seen An Upsurge In His Scoring Return
Successful teams stay at the top by constantly evolving tactically and bringing something new to the team each season and Dublin are certainly benefiting this year from a change to a more advanced role for Ciaran Kilkenny.
What works one season will certainly not work the next as opponents quickly figure a way to combat a teams style of play and setup.
Dublin boss Jim Gavin has consistently brought something new to his side every season, both in terms of tactics and in personnel.
Some of those tactical changes made by Gavin have been very subtle and maybe missed by supporters or even those within the game.
The positioning of Dublin’s two wing halfbacks just a few yards further forward than where they normal were stationed was certainly a very subtle but highly effective tactic two years ago.
And it seems this year that another tweak to the Dublin system is certainly benefiting the team on the scoreboard and that’s the seemingly more advanced role for Ciaran Kilkenny.
Kilkenny for the last few seasons has been the conductor of the sky blue orchestra, the main fulcrum of Dublin attacks, the go to guy.
There has been plenty of media analysis over the past couple of seasons about the number of times Kilkenny has the ball in his possession, how many passes he makes and so forth.
And the numbers have been huge with record possession and passing numbers been recorded.
The Castleknock club man controlled the tempo of the game and the Dublin attacks. He could be seen pointing to the spaces he wanted his teammates to run into as he intelligently looked and proved for openings.
If nothing was on he would give a quick lateral pass and then the ball would be recycled into hands. Invariably he would pick out that defence splitting pass and Dublin were in for a score.
Kilkenny was a renowned point and goal scorer at underage level, but his playmaker role diminished his scoring return at senior level over the past few seasons.
This is not a criticism of the player, in an era of suffocating blanket defences Dublin needed that one player who was comfortable and confident on the ball and had the footballing intelligence and passing accuracy to open up packed backlines.
But this season it seems that Ciaran Kilkenny’s role in the team has somewhat changed and he has been given a licence for more freedom to influence from a more advanced role and Dublin are certainly benefiting from this change in tactics with a much bigger scoring return from Kilkenny this year compared to previous years.
There is still plenty of ball coming through the hands of Ciaran and he is still picking out those killer passes, but it’s also notable that he is not rigidly confined to the halfback line and has been regularly switching between the halfback and full forward lines with devastating effect.
Comparing Kilkenny’s scoring stats between 2016 and this year certainly backs up that the change in tactics also correlates to a significant increase in the players scoring return.
In Dublin’s 2016 league title winning run Ciaran Kilkenny played a full part in seven of Jim Gavin’s sides nine games only missing the third round tie against Monaghan and coming on as a late sub in the round seven game against Roscommon.
Kilkenny’s scoring return for that campaign was 0-08 with those scores coming in just four of the games he played in.
His return for that years successful All Ireland Championship run was even lower with his total at the end just 0-05 from eight games.
Four points of that total were scored in the Leinster championship quarter final and his only other point was scored in the quarters of the All Ireland series.
Looking at his 2017 scoring returns Kilkenny totaled 0-06 in the league playing in seven of Dublin’s eight games and his championship scoring total was greater than the previous years as he finished with 1-09 to his name scoring in four of the six games the metropolitans played.
Again this is not a criticism of the player, the mainly deep lying role he was asked to play didn’t offer Kilkenny many opportunities in the scoring zone.
This year’s scoring stats are an entirely different matter and Kilkenny’s more free role has resulted in a much higher scoring return.
Dublin played eight games in the National Football League including the final. Ciaran Kilkenny played in all bar one of the games and scored in each and every game he played.
The game he didn’t play in was the 7th round fixture against Monaghan and that was the only game Jim Gavin’s side lost.
Kilkenny picked up a couple of man of the match awards during a league campaign that seen him finish with an impressive total of 2-18 a full sixteen points better than his 2016 total and eighteen points more than his 2017 total.
With only one championship game under his belt this season the Castleknock club man is already only two points shy of his 2017 championship total thanks to the 1-07 he scored against Wicklow and he should based on this seasons scoring returns bypass that total today.
It will be interesting to see if Jim Gavin affords Kilkenny the same freedom advanced role as the championship progresses and particularly if Dublin are faced with a team that sets up ultra defensive.
But with the scoring benefit the team and Kilkenny are enjoying this season from his less rigid role and tactical conundrum it’s causing opposing teams there’s no reason why he won’t.