One of the most crucial components any team needs to have realistic ambitions to win an All Ireland title is a reliable free taker and in Dean Rock, Dublin have one of the best in the business.
Dublin have been blessed down the years to have had top notch dead ball specialists like Jimmy Keaveney, Charlie Resmond and Barney Rock and Dean is now carrying on that tradition.
Looking at Dean Rock’s kicking stats for this years champioship is impressive reading, he has nailed 38 out of 41 attempts, that’s a success rate of 93 per cent. Rocks three misses were all from long range efforts outside of what would be perceived as his scoring zone.
For a right footed kicker his success rate from the right hand side of the pitch which would more suit a left footed player is also impressive and that consistency means there is no requirement for Stephen Cluxton to make his way from the confines of his goal to take frees from the right hand side anymore.
When it comes to winning All Ireland finals it can come down to the fine margins and Rocks stats stand up much better than his counterpart from Mayo, Cillian O’Connor’s successful conversion rate is much lower than the Ballymun Kickhams stars at 66 per cent.
Unlike Rock, O’Connor has also struggled with frees from the right hand side and the Mayo man has been less accurate this season than previous years. In fact O’Connor has failed to convert twelve frees through this summers championship.
In last years two games against Dublin in the semi final and replay, O’Connor was much more prolific as he nailed 15 of the 16 dead ball chances that were presented to him, but according to this years stats O’Connor’s accuracy is certainly not as precise as twelve months ago.
There will be a lot of discussion in the lead up to the final about what will be the defining factor for each team to take home The Sam Maguire Cup, many will point towards each teams tactics, where certain players will be positioned, player match ups and kick out strategies. But it may come down to one simple thing, frees.
Graphic Credit: The Irish Times
Mayo have conceded an average of seven points per game from frees this championship , while Dublin concede on average five points, so the destination of where the Sam Maguire Cup will spend the next twelve months, may come down to a shootout between the two free takers.
If that is indeed the case, based on each players return from frees this summer so far, the smart money would be on Dean Rock to come out on top and Dublin to claim the victory and back to back All Ireland titles.