GAA Statistics: How can Dublin stop Cora Staunton?
She's outscored opposition on six occasions since 2010, but Mayo keep leaking goals
It was only fitting that a Cora Staunton-inspired Mayo ended Cork’s surge for seven All-Irelands in a row. The only thing in the women’s game that’s been as constant as the Munster side’s dominance over the past decade or so has been Staunton’s individual excellence.
Now with a team around her to match her own talents, Mayo are in pursuit of a first All-Ireland since 2003, with Sunday’s decider against Dublin being their first time to reach a final since 2007 – 10 years ago.
Earlier this month in that semi-final win over Cork, the 35-year old full forward scored 1-9 and 1-7 of that was from play. It was one of her finest performances, with her scoring a point more than her summer’s average of 0-11. While her in-play tally comfortably outweighed her championship average of 0-6 per game.
Since 2010, and prior to the start of Cork’s six in a row, she has scored a total of 24-196 in 23 championship games, giving her an average of 1-9 per game during that period. Within that total she has averaged 1-4 from play per game.
In those years she has outscored her opposition on six occasions, and over the past five championship campaigns has been responsible for 61 per cent of Mayo’s scores.
The Carnachon clubwoman’s career can be put into perspective in one remarkable stat – via Edwin McGreal and the Mayo News archives – Staunton has scored 59-476 in her 66 championship games since her debut in 1996, starting every single championship game in that time.
So how do Dublin stop that?
Well first things first, if they do then they’ll have one hand already on the Brendan Martin Cup. In four of Mayo’s last 10 championship losses she has been held to 0-2 or less from play, and her average in-play total in those defeats has been 0-4.
One of those occasions came in last year’s semi-final, when Sinead Finnegan held her to 0-2 (she scored another six frees), with the Dubs doubling and sometimes trebling up on her. Something they’ll no doubt look to replicate this weekend.
Looking at her performances in this year’s Connacht final defeat to Galway, and the All-Ireland semi-final win over Cork, and three of the five times she was dispossessed in those games was in the corner. Her direct approach means that when isolated in such areas defenders can commit to bunching around her.
But otherwise it’s extremely difficult to stop someone as ruthlessly efficient as Staunton. Looking at both the Galway game when she was held to 0-1 from play and the team lost, to the Cork semi-final win in which she was unstoppable; that efficiency is still clear to see on both the good days and the bad.
Against Galway she had 12 in-play possessions; winning scoring frees on three occasions, assisting a goal, shooting a wide and scoring a point within those.
Against Cork she had 16 in play possessions; from which she scored her 1-7, had another two wides, and she won two scoring frees.
So in those two games, a scoring chance was generated 65 per cent of the time when she had the ball in play. When the ball gets to Cora, however much you limit that from happening, a scoring opportunity tends to arrive. So Dublin need to limit that supply, and force it into isolated areas.
Mayo though are a running team - against Cork only two kickpasses went into Staunton at full forward - with the likes of Sarah Rowe (who herself has 1-8 from play this summer), the Kelly sisters, Fiona McHale, Aileen Gilroy, Fiona Doherty and Rachel Kearns among the strong, athletic ball carriers on the team.
The aim is often to work an overlap inside, much like the men’s team, with the 10 time All Star then looking to get in on the action taking the pop pass on the loop. Although Staunton does come out to make the odd surge herself. Against Cork her five big runs resulted in three frees, a wide and a point - albeit she had less luck against Galway.
However hard as it might be to stop Staunton, Dublin will fancy themselves to wreck as much havoc in their own forward line.
Galway scored three goals against them and missed three more point blank opportunities. They held Kildare to 0-8 but Donegal scored two more goals in the quarter-final. While somehow Cork failed to raise a green flag in the semi-final; the reigning champions missed a penalty, had three point blank shots saved, hit the woodwork, and blazed another over the bar.
Dublin – the last team other than Cork to win the title; and the runners-up by a point, two points and a point in the last three finals – have scored 18 goals in their four games this summer. Joining the dots there certainly spells trouble for the green and red.
So Mayo will need to put an end to that goal rush at one end, and expect Cora Staunton to do what she does best at the other, if they hope to prevent a second All-Ireland final defeat to Dublin in as many Sundays.