Count on Cillian to top Championship scoring charts
O'Connor was top scorer in 2014 and 2015
Dean Rock has become the most reliable free-taker around and he romped home in the top-scorer race last year, scoring 1-58 in seven games (an average of 8.7 points per game). It is hardly surprising to see him installed as favourite to top the scoring charts once again in 2017 but Mayo’s Cillian O’Connor, runner-up last year, represents much better value.
Rock is as short as 5-2 with BoyleSports, whereas O’Connor is 5-1 with Paddy Power and that gap between the pair is too big.
O’Connor was top scorer at the end of the 2014 and 2015 championships. He contributed 3-34 in just five matches two years ago. He averaged 8.6 points per game during that campaign and could be considered unlucky not to get closer to Rock last year as he picked up an early black card in the Connacht opener against London.
O’Connor was 11 points in arrears of Rock when the curtain came down on the campaign but, given that Mayo scored 2-16 in their win over London, he would surely have given Rock a mighty fright had he stayed on the pitch for the full 70 minutes.
O’Connor is Mayo’s marquee player. He has scored 17-184 in the last six seasons, a remarkable average of 39 points per campaign. He takes frees from both sides, has a cracking record penalty conversion rate and contributes more than Rock from open play.
Mayo begin the Connacht championship against a really poor Sligo side on home side in Castlebar on Sunday. That should be bread and butter for O’Connor who will surely register at least eight points. Galway are waiting in the provincial semi-final, while the likeliehood is that they will face Roscommon in the Connacht decider.
Roscommon conceded 7-128 in seven league matches this year, an average of 21 points per game, so the Rossies rearguard unit is there for the taking.
Dublin are likely to face Wexford and Westmeath in their first two outings in Leinster and both those sides could set up defensively in an attempt to avoid embarrassment, while a provincial final date with either Meath or Kildare lies in store.
O’Connor could be in front of Rock going into the All-Ireland quarter-final and, by that stage, the 5-1 on offer now could look very juicy indeed.
Lee Keegan was a shock winner of the Footballer of the Year award in 2017 – tipped on this page at 40-1 – and James O’Donoghue is the only forward to have claimed that prize in the last five seasons.
There is plenty of value out there and, given that Tyrone are likely to have a prolonged stay in the All-Ireland race, surely Niall Sludden is overpriced at 80-1.
He has already proved he is the man for the big occasion, getting three points from play and carving open the Dublin defence when the sides met in the league back in February.
Sludden is just the type of player to counteract the blanket defence. He has pace, power and possesses the ability to kick points from distance. He is the most important player in the Tyrone team and could be the difference in converting them from challengers to champions.
C O’Connor top Championship scorer
2pts 5-1 Paddy Power
N Sludden Footballer of the Year
1pt 80-1 Paddy Power