'I think people just think he’s a free-taker' - Legend Barney Rock lauds Dean’s consistency and improvement
BARNEY Rock arrived in Tralee at four o’clock last Saturday for a seven o’clock throw-in.
“Just trying to make a quick getaway,” he chuckles.
“I think at five o’clock Kieran Duff came in and said ‘the crowd up there is unbelievable,’ so I said we better go up and get a space in the stand.”
“So I went up. I went in at quarter to six. And the stand was full. It was really Kerry people, they were really there looking to get one over on Dublin.”
What he witnessed, besides Dublin’s continuing torment of Kerry with their come-from-behind, record-equaling draw, was the latest example of his son’s increasing value to his team.
Indeed, it is testament to Dean’s worth just now that at a time when there has never been more variety and quality of attacking option in a Dublin senior panel, he is one of perhaps only three certainties to start this summer in Jim Gavin’s chosen six fowards.
Yet the ultimate compliment to Dean’s stature as a footballer now is that comparisons to his father no longer seem far-fetched.
“I was always a hundred per cent!,” laughs Barney, though records of his League appearances are non-existent and while he kicked far less frees-per-match in the Championship to Dean, his goal-scoring record is far superior.
“I think nowadays, he would be a better free-taker than I would have been in that he’s consistently getting the frees,” he outlines.
“And he’s consistently being put in the spot to do it.
“In our day, referees would let a little more go. So it was a lot different.”
So is their respective paths to the Dublin team.
Barney walked straight into it in 1980 and stayed for more than a decade. Dean has had a more turbulent route.
“I think it’s the consistency that he has put in now,” says his father.
“ And for him, he has performed well. He has kicked well.
“He’s improving in all his kicking. But that’s down to him. He practices hard. And he’s got a good attitude.”
Since Dublin’s only Championship loss under Jim Gavin to Donegal in 2014, Rock has been almost ever-present in Dublin’s starting line-up.
Notably, he is the only player to appear in each of the 34 games of their current unbeaten run.
Yet Dean, Barney notes, “wasn’t Pat Gilroy’s type of player,” and thus missed out on the 2011 All-Ireland, having flirted briefly with the senior squad beforehand.
Rock-the-younger tore the hamstring right off the bone of his left leg in 2012, requiring a recovery period of what Barney estimates now as “about 10 months.”
Similarly, he has disproved the theory that Dublin are “carrying a free taker,” with notable improvements in his work rate and link play over the past four years.
“I think people just think he’s a free-taker,” Barney notes, “but the amount of work he does...”
“Like, the last ball that went in the last day against Kerry, when he got it, maybe other fellas would have had a shot themselves, but he was alert enough to see Mannion who had a left foot and he shoved the ball to Mannion who popped it over the bar. So I think his vision is very, very good.
“If there’s someone in a better spot he will give it to the person in the better spot.
“To me, he probably doesn’t shoot enough,” Barney adds with a smile, “but sure, that’s the way...”