Rock urges Ballymun to kick on
FORMER Dublin great Barney Rock will be telling his son Dean to seize the day in Sunday's Leinster SFC club semi-final against Kildare champions Sarsfields, given his own bitter experience in a Ballymun Kickhams jersey.
The Dub legend may have won an All-Ireland and four Leinster championship medals, as well as three All Stars, but, having been a part of the last Ballymun team to make the Leinster final back in 1982, he has one big regret.
"Portlaoise beat us narrowly in the Leinster final and they went the whole way to win the All-Ireland – that always sticks with you," he recalled.
"These lads know that their destiny is in their own hands now, it's a 50-50 game and if they produce a performance, then they too can reach a Leinster final and try and go even further."
Now managed by another former Dublin great, Paul Curran, Ballymun, the county kingpins in the '80s, returned to the Dublin senior final after a 23-year absence this year to win their first crown in 27 years.
Rock Snr is uniquely placed to give their current management some insight into Sunday's opponents.
"I trained Celbridge down in Kildare for four years and in that time we played Sarsfields seven or eight times," said Rock, who managed Celbridge to their first county senior title in 2008 when they beat Sarsfields in a replay.
"I remember the first day was very low-scoring because it was a wet, miserable day, but the second day it was 1-10 to 0-11," recalled the Dublin legend who fears that the weather and venue will not favour Ballymun.
"Our lads are a fast team, most of our games have been on good fast ground and it's unlikely we'll get that this weekend. This is winter football now, which is a lot different.
"The other tough thing is going to Newbridge. When you cross the bridge there, the first thing you see is that huge Sarsfields jersey (hanging from a pub) in memory of Dermot Earley.
"Very few towns have two strong teams like Newbridge, with Sarsfields and Moorefield, and they're very passionate about their football, which makes it a tough place to get a result," he said.
"As far as I know, Sarsfields have only lost one game all year. They didn't just win the championship, they also won the league and the Aldridge Cup in Kildare, which is some achievement.
"With players like Padraig Brennan, (Gary) 'Chalky' White and Alan Smith, they've got lots of experience."
Sarsfields may pose a formidable threat, but Ballymun are equally proud of their young team who made such a monumental breakthrough this year after several seasons of close calls.
The platform for their return from the senior wilderness was a team developed, from U-9s upwards, by former Dublin star Paddy Christie.
They lost two county minor finals, but went on to then win two consecutive U-21s in 2007 and 2008, and Rock, Philly McMahon, James McCarthy, Davy Byrne and Alan Hubbard all have Dublin senior experience.
Like Ted Furman, Sean George is an All-Ireland U-21 winner with Dublin and he's back this weekend after an eight-week suspension.
"Sean will be sharp because he was still able to play with DIT for the last four or five weeks," Rock Snr said.
"We were knocking on the senior door for a few years there, reached a quarter-final one year and two semi-finals, so it wasn't that surprising that we finally made it.
"But to win it and do it by beating a team like Kilmacud, that was a massive achievement for this team and the club and it has really given them great confidence."