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Rock hasn't nailed down starting place, says dad Barney

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Former Dublin star Barney Rock. Picture: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

Former Dublin star Barney Rock. Picture: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

Former Dublin star Barney Rock. Picture: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

WHEN a rising star with limited inter-county experience comes off the bench to inspire a first National League title in 20 years, there is always the risk of hype overkill. Especially when you have a headline-friendly name like 'Rock' and a famous footballing father called 'Barney'.

But Dean Rock is, to avoid the obvious pun, a boulder of sense.

"I've no doubt he was itching to get in," says Barney, speculating on his son's mindset as last Sunday's Allianz Division One final against Tyrone hung in the balance.

"He would have seen (Ballymun clubmate) Jason Whelan in before him and that, but he is level-headed enough – he knows as well as anyone that it is not just a 15-man team, it is a 20-man game. Dublin use five subs no matter what, but I'd say he was looking at the watch and thinking it wasn't going to be him because he was the last sub on."

Fast-forward to the final whistle and Rock was being hailed for his game-changing two-point salvo. But as someone who has been there, won that, Rock Snr knows there can be no resting on laurels for a forward who has yet to establish his starting claims in Sky Blue.

"He has got to keep working hard and keep doing it," says the '80s icon. "It will give him the confidence to say he has moved up the pecking order ... but Dean knows, just because he got on and scored two points the last day, it doesn't mean he is going to start; it is not like years ago in the old way. He would love to start but there are no guarantees whatsoever."

 

Self-belief

Maybe self-belief is the key, because Rock has endured a stop-start career thus far with the Dublin seniors.

"That's in the past, so I won't go back there," Barney demurs. "For that four years (or) three years he was waiting to get into the panel and it just didn't happen for him. After the U21s that time, in 2010, he might have got in. But 2011 he pulled the hamstring, a severe thing, pulled it off the bone, so that knocked him out for the whole year. And then last year he was just let go before the championship."

Even this year, his return was delayed by Ballymun's run to the All-Ireland club final. Since then, Whelan showcased his rookie claims with a stunning semi-final goal against Mayo while, during last Sunday's fraught second half, the Kickhams cavalry rode to the rescue with Philly McMahon landing a vital point prior to Rock's brilliant brace.

Barney hopes that demoralising St Patrick's Day defeat to St Brigid's of Roscommon may ultimately have a silver lining.

"You could say that they've learned a lot; sometimes you learn an awful lot in defeat," he explains. "I know it's taken them a long time to get over that match ... certainly when you build up a lead and get eight points in front, you don't expect to be beaten."

 

Optimistic

As for Dublin's summer prospects, he is cautiously optimistic. Barring a Carlow ambush, Dublin's first SFC outing will be against Westmeath, whom Barney managed during the '90s: he would expect Dublin to press home their superiority "fitness-wise" in the last 10 or 15 minutes.

"Regardless of what happens, everybody expects Dublin to be in an All-Ireland quarter-final or semi-final. I think the important thing for Dublin would be to get themselves to the quarter-final. Ideally, they want to go on and I'm sure Jim Gavin is an ambitious man, and his selectors – they want to go and win a Leinster title."

Beyond that, what about Sam?

"Listen, of course they're good enough. You could say there's about five or six teams that are good enough at this stage to win the All-Ireland. And Dublin are within that five or six teams."


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