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Rock solid showing puts him in frame for Dubs call

IT wasn't the foremost thought on his mind after Monday's Evening Herald Dublin SFC victory but there was a backdrop to Dean Rock's brilliant performance and his consistent body of work right throughout Ballymun's year.

Back in May, he was dropped from the Dublin panel by Pat Gilroy, apparently not fitting the bill for the now former Dublin manager but if there were subliminal messages being sent out by Rock to Jim Gavin in Parnell Park on Monday, they were overwhelmingly positive.

"He's been an influential player for us for the last couple of years and hopefully, he gets the chance to do it now at inter-county level," reckoned team-mate Philly McMahon, while manager Paul Curran went so far as to state: "some lads on the Dublin panel last year were, with all due respect, not in the same league as Dean . . . he has to be in the Dublin squad."

Prospects

Rock himself was understandably less emphatic about his prospects but he was, it's worth recalling, the top scorer for the 2010 All-Ireland under-21 winning team over which Gavin presided.

"It's an open slate now," he shrugged. "Jim's a good man. He gives everyone a fair crack of the whip so I'm sure lots of lads on the Ballymun team will have impressed him so onwards and upwards."

A snapshot of this year's club Championship suggests Gavin could, if he was so inclined, shake the landscape up in the most significant way since Gilroy's post-earwig transition of 2010.

Whereas last year, only a light smattering of players outside of the then Dublin panel put their hands up for inclusion, a number of viable contenders have emerged in 2012, Rock's claims being perhaps the most pressing.

Arguably, the three best forwards in this year's competition were Rock, Paddy Andrews and Paul Mannion -- two of whom (Rock and Mannion) weren't on Gilroy's panel this year while Andrews' sole on-field involvement consisted of just 21 minutes in the Leinster final. Vitally, Gavin has managed all three players in the past three years with the U21s and all should see early season game time.

Groomed

Gary Sweeney -- one of the stars of the 2010 and 2012 under-21 campaigns -- missed St Sylvester's run the quarter-finals (broken leg) but should be back to fitness before the New Year and could, in theory, be groomed as backup for the 'Alan Brogan role' in Dublin's attack.

Elsewhere, Gavin's problems/opportunities aren't dissimilar to Gilroy's. There is not, for instance, shining potential in midfield and Gavin may have to blood Emmet ó Conghaile early on, revert Michael Darragh Macauley to the middle, keep Denis Bastick fresh and fit and possibly even try Paul Flynn in the engine room.

Further back, Tomás Brady has been added to the 'possibles' in terms of defensive alternatives, where Jack McCaffrey will surely be given his wings but if Kilmacud Crokes first-half frailties in their matches against Ballymun, St Brigid's and Ballyboden St Enda's proved anyway, it's that no matter how classy the individuals who man the rearguard, adequate and layered protection is paramount to keeping a tight ship.


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