Tuesday 20 February 2018

'Dean is a better free-taker than I was,' insists Rock Snr

Dublin's Dean Rock kicks a free against Kerry in Tralee. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Dublin's Dean Rock kicks a free against Kerry in Tralee. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

After last year's All-Ireland final replay win, Dean Rock was still lamenting the one that got away.

In this case, 'the one' was the drawn final with Mayo. The Ballymun man had miscued with just three of the 41 frees he had taken in championship going into that game. But in one helter-skelter 70 minutes he missed more from dead balls than he had in the entire campaign when miscuing with four of seven attempts.

He'd return to deliver a flawless seven from seven in the replay as Dublin secured back-to-back All-Ireland titles but even when Sam Maguire was safely tucked away for the winter, he had identified where he needed to improve

"I finished with maybe 89 or 90pc (conversion) from frees. But I would have finished up with probably 95pc or so had it not been for the drawn game," Rock reflected late last year.

That desire to be better perhaps underpins what has driven Rock over the last few years. From being surplus to requirements under Pat Gilroy, Rock is now a key figure on one of the most dominant teams football has seen.

Through that evolution free-taking was seen as his forté but his father and former Dublin hero Barney has seen his game develop. "I think people just think he's a free-taker, but the amount of work he does," Rock Snr reflected.

Legendary Dublin footballer Barney Rock with his son Dean back in 2001 after the current Dublin star won an Evening Herald Juvenile Award in 2001. Photo: Ray Cullen
Legendary Dublin footballer Barney Rock with his son Dean back in 2001 after the current Dublin star won an Evening Herald Juvenile Award in 2001. Photo: Ray Cullen

"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 (Paul) Mannion who had a left foot and he shoved the ball to Mannion who popped it over the bar.

"Before that, when the ball came in, he gave one to (Conor) McHugh. When everyone was charging at him, he slipped the ball to McHugh and McHugh hit a great ball over the bar with the outside of his foot.

"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 but that's the way... listen, if there is someone in a better spot he'll give it to them."

Reliability Having won an All-Star in 2016, there's little doubt any more that his worth to Jim Gavin and Dublin goes well beyond his reliability from placed balls.

And Rock was central to the cause as Dublin emerged from Tralee last weekend with their unbeaten record intact. However, it didn't always look like it would be that way after he was overlooked by Gilroy early in his career before picking up a serious hamstring injury.

"I remember back after 2009, he wasn't even on the panel. They won the 21s in 2010 and then Pat Gilroy … he wasn't (his) type of player and didn't bring him in. It was only after Jim Gavin came in that Jim knew what he was like after 2010. So he had to wait his time.

"I think he was unlucky in 2012 because he tore the hamstring off the bone and Ciaran Murray, the Monaghan fella, and Eanna Falvey, they were the ones that we had gone to and they did the work with him. I would say that took out probably 10 months of his career at that stage. He worked hard and where he worked on it was Ballymun and Ballymun went on then to win their championship in 2012. He got back into it then."

"He's 27. He should be in his prime now. I remember Brian Mullins saying years ago, 'When you hit 27, that's your prime.'

"Unfortunately when Brian was 27, he had that injury and that knocked him out so we lost him in his prime. But he still came back and played well after that. But at 27, he's just got to keep pushing forward."

And Rock senior believes that Dean is a more accomplished free-taker than he was in his day.

"I was always a 100pc (from frees)," he laughed. "Ah no, not really. I think nowadays, he would be a better free-taker than I would have been in that he's consistently getting the frees."

Irish Independent

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