Dean Rock explains how 'club team mentality' is driving Dublin towards five in-a-row
The Dubs could make history this year with five All-Ireland wins in a row, but they will continue to focus on “one game at a time”, according to Dean Rock.
The forward (29) is a veteran of the team, but doesn’t believe having such a record within their grasp adds to the pressure on the Dubs this year.
"It’s always just been about each year as they come, and one game at a time," he says.
"Our philosophy and our approach to the season won’t change in any way, and we are just really looking forward to the Leinster final obviously, and then, if we are lucky enough to get through that, just looking forward to each game as it comes.
"Look, I suppose it’s one of those things that obviously people would talk a huge amount to you about, and that is what everyone wants to talk about. I think that’s understandable."
However, he adds: "We are just very concentrated on the job in hand and, just as I said, one game at a time.
"We are really enjoying our football as a group together and we have enjoyed our football together over the last number of years."
While commentators can debate just what has made this particular team so successful, Dean has his own belief.
"I think it’s just there’s a great brotherhood among the group, and most of the guys I play with on the team would be my best friends and that’s the same for everyone involved in the team. It’s not always the case with teams," he says.
"We sort of have that club team mentality, so it’s great to have that bond and friendship, and I think that has made a massive difference and will make a massive difference as the years go on. It’s something that we are very proud of, the fact that the guys get on so well with one another."
However, there is another milestone on his mind at the moment. He is passionate about his football, but also his career off the pitch.
Dean is fundraising and communications manager with Stewarts Care, one of the largest care provider organisations in the country for people with intellectual disabilities.
The service marks its 150th anniversary this year, and today Dean will join chief executive Brendan O’Connor and service users and families for a special celebration, at which a large 150-themed cake will be cut.
"It’s a massive achievement for any organisation," says Dean.
He first encountered the work of the service in 2013, when he did a work placement there. The footballer studied sports science at DCU.
Dean spent six months in the sports centre coaching Special Olympics athletes and other service users, and really enjoyed it.
When he finished his degree, and the opportunity arose for him to work for the service full-time, he jumped at the chance.
He is now focused on doing what he can to try to increase funds for much-needed services, and raising awareness of the broad and wide-ranging work done by Stewarts.
There are around 1,000 service users as part of the organisation, including residential and day services.
"Stewarts caters for people of all ages. Our youngest service user would be in the pre-school and be two-and-a-half years of age, all the way up to our oldest resident, who lives on campus, who is 92," Dean says.
Stewarts has two main campus sites, one in Palmerstown and the other in Balgaddy, in south-west Dublin.
Respite was one of the areas for which they have successfully done fundraising in the past year and a half.
"Obviously respite is a really under-resourced area," he says.
"The need for respite is huge. We have 127 adults and 43 children who avail of the service.
"We have got four respite homes, three for adults and one for children.
"So it is an extremely busy service but a fundamental one of the organisation, and it’s massively important for families and service users themselves."
Outside work, of course, he comes from a family steeped in GAA. His dad Barney won an All-Ireland title with the Dubs in 1983.
"Myself and my dad would have a great relationship, and he has always been hugely supportive to me," he says.
"Certainly he leaves me to my own devices to go off and perform and get ready to perform. But obviously he is always there for a kind word or some advice when it’s needed most, and I’m always willing to listen to him because he has great experience, and has been there before in the past and done it."
He also pays tribute to his well-known GAA-playing partner Niamh McEvoy – who last year helped the ladies team to bag their second All-Ireland in a row.
The athletic couple have been going out for more than four years now and met when they were both coaching at a GAA camp.
"We discuss certain things together, which certainly helps in terms of the run-up to games or training," he says.
"The Dublin ladies would do the same level of training and nutrition and gym work as we would do.
"So it is nice to have someone like that with you.
"Hopefully they can have another good year this year."