Saturday 21 September 2019

Dublin's all-time leading scorers: How Dean Rock surpassed Bernard Brogan - and his own father

Dean Rock, left, is congratulated by his Dublin team-mate Bernard Brogan
Dean Rock, left, is congratulated by his Dublin team-mate Bernard Brogan
Dean Rock. Picture: Sportsfile

Conor McKeon

Dean Rock's fifth point of the drawn All-Ireland final was arguably the most impressive of his ten, even if the historical significance was lost on everyone in Croke Park.

Deftly improvised after a ball was spilled by Jack McCaffrey and then toe-poked into his path by Paul Geaney, Rock - almost in one fluid motion - chip-lifted the ball with his left foot, jinked outside Geaney's challenge and flicked a snap shot away with his right too briskly for either Jason Foley or Paul Murphy to intervene.

That score put Dublin 1-7 to 0-6 up. It was also Rock's 411th point for Dublin in league and championship action.

And though oblivious to it at the time, when added to his 14 career goals, it took Rock past Bernard Brogan as the second most prolific player in the county's football history.

At 29, he is the oldest of the now established Dublin front six by a full three years. But with just 34 points separating him from Jimmy Keaveney, only injury can plausibly stop Rock from becoming Dublin's leading scorer some time in the next 12 months. This, from a man who didn't play for Dublin until he was 23.

A player who Pat Gilroy just didn't really fancy, who dropped him from the squad in 2012.

Which is why Rock's inter-county career reads like a stats sheet of contradictions.

He didn't start a league game until 2015, then played some part in 63 league and championship matches in a row.

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In that time, he has devoured the ground on Dublin's greatest forwards with incredible stealth.

When Gerry Callan's impeccably researched book 'Dubs To The Four: The Complete Record Of Dublin Football - 1887-2018' was published late last year, Rock was in fifth place in the all-time scoring charts.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Summit

Now, he is heir-in-waiting to Keaveney at the summit. He is also the man with the highest scores-to-games ratio.

Since making his debut in 2012, Rock has averaged 5.2 points per match for Dublin compared to Keaveney's 4.8, Brogan's 3.9 or his father Barney's 4.5.

Oddly, he has scored the fewest goals (14) of any player in the top ten on the list. Against that, his five-year run as permanent fixture in Jim Gavin's attack has overlapped a five-year unbeaten period in the championship and their scoring average has risen steadily from 24.6 points per game in 2015 to 27 this year.

Central to his scoring rate is Rock's free-taking. In 2017, Rock revealed how after two years under Gavin as a sub in 2013 and '14, he delved deep into both the science and psychology behind placed-ball kicking, going so far as to work with the world's foremost kicking authority, Dave Alred.

Since then, he has developed into the most accurate free-taker in verifiable memory, even if Seán O'Shea's place-kicking performance in the drawn final suggests he will have real competition for that mantle over the coming years.

His two misses in that game brought Rock's summer average down to a still remarkable 90 per cent (27 from 30).

Yet for all his reliability from frees and despite the finer focus on some of his attacking team-mates, Rock's contribution from play is regularly overlooked.

Pertinently in the context of this week, he has averaged three points from play in the last four All-Ireland finals. Two Sundays back, Rock's scoring output from open play (0-3 from 0-10) matched the combined tally of Con O'Callaghan and Paul Mannion.

Last year against Tyrone, he hit 0-7, just four of which were frees.

The previous September, under deeply pressurised circumstances against Mayo and despite a wobbly start and three missed frees, Rock finished with 0-7 (3f), memorably nailing the winner despite having a GPS pack thrown at him by Lee Keegan.

In the 2016 replayed final also against Mayo, he scored 0-9, two of which came from open play.

Finals have been seminal moments in Rock's late-starting career. On the morning of the drawn game two Sundays back, he stood in fourth place on that esteemed list, behind Keaveney, Brogan and his famous footballing father.

With his third score of the day, a '45 from slightly right of centre that skidded rather than sailed over the bar, he surpassed Barney.

When he comes to reflect on it, that may be one of the most significant moments of Dean's career.

Interviewed in 2008 while still a minor and playing Leinster Senior Cup rugby for CUS - naturally enough as a place-kicker - Rock was asked about the burden of his lineage.

"It brings its own pressure," observed the then 18-year-old, "but I don't want to be known as the son of Barney Rock.

"In the summer time on the way to Croke Park, almost everyone, especially older men, come up and stop him just to say, 'Howya Barney.'

"He has earned that recognition so I suppose it is up to me to get mine."

It would have been inconceivable then but Rock hasn't just earned his own recognition, he has surpassed his iconic father in the metric of medals won and as of last Sunday week, in the pantheon of Dublin scorers. Somehow, he has quietly but forcefully scored his way into esteemed company.

That, even more than his sturdy reliability, is the defining feature of Rock's inter-county career.

Others from this most talented generation of Dublin forwards may be regarded as more gifted, but there can scarcely have been many more important.

The numbers are indisputable.

Irish Independent

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