Dean Rock now solid in every sense for Dublin
Free-taking forward has played in every game of Dublin’s unbeaten run
Dublin’s Dean Rock scores a point from a free kick against Mayo in the Allianz League. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
Barney Rock kicks a free for Dublin against Kerry in the 1985 All-Ireland SFC final. Photograph: Ray McManus/ Sportsfile
The last thing Barney Rock is going to do is give us an unbiased or impartial view of his son Dean’s progress as a Dublin footballer, although when it comes to things like consistency, reliability, work ethic, it doesn’t matter. Rock’s record now speaks for itself.
The only player to feature in all 34 of Dublin’s record-equalling unbeaten league and championship games – and record-breaking 35 assuming Rock plays and Dublin beat Roscommon in Croke Park on Saturday night – his progress may well be considered complete: at age 27 he’s probably at his prime, according to his father, but then he’s earned his place and reputation as much as any other player.
“I’d say he was a good free taker two or three years ago, but he’s more consistent now, and seems to be putting over the pressure kicks,” says Rock senior, also Dublin’s go-to free-taker in his prime.
“For him, touch wood, things seem to be going well. One or two got away last weekend (against Kerry), but it was difficult with the wind there. Maybe if we were beaten by a point, people would turn around and say it was that free.
“And he’s 27, 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 at 27, he’s just got to keep pushing forward. And he wants to play every game. But it all depends on what Jim Gavin does. I think the way it is at the minute is that there’s trust there, not just with Dean, but among all the players. Everybody has a job to do. At the moment, everything is going well and they’re doing it well.
“The way they do it, I don’t ask Dean too much. Because what goes on in the camp, goes on in the camp.
“If somebody was in, he wouldn’t say it to me. So any time he comes home, I just say ‘how’s everything going? Okay?’
“And he just says ‘grand’. I try not to pry.”
Despite that consistency, says Rock, Dean will never take his place for granted, partly because he did have to wait so long to nail it down: “They won the under-21s in 2010 and then Pat Gilroy, he wasn’t Dean’s type of player (sic), 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.
“But I think he was unlucky in 2012 because he tore the hamstring off the bone. 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. But it probably all started for him kicking the equalising point against Tyrone in the national league that day that he came on.”
That unbeaten record will of course someday be broken, says Rock, but it meantime it appears to be adding to Dublin’s resilience and determination.
“If it comes they beat that record on Saturday, then they’ll be only thinking of the next match, against Monaghan, and getting into a league final. There won’t be talk of going on more records. Saturday will be important just to beat it and to have done with it.
“I suppose at some stage somebody is going to beat them somewhere. Hopefully it’s not going to be any time between now and September.”