Dean Rock says Dublin’s winter getaway all a matter of timing

Corner-forward felt ‘a lot fresher’ in September after last December’s team holiday

Dean Rock: “I think we timed our run a lot better this year [than in 2016].” Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Jim Gavin may not have had Colm O'Rourke's advice strictly in mind regarding last season's football league, but he was certainly thinking along the same lines.

The Meath great noted after the 2016 championship that Dublin, for the sake of their three-in-a-row ambitions, would have to forget about winning another league because, "no man, animal or engine could keep going as long as this group have been on the road, clocking up miles, games, injuries and trophies".

Dublin still reached the final, though lost to Kerry having ground out three draws to make it that far.

They were clearly tapering with September in mind and it paid off, a ploy that manager Gavin has decided to stick with for the 2018 season.


Once again, Dublin will skip the O'Byrne Cup campaign and hand the January competition over to Paul Clarke and his development panel, who surprisingly won the preseason competition earlier this year.

Clarke, a former Dublin forward and selector, used 28 players in total, seven of whom featured in the Allianz league and one of whom, Niall Scully, made it all the way to feature in the All-Ireland final.

Wing-forward Scully, for the record, featured in 19 of Dublin’s 20 competitive games this year, remarkably starting 17 of them.

Gavin is keen to uncover another Scully but sidestepping next month’s O’Byrne Cup is more about giving his jaded players some much-needed downtime.

Some of them have won five All-Irelands and four league titles in seven seasons, and the team holiday to South Africa does not begin until December 27th.

Off the pace

It all means that Dublin could be a little off the pace when they host Kildare at Croke Park in the first round of the league on January 27th.

"We are due to go on a team holiday shortly after Christmas so that rules us out of the O'Byrne Cup," said Dublin attacker Dean Rock, their match winner in September's final win over Mayo.

“I suppose it’s the only time of the year that we can go on our summer holidays really with the number of students, teachers and people working regular jobs on our team, so it will work out perfectly around those schedules.

“Look, it did us no harm last year. Obviously once we come back in January we’ll be a little bit undercooked compared to maybe some other teams but we’ll get back on the pitch in January, go through our sessions and gradually get up to the pace of things.”

Rock reckons there’s every chance that Clarke’s 2018 crew could contain a few more gems for Gavin to mine for league and championship duty.

"Absolutely," said the 27-year-old son of county legend Barney. "There were guys that played in this year's O'Byrne Cup that stayed on the panel throughout the National League.

“There were six, seven or eight of them who stayed on the league panel and were brought in for games at different times.

"The likes of Ciaran Reddin was there, he played a number of games in the league and started the league final and played really well, scored two points.

“Between himself and Niall Scully, they got the most out of it.”

Stronger in September

Dublin’s first-teamers were also given an extended break from the panel between this year’s league and championship.

Rock said it added up to him feeling better come September than he had in 2016.

“I think we got it from a physical development perspective with Bryan Cullen,” said the Ballymun Kickhams man. “We timed our run pretty well. Ultimately the objective was to get to September and to peak and perform in September.

“I certainly felt from my own perspective a lot fresher at the end of the season than I did the previous season.

“That’s just learning as you go. The games were quite intense in 2016 too, we had a final replay that year as well. But certainly I think we timed our run a lot better this year and training and all of that was tailored towards that, which was great in the end that it eventually came off for us.”

  • Dean Rock was speaking at the GAA and PDST's launch of the Future Leaders Transition Year programme