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Dublin: 12 °C Friday 22 February, 2019

'Con is one of these guys that if he tried anything he'd be good at it' - Dean Rock

Rock spent years trying to establish himself on the Dublin team, while Con O’Callaghan made the transition to senior football look easy.

DESPITE HIS OBVIOUS talent and famous last name, Dean Rock took his time in establishing himself on the Dublin senior football team.

Dean Rock Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

It’s a little known fact that he started for Leinster in the Interprovincial competition years before he ever kicked a ball for the Dublin seniors.

Rock featured under Pillar Caffrey in an Interpros game against Ulster way back in October 2009. He was 19 at the time, a year out of minor, and coming off the back of a year where he was the leading scorer on the Dublin U21 Leinster-winning team.

He scored four points that day for the province in the 1-14 to 1-10 victory.  The Leinster forward line read: Joe Sheridan, Billy Sheehan, Paul Flynn, Denis Glennon, Rock and Bernard Brogan.

But it would take the Ballymun forward five years to make his first competitive start for the Dubs. He floated around Pat Gilroy’s squad in the 2012 league but was deemed surplus to requirements by the summer.

Jim Gavin handed him his debut when he took charge in 2013, but for a good two seasons Rock was better known as an impact sub.

Injuries played a role too, but it’s striking that the forward was almost 25 by the time he made his first league start for the county in 2015.

Dean Rock Rock was in Croke Park for the GAA Youth Future Leaders Transition Year Programme Launch Source: James Crombie/INPHO

With two All-Stars and four All-Irelands to his name, Rock has long been accepted as a key figure in the Dublin attack.

Unlike Rock, Con O’Callaghan spent just a year on Gavin’s panel waiting in the wings before he announced his arrival in some style earlier this year.

With no league minutes under his belt, O’Callaghan breezed into the starting team for the Leinster quarter-final against Carlow, and has been a mainstay ever since. He made the step up from underage ranks look easy.

The nature of O’Callaghan’s quick rise to prominence is poles apart from the years Rock spent waiting to get his chance, but the end result was the same.

“Con is one of these guys that if he tried anything I’d say he’d be good at it,” Rock says about the reigning Young Footballer of the Year.

“Con has worked extremely hard on his game. Although he’s an extremely talented young man he’s had to work at that. I’m sure there’s lots of Con O’Callaghans around the country, whether they’re 10 or 12 years of age, but he worked really hard at his game and he’s getting all the rewards now. He’s showcasing all his talents because of all the hard work that he’s put down through the years.”

pjimage (7) Source: Inpho

The Cuala youngster bagged 2-20 in six championship games for the Dublin seniors, and most of that came as a half-forward. Rock recognises the effort O’Callaghan has put in to develop into a top-class inter-county forward.

“Everyone can sit back and rest on their talent but you’ve got to get out there and work as hard as you can. I’ve witnessed it at first hand, whether it’s at the gym on or the pitch, he’s a guy that applies himself day in day out and if you can do that you can do what Con O’Callaghan is doing.

“It’s brilliant for him. Hopefully he can have a bit of a break over the Christmas and come back and win another All-Ireland club title with Cuala.

“He’s a very naturally talented footballer. Even back then (in 2016) he always had an eye for goal and wasn’t shy about taking his man on. He got into the panel in 2016 and he hasn’t looked back since.

“I suppose that’s one of the traits or characteristics that associates most of the guys on the Dublin team. They’d be very honest and humble. Con is no different. Con is the same as myself or any of the lads, just wanting to go out and represent Dublin and their club and do as best they can.

“There would certainly be no ego involved or gloating or anything like that. It’s an amateur game and we love what we do. We understand we make a lot of people happy in terms of what we do as well. He’s a very talented young man.”

The42 has just published its first book, Behind The Lines, a collection of some of the year’s best sports stories. Pick up your copy in Eason’s, or order it here today (€10):

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Kevin O'Brien

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