rock and roll

Learning from past mistakes, keeping motivation and making amends in 2018

Dublin star Dean Rock is excited for what lies ahead in the coming weeks and months.

WITH THE 2018 inter-county football season well and truly underway, Dean Rock’s focus is firmly fixed on the weeks and months of action which lie ahead.

Dean Rock scores the winning point from a free Tommy Dickson / INPHO Tommy Dickson / INPHO / INPHO

Like any successful sportsperson, he doesn’t let his mind slip back to the past too often. But as he settles into his seat to face a huddle of reporters at Parnell Park on Tuesday afternoon, he’s asked to revisit two very different moments from 2017.

The one which springs to mind straight away is that match-winning free-kick as the clock ticked into the seventh minute of stoppage time in the All-Ireland final.

The other though came on 9 April of the same year. A tricky free from distance to level matters in the National League final against Kerry. That one didn’t go to plan.

“It was a key kick, the last kick of the game,” he nods. “There was lots of learning from it.

“I suppose the minute I kicked the free I knew straight away why I had missed it and that’s the level I’ve got to from my free-taking now; that I understand why I’m missing kicks and how I’m missing kicks.

“I took great confidence in the fact that I knew how to rectify that. For me, it was a big kick, I was disappointed to miss it but certainly learned a lot from it and carried that forward then into the summer.”

And the perfect moment to make amends came as the Ballymun Kickhams forward sealed the Sky Blues’ three-in-a-row last September. Once he struck the ball, he knew it was going right where he wanted. Great satisfaction, he says.

But that’s all over and done with now. New year, new targets, new goals.

After losing their five-in-a-row bid to the Kingdom last April, there’s no denying that retaining that National League crown is flashing brightly on Dublin’s radar.

A seven-point win in their opener against Kildare on Saturday evening kicked things off on the right foot, with Rock accounting for 1-2 of the 2-17 registered, but he insists that there’s a long way to go yet.

“Look, we take every game as it comes,” he continues.

“There’s lots of big games that we have to play in the league to even get near a league final. There’s lots of work to be done. But obviously, you want to win as much as you can as a player and to go back and win another National League would be amazing.

“But obviously it starts again with Tyrone on Saturday night and what’s going to be a hugely tough game.”

That test in Omagh this weekend is one he’s relishing. The 27-year-old smiles as he’s asked about it, sharing his excitement to lock horns with the Red Hand once again.

“I’ve actually never played up in Omagh personally so it’s something I’m really looking forward to,” he says.

“Obviously, Tyrone (is) a massive GAA county and (there’s a) huge tradition there. It’s something that we’re really looking forward to. We always have close encounters with Tyrone in the league, we’ve had lots of draws over the last couple of years or one-point margins and stuff like that.

“Most of the games have been really tight and go down the wire to the last minute. I’m sure it’ll be no different on Saturday night. It should be a big battle and I’m sure it’ll be a heavy sod up there. It’ll be tough going.”

AIG / Dublin GAA 2018 Season Launch David Fitzgerald / SPORTSFILE David Fitzgerald / SPORTSFILE / SPORTSFILE

Jim Gavin’s charges are back in their rhythm. It took them quite some time to find their feet at GAA HQ against the Lilywhites, but once they shook off the rust and got going, they upped the ante in the second half and cruised to victory.

At half-time, the focus was on the fundamentals and basics of their game; cleaning up the handling and kick-passing. A strong showing on the restart was the difference he adds, saying that they played ‘pretty well’.

Kildare manager Cian O’Neill has noted since that he was unhappy with a ‘cynical’ hit on Kevin Feely during the Division 1 clash, suggesting that Dublin condone the dark arts: “Maybe that’s what the best teams do better than what we do.”

Rock however, says that he was unaware of such comments and defends his side’s actions on the field.

“We obviously practice the tackle quite a lot and we put a huge amount of emphasis on that into our training,” he says.

“In terms of the number of cards we’ve got over the last number of years, I don’t think it would represent a lack of indiscipline. I would say we’re quite a disciplined team in terms of our tackling and overall game.”

With his eyes firmly fixed on the coming weeks and months, Rock is delighted with the matches landing thick and fast. The more, the better.

“Every player in the country will tell you that they want to play more games than training. Games week on week is the ideal thing.

“There’s little gaps in between that now, it’s just the way the structure is but if there was seven games in seven weeks, ideally that would be the best thing from a playing perspective.

“You want to be playing competitive games, that’s how you improve, that’s how the squad grows. For me, the league is perfect the way it is. We’re really looking forward to playing as many games as we can.”

Off the field, he’s thoroughly enjoying his work at Stewarts Care in Palmerstown, a centre for people with intellectual disabilities. He’s moved onto a new role as fundraising and marketing manager.

“It’s an organisation which I have great passion for, I enjoy what they do and I just want to help as many people as I can, have as much of an impact on their lives as I can while I can. It’s a great job and hugely satisfying.”

AIG / Dublin GAA 2018 Season Launch Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE / SPORTSFILE

Between commitments on and off the pitch, life is fairly hectic. With talk of four-in-a-row already garnering attention, Rock stays grounded.

Motivation to win is something that’s discussed over and over with regards the Dublin footballers. It’s well and truly alive, he concludes.

He won’t get too carried away though.

“We’re in a hugely privileged position to be representing the county of Dublin. It’s something that we’ve all wanted to do for a long period of time. It’s not something that you’re ever going to get sick of or tired of because it only lasts for so long.

“Some guys might have 10 or 12 years of a career which is amazing, others might only have two or three. You just maximise the time that you have wearing the blue jersey and representing the group. That’s all that we want to do.

“Ultimately, that is the main motivation, individually and collectively; representing Dublin and trying to be as successful as we can for the county.”

Dublin players Eimear McCarthy, Dean Rock, Leah Caffrey and Danny Sutcliffe were in Parnell Park yesterday to kick off the 2018 Dublin GAA Season with team sponsor’s AIG Insurance. 

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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