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Dublin: 12 °C Monday 17 December, 2018

'It would a bit weird if you were kicking frees in silence' - No issue with sledging for Dubs forward

For Dean Rock, distractions are all part of the game.

HE HAD TO hold his nerve amidst a storm at the end of the biggest day on the Gaelic football calendar but Dean Rock has no qualms dealing with such distractions when taking frees in high-pressure situations.

Dean Rock scores the winning point from a free Dean Rock's free was the match-winning point in the All-Ireland final. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Rock nailed the vital point that settled last month’s pulsating All-Ireland final and delivered glory for Dublin.

Whether it was a GPS unit lobbed in his direction or a cacophony of cheers and jeers from the stands, there was plenty that could have unnerved the Ballymun Kickhams man.

But he accepts that as part of Gaelic football culture and has no wish to see deferential treatment to free-takers being introduced, like the accepted practice for rugby place kickers.

“It’s hard to police. It’s a completely different game. The rugby thing, they have to be a certain distance away from the placekicker.

“Whereas in the GAA, everyone is just running all over the place, it’s very hard to police especially with one referee.

“I don’t think we’ll ever be like the rugby lads. It would a bit weird if you were kicking frees in silence. I’d rather nearly kick it with a bit more on the line.”

AIG Cups Visit Dean Rock and Sinead Finnegan at today's Dublin AIG Insurance launch. Source: Sam Barnes/SPORTSFILE

Rock steels himself to taking frees by trying to replicate that environment in training and points to his father Barney’s experiences a few decades ago, as proof that not much has changed for those tasked with raising white flags for Dublin.

“It prepares you for big kicks in big games when you need to get it over the bar most. In Gaelic football, you’re allowed do a lot of sledging at free kicks – whether it’s from the spectators or from the players or from whomever, it’s pretty much the norm really.

“You see it across every club venue or every county venue. You just get used to that from an early age kicking frees really.

“When my Dad was kicking frees, he would have got the same treatment. Every free-taker has not gone through a game without getting some sort of abuse. That’s just – whether it’s right or wrong – it’s irrelevant because it just happens.

“You just take it on the chin and I get enough practice of it in training and you kind of laugh it off.

“You’ve got enough to be worrying about other than the distractions; if you’re worrying about that you’re not going to kick the ball over the bar. Ultimately, then, you’re not going to be taking the frees.”

While Rock reveled in the All-Ireland success, he had another triumph to savour at the stadium seven days later. His girlfriend Niamh McEvoy was part of the Dublin ladies football setup that finally ended a luckless run of defeats in deciders.

Niamh McEvoy celebrates Niamh McEvoy celebrates Dublin's All-Ireland ladies football final triumph. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“Really happy, really pleased for them because to come back the fourth time of asking after losing three finals in a row, it’s not an easy thing to do.

“I can only speak on our perspective, winning finals is such an unbelievable feeling. The girls now have experienced that, they know what winning is like.

“It was brilliant. All the lads on the team would obviously support the ladies, obviously they’re Dublin people as well but it helps the fact that there’s quite a few of the lads going out with a few of the girls.

“Obviously Jack’s sister (plays) and Stephen Cluxton’s sister would have played years ago. It’s nice to have that connection.

“It was nice for all the lads to be there and share it. It gives great support to the girls and they take great confidence in that as well.”

Rock’s own football focus is now trained on Ballymun’s bid to land the Dublin senior football crown, an honour that has eluded them since they were victorious in 2012.

Kilmacud Crokes are the next hurdle they must overcome at the semi-final stage on 14 October.

“It’s probably disappointing because we probably maybe had one or two more opportunities to add to it. There was another one two years maybe where we probably should have capitalised on the strength of the squad we had one and won one.

“It certainly is our objective this year to win the Dublin championship. It’s not just to win the next game. Ultimately, you want to win the Dublin championship. That’s where we’re at as a group and anything less than that would be a huge disappointment.”

-  Dean Rock was speaking as AIG Insurance, proud sponsor of the Dubs celebrated the Dublin Footballers’ and Dublin Ladies Footballers’ double All-Ireland victory today by announcing great discounts on travel insurance for Dublin GAA fans. See for more.

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Fintan O'Toole

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