Dean Rock happy to be part of 'special group'
By Cian O'Connell
These are glorious times for the Dublin footballers. Dean Rock is completely aware of what is happening at the moment.
A third All Ireland title in a row has been secured by Dublin, who remain the standard bearers in the game.
The hope and expectation is something Dublin players grow accustomed to dealing with, but the sense of pride in wearing the sky blue jersey hasn't diminished.
"That is it, it is a huge privilege to play for Dublin," Rock admits. "We are sitting here looking out on Hill 16, it is something growing up as a young lad that one day you wanted to play in front of Hill 16, to score goals and points and all of that.
"So there is a huge amount of pride involved. We understand that we are part of a very special group at the moment.
"It is a huge privilege any time you put on a Dublin jersey, that is all you want as a player that when you are retired, when your day is gone, that you've done your bit for Dublin GAA and left the jersey in a better place.
"You can move on then happy, knowing that you've given your all for Dublin, that is all anyone wants to do. We are doing that at the moment. Please God we have a number of years left in us."
What happened in 2017, though, was hugely satisfying for Rock, who landed an ice cool free at the end of the latest absorbing battle with Mayo.
"Yeah, it was a great year for us," Rock acknowledges. "Obviously the objective at the start of the year is always to get to September, to put yourself to be in a position to be in a final, to be able to compete to win the trophy.
"For us it was a great year to realise our objective, to win another All Ireland. We all understand, we are having a great time at the moment, with the three in a row now, it is hugely successful and we understand we are part of a great group at the moment."
Rock stresses the work that he has put into the mental aspect regarding kicking frees in high pressure situations.
"It is something that has pretty much developed over the past three years," Rock says.
"It probably has brought a lot more consistency to my freetaking in terms of that mental side of focusing on the process of the kick, rather than worrying about if I don't get this or I do get this.
"Worrying about outcomes and stuff. For me it is about a process that is consistent, I now know if I miss a free kick why I missed a free kick.
"If I do score free kicks I could maybe have put that a bit closer to the posts, so you are understanding why you are scoring and not scoring which is brilliant.
"That has all been brought up through that mental resilience piece that I have worked on."
Rock looked for assistance. "It was something that I sought, it was something I wanted to add layers to my game, to make small improvements in my game," Rock reveals.
"That was one thing I noticed just through reading different books on different kickers. Whether it was Johnny Wilkinson or looking at a Jonny Sexton type figure, it was something that I read up a lot about and understood the power of the mind.
"Obviously moments and training like that gears you up for big moments on big days."
So can Rock move on instantly following a free? "Yeah, some of the stuff that you work on from a mental perspective is whether the free kick has gone over the bar or wide you just have to shift straight back into it," Rock replies.
"That doesn't happen naturally, that is something you've got to work on. Often you've missed frees while you were younger growing up and it would be playing on your mind for five or 10 minutes.
"That is five or 10 minutes of a 60 minute game, then the game is gone passed you. So it is very important just to reframe as quickly as you can after the kick. That is one of my main strengths now.
"Once that kick is gone, I'm straight on to the opposition kickout. That is where I base my game."
Physical fitness is another key component in the modern game with Rock and Ballymun Kickhams colleague James McCarthy maintaining a high level. "Genetically I'm quite lucky I'd be very fit," Rock adds.
"It is one of things James McCarthy and myself would have done, a huge amount of training together. We would have grown up playing together since the age of five or six.
"We went to college together so we have been training together doing the same type of training from 18, 19 so we would match ourselves quite regularly in terms of fitness tests and strength tests, these types of things.
"So yeah I would like to keep myself ticking over and in good shape over the winter so I'm not chasing too many lads when we are back."
Rock laughs when it suggested that McCarthy isn't a bad athlete to be training alongside. "He is alright, he isn't bad," Rock smiles. "Obviously everyone is very disciplined and dedicated in the Dublin set-up and across the board at inter-county now.
"You see down in DCU in the gym lads from numerous counties working away. Lads are doing the same thing, but James would be one of them type of naturally talented guys.
"He would have done cross country in the past, I think that was only to get off school. We have all done that."
Watching his partner Niamh McEvoy win an All Ireland Ladies medal with Dublin brought another satisfying story in a memorable spell.
"It was a great year with Niamh winning her All Ireland, it was great for herself and all of the other girls who had come up short in the last number of years," Rock states.
The Blues Sisters documentary offered a good insight into the Dublin Ladies adventure. "I thought it was great," Rock says. "It was a great production and a great advertisement for the Ladies game.
"It showcased the hard work that goes on around all county teams. Obviously it was about Dublin Ladies, but I'm sure that is the norm for all Ladies inter-county teams in this day and age.
"It was great to highlight what they put in, to showcase all the good things the Ladies game brings.
"It is nice to put a personality on the person. That was highlighted and showcased when the show was aired. It was nice for the girls to get a bit of exposure too, to show what they do outside of football aswell, and their character. Shows are good like that because it enables people to get to know the person. It was a great show."
Rock was centre stage himself once more in September as a special and successful team earned further fame and glory.