GAA Editor @BrianGBarry
Dublin's Dean Rock on Tyrone defeat, David Clifford handshake and the Dessie Farrell regime
Last Updated: 17/03/20 1:56pm
Although the National League has been ground to a halt, with uncertainty surrounding any resumption, it will nonetheless go down as a memorable campaign for All-Ireland champions Dublin.
Should the campaign prove to have culminated in five games, it will have been a relatively satisfactory one for new boss Dessie Farrell.
However, their most recent game ended in defeat, as they came unstuck in tricky conditions away to Tyrone. Indeed, the challenging elements were encapsulated in one first-half moment, as Dean Rock's right-footed effort that initially looked to be on target was caught by the wind and ended up past the corner flag.
"Yeah it was a little bit strange," Rock laughed, speaking to Sky Sports. "It was one of them, you kick it, you think it's going over the bar and next minute, it's gone near the sideline near the goals!
"It was just a strange evening for a game. It was extremely windy. I think every game we played this year, the weather was like that. A bad period of weather in the country. It was messy really, it didn't make for a great spectacle. But it is what it is.
"Technically, from a skills point of view, it was very difficult to execute the basics. A lot of that has to come down to the conditions.
"But the group would be hard on themselves, whether it's a nice warm, dry day or whether it's like it was against Tyrone. It shows there's a lot of room for improvement, individually and collectively. And that's all you're trying to do is bring that forward."
"But the group would be hard on themselves, whether it's a nice warm, dry day or whether it's like it was against Tyrone.
Rock isn't looking for excuses
But away from the football itself, the main talking point from Omagh was at half-time, as players from both sides clashed when entering the tunnel.
"Lads were just trying to get in out of the cold, and there was a wrestling match to get in first," said the Ballymun club man, playing down the incident.
"That's all it was. It was one of those things that happens. It probably lost a bit of control. But look, it's done now. Hopefully it doesn't happen again."
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Game recognises game
Rock is considered one of the best marksmen in the country, and is no stranger to landing pressure kicks on the biggest stage.
In the opening game of the campaign at home to Kerry, he registered 1-6 from placed balls, but it was the Kingdom's David Clifford who this time landed a late, late free to secure a draw.
Before the umpire could even lift the white flag, Rock was on hand extending an arm of congratulations to the young Fossa star.
"It was a good kick, and that's it," said the Dubs forward. "The final whistle went soon after.
"It was a handy kick of a lad like him. It was an easy one into the Canal End!"
'It's been different'
Of course, the Sky Blues are adjusting to life after Jim Gavin. Farrell has looked to freshen things up, while remaining competitive; producing a return of two wins and two draws from five games.
"It's been challenging. It's been different," Rock said of the new season.
"New guys coming into the panel, and finding their feet. New management coming in this year as well, which has been really refreshing and enjoyable. It's been a good league, lots of good individual performances, and collectively the team is starting to come together again.
"I'm one of the few who hadn't [worked with Farrell]. Myself and James McCarthy were at an age group where we were in between both. So we missed out working with Dessie. But so far, it's been very enjoyable.
"Obviously it's a new voice, and it comes with new management as well. So that alone is refreshing. And guys have to go out again and prove themselves to new management, which allows guys to improve as players. They're always striving to get better. You're coming into a set-up where certain management team [members] don't really know much about you, so you have to start from scratch again really which is a good thing."
Guys have to go out again and prove themselves to new management, which allows guys to improve as players.
Rock knows the past counts for little under a new regime
The men from the capital showed real heart throughout the campaign, recovering from deficits in their first four games to dig out results, including the Monaghan match in which they had trailed by 10 points.
"You don't like to find yourself in those situations, but then when you do, it's nice to know that it's there in the pit of your stomach that you can find a way," he said. "But obviously you'd like to put yourself in a better position, that you're closer to teams, and you're not playing as much catch-up.
"But it is pleasing, from the perspective of digging in and grinding out results."
Such comebacks acted as a clear message. Whenever football does return, the chasing pack will know that Dublin are going nowhere.
Dean Rock was speaking at the announcement that Sky Sports will this year visit Clare, Louth, Longford and Roscommon with a special focus on Health & Wellbeing as part of its grassroots partnership on GAA Super Games.
The visits will be documented by Sky Sports for a new midweek GAA show called Inside the Game and will also feature on Sky Sports' social channels.