herald

Saturday 24 June 2017

'Croke Park will never be the same without Joe'

Joe Rock at Croke Park in 2013
Joe Rock at Croke Park in 2013

Croke Park legend Joe Rock was undoubtedly the star of the show at GAA HQ, says Hill 16 giant and Joe's nephew, Barney.

The 90-year-old, who passed away on Sunday after a short bout of pneumonia, was not just Dublin GAA hero's uncle, but also a grand uncle of current All-Star forward, Dean.

Joe Rock had worked at Croke Park since the age of six, looking after the dressing room and tunnel areas for the biggest games of the year.

While his role was less intense in later years, his son Joesph has taken over the role with distinction.

Leading the tributes to his uncle, Barney Rock said he remembers Joe bringing him into the winning dressing rooms as a kid.

Joe Rock and his wife Betty
Joe Rock and his wife Betty

Memories

"He was a great age," he said. "It's just the way it goes, you never know. It's a sad loss for everybody.

"My memories of Joe would have gone all the way back to 1973 for the All-Ireland. Cork were playing Galway and he sat me in the corner of the old dressing room.

"Cork won, so it was grand to be in the dressing room with so many fellas you'd be looking to emulate. I was only 12 at the time," he said.

It was a family affair at the time for the Rocks, with Barney's father opening the gates at Croker.

"When I was with the Dublin seniors, I would have been in the same dressing room as Joe," said his nephew.

During Barney's time as a footballer, the Boys in Blue only played in Croke Park for provincial and All-Ireland finals.

In the latter years, Joe became very close to Dublin star and grand nephew, Dean.

"He didn't finish up." said Barney. "He was still there for the All-Ireland final. His would be the first face that most people saw when they opened the dressing room door.

"He had a very special bond with Dean, because he would have seen Dean there and they would have built up that relationship."

Long-time stadium announcer Jerry Grogan said his old pal would be "sorely missed" on match day.

"The dressing room and tunnel areas in Croke Park will never be the same. He was a lovely, lovely gentleman. He was great to talk to and had all these fantastic stories. I'd make a point of meeting him every Sunday for a chat.

Replay

"His last day at Croke Park was the replay of the football final. Unfortunately, he didn't make the first game because he was in hospital.

"I spent nearly an hour with him in the players lounge and we had a drink and a chat and that's my last memory of him. He'll be sorely missed."

Jerry was among a large number of GAA figures who were in attendance at Joe's 90th birthday, which was fittingly held in Croke Park.

Speaking to the Herald at the time, Joe said: "You live from day to day. Age is just a number, that's all. When your day comes, you go. It's as simple as that."

Promoted articles

Entertainment News