IT'S one of the bittersweet ironies for Ballymun Kickhams' inter-county contingent: the longer they've stayed in the hunt for All-Ireland history, the less opportunity they've had to impress new Dublin boss Jim Gavin.
But according to Dean Rock, that's a small sacrifice to pay for the privilege of playing in an All-Ireland club final in Croke Park on St Patrick's Day.
"This is the experience of a lifetime," enthused Rock, speaking ahead of Ballymun's AIB senior club final date with St Brigid's of Roscommon on St Patrick's Day.
"I think winning anything with your club is the best thing you can ever achieve. In football, the camaraderie and friendships that you have, in the club, are just amazing. It's definitely been the best experience I've had so far in my career."
That's a ringing endorsement from a young player, recently turned 23, who has already achieved All-Ireland U21 glory with Dublin in 2010.
That team was managed by Jim Gavin who has now included Rock among his extended senior squad for 2013. Only trouble is that Ballymun's 'wannabe Blues' are still waiting for a chance to impress Dublin's new manager on the training ground ... and only last week Gavin confirmed that the "Ballymun lads are at a disadvantage" because he won't have access to them until the start of April and the current incumbents who are playing well will "get the slots".
Rock – previously a fringe panellist on two separate occasions under Pat Gilroy – accepts that this is the way "it has to be" and he has vowed to be patient. "You take your chance when it comes – if it comes," he remarked, speaking at a function in Stillorgan where he was honoured as one of eight AIB provincial award winners for his Leinster club championship displays before Christmas.
"You just have to keep training hard and working hard on your game, and obviously when the chance comes you have to just take it. That's it. There's no point moping around and feeling sorry for yourself. I'm sure everyone will get a chance; it's just up to taking your chance."
Rock has been busy taking chances (of the scoring variety) ever since he was jettisoned from Dublin's championship panel last May, only a few short months after Gilroy had recalled him to the senior fold. The player reckons this 2012 low point was probably the catalyst for his own prolific club form as Ballymun stormed to a first Dublin SFC title in 27 years, then a first Leinster title, and now a maiden All-Ireland appearance.
"Obviously I was very disappointed at the time, but I made my mind up myself that I wasn't going to let it affect me and ruin my confidence," he explained.
"In fairness, Paul (Curran, his club manager) was great to me as well. Really worked on my game and worked on the stuff that I had to work on, and thankfully then we went on and got on a good run and I started playing well ... it probably was the catalyst for doing so well."
His recent viewing of the Dubs has been confined to TV. Even from that armchair vantage point it has been obvious that they are "flying at the minute", but Rock is up for the challenge of trying to break into Team Gavin.
"I think Jim said earlier in the week the Ballymun lads would be at a disadvantage having not been there. That's fair enough – there's a team gelling that's there at the minute," he reflected.
"But it can only be good if we do come back in. We can make a bit of an impact because we've been winning games and we're full of confidence.
"It would be nice to come back in with an All-Ireland medal in your pocket and that could only be good for the squad. It will be difficult getting into the forwards; it's a great forward line. But that's the challenge you want. To be the best, you have to be better than the rest," Rock concluded.