Wednesday 11 December 2019

Rock: Money has been used in the right way, to nurture young talent

Dublin’s Dean Rock says his team is relentless in the pursuit of their own excellence. Photo: Sportsfile
Dublin’s Dean Rock says his team is relentless in the pursuit of their own excellence. Photo: Sportsfile

If you thought the hype surrounding five-in-a-row would reach ear-shattering levels this summer, you'd be wrong. Instead, it has been drowned out by the noise of complaint over the alleged reason for all this Dublin dominance.

Funding. Filthy lucre. Some strident critics have even termed it 'financial doping'.

Dean Rock has heard the talk but it's not about to disturb his own steely focus - to win his place back in Jim Gavin's attack for their looming Super 8s campaign.

"You'd hear it in the background, but it's not something I would dwell on," says Rock.

"I just know what we're doing in Ballymun," he adds, citing the input of games promotion officer Gerry Seaver, from Ballyboughal, a two-time All-Ireland U21 medallist. "He has been incredible for the area of Ballymun ... I can only comment on that, because that is all I am seeing."

In this particular case, he reasons, games development funding is "obviously being used to benefit so many, particularly in Ballymun where the kids could be going off to do different things. But he's really driven the underage structure and the nursery in Ballymun and it's incredible to see it on a Saturday and during the summer. The money has been used in the right way in that instance, to nurture lots of young talent."

Otherwise, he agrees, Ballymun is an area that could have fallen through the GAA cracks. But Dublin's success has been just as critical. "I see it first-hand with Gaelic football and ladies football in Dublin, they are really popular due to the success in recent years. It's no coincidence. I remember when I was a kid, I'd be getting involved in golf because I'd be watching Tiger Woods," he recalls.

"People want to be associated with sports that are popular and attractive ... and certainly in Dublin at the minute, Gaelic football and ladies football are extremely popular and that's why we're getting big participation rates."

Yet, at the same time, Leinster SFC attendances are way down on their noughties peak. Since Gavin took the reins, Dublin's average winning margin in 21 provincial ties has been over 16 points.

Rock missed the first two rounds this summer, but announced his return from a "bad dead leg" with a sparkling 0-4 cameo off the bench against Meath in the final. You ask him if it's time for a different structure, but even Dublin forwards know the secret of impervious defence.

"We take the Leinster championship extremely seriously and we pride ourselves on our preparation for each and every game," is the straight-bat response.

"We do the research and we give the opposition the respect they deserve ... we're relentless in that, in our pursuit of our own excellence."

Head down

As for all the outside 'noise, Rock is philosophical. "That's just something we can't control," he shrugs. "Guys are very good at keeping the head down and staying away from that stuff where you can find it, on social media and newspapers.

"We're a very close-knit group, there's lots of energy going towards the Super 8 campaign ... there's only a small number of days left in the season so we're trying to maximise each one."

Does the manager encourage a social media blackout?

"It's very much a player-led group so it comes straight from the players," he replies. "Every one of the players takes ownership of that."

As if to reinforce this point, Rock claims ignorance of the fact there's been more recent talk about funding and the footballing plans of a former Dublin player (Diarmuid Connolly) than the team itself.

"To be honest, I wouldn't have a clue what's been said. I genuinely don't read papers and I don't look at Twitter when it comes to a certain part of the season," he says.

"We love it and all, yeah, but it's irrelevant and could potentially get in the way of something or get into your head - so why put yourself in that vulnerable situation?"

Coincidentally, Rock was speaking at an AIG event in ... Twitter's Dublin HQ!

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