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Thursday 14 December 2017

Rock: the final free a little like Cluxton in 2011

Father Barney reckons Dean had the 'nerve' and 'practice' to make sure he nailed winner

Dublin’s Dean Rock kicks the winning point during the All-Ireland SFC Final at Croke Park, despite having a GPS unit thrown at him by a Mayo player during the run-up. Photo: Sportsfile
Dublin’s Dean Rock kicks the winning point during the All-Ireland SFC Final at Croke Park, despite having a GPS unit thrown at him by a Mayo player during the run-up. Photo: Sportsfile

At best, it will be recalled only as a twee footnote in the story of the 2017 football season that Dean Rock hit the upright with a free in the last kick of the League final, a kick that would have forced extra-time had it veered only inches to the left.

At the time though, Rock was "very disappointed," according to his famous footballing father, Barney.

"But as I said to him at the time he was very far out," Rock senior revealed yesterday, less than 24 hours after Dean had immaculately dispatched the All-Ireland final winner.

"He actually struck it well but the ball just never came in.

"Maybe that was a blessing in disguise because if that had gone over, all the talk might have been of this invincible team and we might not have won the championship.

Dublin’s Stephen Cluxton hits the winning free over the bar against Kerry in the 2011 All-Ireland SFC Final. Photo: Sportsfile
Dublin’s Stephen Cluxton hits the winning free over the bar against Kerry in the 2011 All-Ireland SFC Final. Photo: Sportsfile

"That was the first time they were beaten in 36 games and that record, they had gone by the record, and there as lucky matches in there.

"There were sometimes when they looked great but at that stage for them, and certainly Dean as well, I know, but he was back playing club football the following week and kicking ball over the bar.

"They don't all go over but the important ones do," Barney smiled.

Historically, Dean has responded positively to such blows.

He was left out of Dublin's All-Ireland winning panel in 2011 yet cracked Jim Gavin's team almost immediately after his former Under-21 boss was appointed.

Important

He tore his hamstring off the bone in 2012, was subbed at half-time in the 2015 All-Ireland final but has made himself one of the most important elements of this highly-functioning Dublin attack in the past two years, both in his free taking and his greatly-improved general play.

"I think Jim knows his worth in that end of it, even though he has been taken off in some of the matches earlier," Barney explained.

"But they were matches where we were seven, eight nine points in front but that's positive and it gave Con O'Callaghan opportunities to stand up and take bit of pressure kicks as well.

"I'm sure once you go down the line, last year the same thing in the final. He mightn't have started well, but he was still there and he was still kicking the balls in the end."

Barney himself took many big kicks for Dublin but it's safe to say he never had a GPS tracker thrown in his general direction as he made contact with the ball.

"I saw the picture, yeah," he confirmed.

"When you are taking a free and you have it down, you are concentrating on it and you don't see anything else but the goalposts and the ball.

"What amazed me is that it was happening throughout the game that people were coming up, that 10-metre rule around the player it just doesn't happen."

If he was nervous as his son stood over that history-securing free, Barney wasn't about to admit it.

"He is trained to kick it," he stressed.

"As he was being brought up he was trained to kick all those frees and he was kicking of the ground also," Rock outlined, matter-of-factly.

"It is all practice and he definitely has the nerve.

"That was the important one to put over, it was a shot to win it and he stood up and put it away well.

"It was a bit like that great free of Cluxtons in 2011, except it was at the other end of the field. It was good for him to kick it over."

All of which leaves Dublin in very select company on the pantheon of great football teams.

Five All-Irelands in seven years outranks all but Mick O'Dwyer's side and with a new flush of youth in the squad this spring, it would be difficult to see them not adding at least couple more over the next five years.

"You have to say that it leaves them in a fantastic place," Barney admits.

"They are the best Dublin team ever," he stressed.

"And I am not putting down the team of the 70s, but that 70's team probably started this whole thing off because you had the likes of John McCarthy and that, and it rolled on into the 80s and 90s.

"We had a lean spell in the late 90s and early noughties."

Greatest

Indeed, David Hickey - one of the 70s' great - claimed that 13 of this team would make it into an all-time greatest Dublin team.

"At that stage," says Barney, "they had beaten Kerry and Mayo and he would have seen more of them because he was involved with the set-up and he predicted it.

"Going forward it is a fantastic spell for these players and if you look at it Jim Gavin has moved the team around this year, introduced some young fellows but it will be important that the spine of the team - the fellows approaching their 30s- stick in there.

"I have no doubt that they will because this is a great thing to be involved in," Rock concluded.

"They all get on well together."

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