Dean Rock Explains How He Deals With Abuse During Games

Dean Rock Explains How He Deals With Abuse During Games
By PJ Browne
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"I don't think we'll ever be like the rugby lads," said Dean Rock on Thursday afternoon. The Dublin forward was referring to the respect which kickers often get in rugby games - the same consideration is not given in Gaelic football. Though, Rock would not like to see it happen either. "It would a bit weird if you were kicking frees in silence. I'd rather nearly kick it with a bit more on the line."

Late in last month's All-Ireland football final, Rock took - and made - the biggest kick of his career. He did it not just with the cacophonous noise of Croke Park attempting to vie for his attention but also Lee Keegan's GPS tracker being tossed in his direction. Neither distraction mattered for the 27-year-old.

Countless practice kicks from such distances and angles prepared the Ballymun man to land the free which ultimately proved to be the difference against Mayo. In Dublin training, Rock is regularly put in such situations, ones where he has to land the free to win the game.


Speaking last month, Con O'Callaghan explained that to increase the realism of those situations, Rock's teammates often boo and sledge him as he's taking the kick. Rock is in no doubt that Dublin rehearsals prepared him for the big stage.

It prepares you for big kicks in big games when you need to get it over the bar most.

In Gaelic football, you're allowed do a lot of sledging at free kicks - whether it's from the spectators or from the players or from whomever, it's pretty much the norm really. You see it across every club venue or every county venue. That's just the norm.

It doesn't happen in rugby really, that's just the way it is in rugby but in terms of Gaelic football there is a certain amount of it that goes on and you just get used to that from an early age kicking frees really.

Taking frees for Dublin is in Rock's DNA. His father Barney - also an All-Ireland winner - did the same. Just like Rock Jnr, Rock Snr also had to withstand abuse on the pitch and from the terraces.

When my Dad was kicking frees, he would have got the same treatment. Every free-taker has not gone through a game without getting some sort of abuse. That's just - whether it's right or wrong - it's irrelevant because it just happens. You just take it on the chin and I get enough practice of it in training and you kind of laugh it off.

You've got enough to be worrying about other than the distractions; if you're worrying about that you're not going to kick the ball over the bar. Ultimately, then, you're not going to be taking the frees.

Test flights for those big moments are not the only element of Dublin preparation which helped them soar to a third consecutive All-Ireland. Con O'Callaghan's early goal was aided by a bit of analysis from teammate Kevin McManamon which showed that if Mayo keeper David Clarke was to be beaten in a one-on-one situation, the ball would have to be kept low.

Rock says that McManamon is not the only player within the Dublin set-up who takes it upon themselves to do such detailed analysis.

I suppose players take it upon themselves to analyse different players and different aspects of the opposition's game. If guys recognise something or recognise a trait, they're going to share it with the group, they're not just going to keep it to themselves so that's all Kevin did. He would have just analysed David Clarke's positioning for saving with the goal shots and shared it with the group.

Obviously Con capitalised on that, he did his homework and his practice leading up to the game. That's why he scored his goal.

AIG Insurance, proud sponsor of the Dubs celebrated the Dublin Footballers’ and Dublin Ladies Footballers’ double All-Ireland victory today by announcing great discounts on travel insurance for Dublin GAA fans. See for more.

See Also: Three Stories Which Beautifully Capture The Lunacy Of Tommy Walsh

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