Dean Rock continues a family free-taking tradition

From surplus to requirements to ever-present, Dean Rock’s graph has shown a steady rise these last five years.

Unlike Pat Gilroy, Jim Gavin saw the promise in his former U21 player. There have been a couple of obstacles along the way such as a knee injury and it wasn’t really until last year that he had begun established himself in the team. Even then, he was benched at half-time in that All-Ireland final victory over Kerry. It turned out to be the motivation for his All-Star winning 2016 season.

“Obviously the team won; that’s the main thing. But everyone looks at themselves, individually, at the end of the season — where they can improve and stuff like that. So I took it on the chin and obviously I was delighted that we won the All-Ireland because they’re not easily won. From a personal perspective, I asked what I needed to work on, and I went about it, trained hard in the off-season at the end of 2015 and kicked on from there.”

After an almost flawless free-taking rate and a marvellous All-Ireland semi-final display against Kerry in which he scored 12 points, the 26-year-old lost his way a little in the drawn final but Gavin kept faith in him and was rewarded with a return to form in the replay win over Mayo. Rock knew his statistics for the season were more than decent.

“I certainly know that up to the first (Mayo game), I was 46 out of 48 or maybe 38 out of 40, something like that. And then I was only three from seven in the (drawn) final so I missed four. But then I was seven from seven in the replay so I think I finished up with maybe 89% or 90% from frees. But I would have finished up with probably 95% or so had it not been for the drawn game.”

The conditions that day were conducive to free-taking. “I would have looked back at all my tapes. It was all down to technique, pretty much. There was a change in the weather; we hadn’t played in as bad a weather as that. The semi-final against Kerry was perfect. You were wearing studs this time; the run-up to the kick is not as fast; you’re being dragged down by the studs and then with the weather conditions as well.

“So all those things added up and, looking back now, I could have maybe rectified a few things or thought in my head that I have to run up a bit quicker. But in the heat of the battle... certainly, it’s one of those things that I learned from going into the next day. And something I’ll learn from going forward. Touch wood, I don’t think I’ll ever miss four frees in a game again.”

A former schools rugby player, it shouldn’t be much surprise Rock borrows technique tips from that game. He is already gunning to improve next season.

“As a free-taker you’re always developing, you’re always getting better and learning new things.

“For me, I was a better free-taker in 2016 than I was in 2015 and I’d like to think I’ll be a better free-taker in 2017 than I was in 2016.”

He adds: “I can’t wait to be back in January to be a better version of Dean Rock again next year. That’s my main goal, just to be a better player than I was this year.”

Being entrusted with free-taking duties even long range ones which had been the duty of Stephen Cluxton was a source of confidence for Rock whose father Barney was an obvious inspiration in that regard. “I have always prided myself on being a free-taker. I’ve kicked frees probably from the age of five or six when dad was going off training teams or whatever, I’d always be just practising frees. I would always just be kicking frees so it’s kind of engrained in me.”


More in this Section

Wedding bells sound as Ciarán Sheehan ponders his future

Succeeding captain Roisín had Bríd O’Sullivan wary

We can’t afford another blowout, warns Zach Tuohy

Paul Murphy happy with less hectic Kerry schedule in 2018


Breaking Stories

Chris Coleman wants to get Sunderland 'rocking and rolling' again

Galway overcome Dublin in Boston semi-final

Watch Zolani Tete make history with the fastest knockout ever in a world title boxing match

Griffith College stun UCD Marian in Men's Super League

Lifestyle

A towering achievement: Exploring Irish castles and beautiful buildings

Books that belong on the gardener's bookshelf

The domestic flash of Francis Brennan

John Wilson touring with music made with Rory Gallagher in Taste

More From The Irish Examiner