Team hotels are supposed to be chaotic affairs in the wake of an All-Ireland final. Win or lose, the scenes are invariably panoramas of excess and spent emotion. Players wander about in a daze, pulled hither and thither by their nearest and not so dearest alike.
Not in Dublin’s case.
Tourists and business people checked out of the Gibson and ate breakfast in peace, all but oblivious to the fact that the most celebrated footballers in the country were in their midst. Paul Flynn captured the mood when he appeared dressed in an immaculate suit and tie.
Business as usual, it suggested. Just another day in paradise.
Well-wishers, hangers-on and autograph hunters barely amounted to a few dozen and Barney Rock echoed the perfunctory mood when he stopped to chat about this latest win and the decisive role his boy Dean had played in settling the debate.
Barney had a unique insight into that last-ditch, injury-time free. In 1983, he contributed 1-6 to Dublin’s tally of 1-10 against Galway in the most infamous decider of them all and here he was all these years later watching his youngster sign for 0-7.
“He is trained to kick it and (as) he was being brought up he was trained to kick all those frees. He was kicking off the ground also,” said the darling of an earlier generation of Hill 16 denizens. “It is all practice and he definitely has the nerve.
“That (last free) 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 (Stephen) Cluxton’s in 2011, except it was at the other end of the field. It was good for him to kick it over.”
Barney was simply repeating Dean’s mantra from after the game: kicking scores, especially from frees, was his job. It brought to mind Roy Keane’s disdain when dismissing Alex Ferguson’s praise for his famous performance against Juventus in Turin in 1999.
“Like praising the postman for delivering your letters,” Keane had said.
It’s not that Barney didn’t take pride in his kid’s achievement. Far from it. He kicked every ball with his offspring at the weekend, not least in the first quarter on Sunday when the 27-year old sent two efforts on goal astray.
“He struck the ground a little bit, but after that he got four good points from play. I thought he played well in general and was trying to get on the ball. Certainly in the second-half, when they needed to get scores, he got them.”
Photographs taken as Dean Rock went to strike the ball captured a GPS device that had been hurled his way by a Mayo player and it was confirmed yesterday that the object had actually glanced his foot as his leg completed its arc.
“It would have been interesting had the thing hit the ball,” said Barney, “but that is not an issue now.”
Barney has seen what it takes to get to that point. Time and again Dean has refused so much as a slice of apple tart or a biscuit. They all go months without alcohol and the Ballymun forward has had to contend with injury long before he even graced the senior county setup.
“He had a bad injury after the U21s in 2011. He played with a hamstring ... The hamstring was tore off the bone. That came off, but listen, we got it back. We ended up with Dr Eanna Falvey from Cork. He looked after him and got him in there. Monaghan’s (physiotherapist) Ciaran Murray ... we went up to Dundalk and he worked on him for about six months to get it right. He came back and w on a club championship with Ballymun.”
Even then it took time to command the biggest stage. Rock was perceived as an impact sub. He was taken off at half-time in the 2015 All-Ireland final and there has been a lingering theory that he owed his place on the starting 15 to little more than his dead ball skills.
That idea should be diluted by the four points from play on Sunday. Odds are that he will add to his four All-Irelands. Jim Gavin has managed to filter new blood into the team on a regular basis and he has done it while somehow managing to keep the growing number of thirtysomethings on board.
Barney doesn’t see too many of the older faces calling time. Why would they at a time like this? David Hickey, another Dublin legend and a man who has served with recent backroom teams, said four years ago that this vintage would prove to be the county’s finest.
Barney doesn’t see it any differently.
“You have to say that it leaves them in a fantastic place,” said Barney after the capture of Dublin’s first three-in-a-row in nearly a century. “They are the best Dublin team ever and I am not putting down the team of the ‘70s.”