At 29 and closer to the end of his Dublin football career than the beginning, Dean Rock appears to have finally won over the doubters.
For years, he was pigeon holed by many as principally a free-taker who did his best work from placed ball scenarios.
His winning point from a converted free in the 2017 All-Ireland final against Mayo remains his legacy but there’s clearly more to Rock’s game, much more.
That point was emphasised again in the Leinster final when Rock, who missed the previous two games due to a dead leg, came on against Meath and ran amok, shooting 0-4 in 20-odd minutes.
Three of those points came from play while he set up Con O’Callaghan for a goal and fired inches wide of the upright himself late on.
“I’ve always been confident of myself and sure of myself in general play, as well as frees,” said Rock. “I know that and the team knows that.
“People have perceptions when you are kicking frees and kicking frees over the bar — people just think you are a free-taker.
“But maybe people just thought the likes of Jonny Wilkinson were just kicking goals too but it is not necessarily the case.
“I am fine with that, I am not looking to please anyone outside the group.”
Rock, a virtual ever present in the last four Championship campaigns for Dublin, featured in all of their league games during spring and registered 2-32 with 0-24 of that coming from frees, 45s and Marks.
It’s a high standard he sets himself and a level he needs to remain at because Cormac Costello is a strong rival for his position, an individual duel that boss Jim Gavin must be delighted with.
Costello started all of Dublin’s games in Leinster and struck 1-24 with 0-18 coming from placed balls. He was on the frees against Meath but wasted a chance shortly after Rock came on and was then replaced, handing the duties back to the Ballymun man.
Dublin play Cork or Laois in the Super 8s on Saturday week and Gavin has a big decision to make about which of them he starts, or perhaps both.
“Me and Cormac have practised frees together for the last four or five years,” said Rock, who played down talk of a rivalry.
He’s an excellent free-taker, as is Paul Mannion on the other side. We’d all practise together and it’s just about having that competition, it keeps you on your toes. He’s kicked really well in the opening games of the Championship which is brilliant for the team.
Rock didn’t start last summer’s dead rubber Super 8s game against Roscommon but was otherwise one of the first names on Gavin’s team-sheet from 2015 onwards. He started six of their seven league games this year too, coming on in the other, before picking up the injury.
“It was more a knock than anything else, just more of a bad dead leg and couldn’t shake it,” he said. “I was diligent in my recovery, in my protocols in terms of getting back on the pitch. I knew that once I got back that I was in good shape and physically ready for the challenges ahead.
“I suppose you can get quite apprehensive about (missing games). You just have to have that self-belief and confidence in yourself that when you’re back that you’re going to make that impact and help the team.”
James McCarthy left the pitch in visible discomfort during the 16-point provincial final win over Meath with a knee injury.
It was reported that scans revealed he didn’t suffer any long-term damage though it’s unclear if he’ll be fit for their Super 8s opener.
“James is grand,” said Rock. “Whatever you are hearing is the truth. He is grand, and you know James, he is just so diligent in his recovery and preparation. He has been a warrior for Dublin teams over the last number of years and will be back on the pitch very soon.”
Asked if McCarthy has returned to training, Rock said: “I can’t comment on that now but it is only seven days or so since the injury.”