Dean Rock has said the Dublin training session at Innisfails GAA club on March 31 was the sole occasion where members of the Dublin football panel trained collectively during the ban on such gatherings.
Rock confirmed yesterday he was not present at the end of March Dublin football session that led to manager Dessie Farrell being hit with a three-month suspension by Croke Park.
The Dublin forward also said he did not participate in any other collective training session prior to the sanctioned April 19 return date for inter-county training.
The seven-time All-Ireland winner described the March 31 training session as a “deeply regrettable incident that should never have happened”.
Rock apologised for the gathering and understands why there was such a sizeable — and largely negative — reaction to the news the six-in-a-row All-Ireland champions had breached GAA and public health guidelines.
“That was it, the lads were there on the day and that was it, there was no more,” said Rock when asked if the March 31 meeting in north Dublin was the sole Dublin session prior to the return of collective inter-county training in mid-April.
“The big thing is you take the lessons from it and understand that sometimes as an inter-county footballer you maybe think that it’s the most important thing out there and the only important thing going on whereas, in reflection and hindsight, there’s far more important things in life than Gaelic football and sport.
“That’s one of the big learnings for me to take away from it and I know that’s the same for the lads as well.”
Rock did not wish to comment on whether Dublin were unfortunate to have been caught when it has been suggested — without evidence — that other county panels were engaging in similar get-togethers during the ban on collective training.
Responding to Peter Keane’s remarks that the training breaches by Cork, Down, Dublin, and Monaghan were “wrong” and “unfair on society”, the inside forward said the Kerry manager was entitled to his opinion, but did add that he or other Dublin panelists wouldn’t comment “on other people’s situations like that”.
The three-time All-Star reckoned “the premise” behind the organisation of the March 31 session at Innisfails GAA club was that it would take place outdoors, at a time when “people were obviously out socialising and [doing] different things outdoors”.
“But, as I said, it never should have happened and if we could go back in time it certainly wouldn’t have happened. We’re thankful a decision was made, punishment was issued, and we just move on and look forward to the summer ahead. The situation is dealt with now.”
That punishment, as mentioned above, includes a 12-week ban for Farrell which precludes the manager from attending Dublin training sessions and games until the end of June.
“Not having Dessie around is unfortunate because he’s a big personality to have around the group and he’s the manager of the group. Mick Galvin will step in as the manager and he’s going to be ably assisted by Darren Daly, Brian O’Regan, and Shane O’Hanlon.
“And then the players as well take great ownership and leadership in terms of the operating of the team. So we’ll just carry on and put our best foot forward for the league starting now on Sunday.”
Away from his Dublin involvement, the 31-year-old, who recently moved into the financial planning industry, will resume his free-taking clinic during the summer.
He admitted to being “quite comfortable” with the reaction last summer to the prices he was reportedly charging for his service.
“Obviously, I had to put a value on my time and the product I was providing to people. I’ve been on the receiving end of some professional work from a free-taking perspective and from talking to people and my own experiences, that’s what I felt was the right thing to do.
“Thankfully, it’s been hugely successful. A team that won a championship in Meath last year availed of it (Ballivor, Meath JFC winners). From my perspective, that’s what it’s all about. That’s the positive side of it that people are getting good value out of it, that it’s helping them perform on the pitch and winning championships.
“For me, that’s how I’d like to see it going forward.”