Rock: Donegal defeat a blessing in disguise

Barney Rock considers the 2014 All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Donegal as one of the toughest lessons this current Dublin side has learned, but suggests last year’s Division 1 final loss to Kerry was just as informative to Jim Gavin.

Donegal players get the better of Dublin in a goalmouth scramble near the end of the 2014 All-Ireland SFC semi-final.

The Dublin legend and father of Dean acknowledges the defeat to Donegal four years ago as the one that transformed the All-Ireland champions:

“Up to even last year, teams were setting up against them, they (Dublin) had the plan for defending, how do you get in and around them.

Dublin can be thankful to Donegal for what they did in 2014, because after that (defeat), Dublin looked at a plan and, who knows, they mightn’t be in this situation if they had beaten Donegal.

As Dublin get set to face Kerry in Croke Park on Sunday, Rock senses the team has made sure not to find themselves too much behind in games, as they did in last April’s league final.

“I think Dublin are still trying to get over last year’s league campaign. With the league last year, it was a bit of blow that they lost the game, but I think if you look at last year’s form, Dublin, in all the matches that they played in the league, or certainly in the tight matches, Dublin have always given the teams a bit of a lead.

“Certainly, when you go back to Monaghan, we were five or six points down and ended up winning that game to get us into a league final. There was other league matches like that. I thought that maybe last year in the league final it looked the same.

Barney Rock says Dublin can ‘be thankful’ to Donegal for beating them, as the Dubs were forced to devise a plan that has served them well.

"We got ourselves four or five points down and then we clawed it back to within a chance of levelling it, and probably people say if we levelled it we might have gone on and won it. I think now Dublin are getting themselves into the lead now.

"They are not relying on knowing that the last 10 minutes they can come back and get scores. This year, it’s been slightly different. They’ve been ahead with 10 minutes to go rather than behind.”

Dublin remain the fittest team in the country regardless of their late return to training, says Rock.

“They are probably a little bit fitter than most of the teams.

"Believe it or not, looking at them, they are more conditioned than some of the teams they have been playing and I think that was what got them over the line against Kildare, even though Kildare might have probably have had two months [of training] before that, but the Dublin lads don’t let themselves go, it’s not a big party time and they just seem to want to get back to play football and, hence, a lot of them, I’d say at the minute don’t want to let somebody else come in.

They want to hold their spot, because they feel [if they lose it] that they mightn’t get in the next time.

Following Alan Brogan’s comments about his brother Bernard’s cruciate injury earlier this week, Rock believes it would be more difficult for him to make a season return this year, as the All-Ireland final will be earlier.

“Knowing him, the way he is, he expects to be back and he’ll put every effort into getting back. I know we all think that might be short-term, but the only good thing about it is that at least the match is in September now.

"In your mindset, if it was August you might be saying, ‘ah, there’s only five months’, but at least if they did get to a final at least he’d have a chance to get back.”

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