Dublin's Dean Rock is expecting a close encounter with Tyrone
DEAN Rock has said he expects Tyrone to be much more adept at repelling a fast Dublin start in Sunday's All-Ireland final at Croke Park.
There was a genuine belief before last year's semi-final clash between the counties that Tyrone could ask serious questions of Jim Gavin's side, but once Con O'Callaghan found the net in the fifth minute, an air of inevitability enveloped the encounter.
Dublin eventually secured a 2-17 to 0-11 win en-route to a third straight All-Ireland triumph, but the Ballymun star is expecting a much tougher test this time around.
“I suppose we really hit the ground running and that goal from Con kind of lit us up, we racked up a couple of points after that," Rock said.
“Before too long then, we had our noses well in front. In fairness, Tyrone, from what I remember, came out in the second-half and got a couple of scores, missed a couple of scores and we went up field and executed our ones.
“If they got their scores, who knows what would have happened, but certainly last year we came out and started really, really well and got the goal.”
The 12-point winning margin was the exception rather than the norm, according to Rock, and he anticipates a return to the blood and thunder clashes they have enjoyed with Mickey Harte's side in the past.
“A lot of things went well for us in that game, we were lucky in certain times in that game and just built on the momentum from that goal," he added.
“We really kicked on before half-time and then, after half-time, maybe from 45, 50 minutes, we kicked on again.
“We performed really well that day and Tyrone probably weren't happy with how they performed.
“I suppose it's been a truer reflection, the last couple of times that we've played them, how good of a team they are and, especially in Croke Park in '17, we drew with them in the league and, in 2013, only beat them by a point in the league final. So I think that was a truer reflection.”
Despite seeing the early stages of his career stalled by injuries and the inability to break into the starting 15, Rock has now become a mainstay of the Dublin attack.
He is hoping to lift Sam Maguire Cup for a fifth time this weekend and he said the buzz of running out for the final never disappears.
“From a player's perspective, everyone wants to play in the game and everyone wants to play in an All-Ireland final. That's what you dream of as a kid," he said.
“We'll be really looking forward to the game and enjoying the build-up and enjoying the game on the day. As I said, it's every young person's dream, it's every player's dream in the country to play in an All-Ireland.”
Rock also said playing in so many finals previously allows him to treat it like just another game, a luxury the Tyrone squad can't enjoy.
“I'm sure, if it was my first final, it could be completely different," he said.
“I can't remember what it was like, but it's just a case that that's great that we've been there so many times before and you just draw on those experiences and those habits that you've built up in the past.”