Dublin too experienced to panic, insists Dean Rock
DEAN Rock has insisted there is too much experience in the Dublin dressing-room to panic despite their terrible start to the Allianz League.
After being hammered by Armagh in Round 1 at Croke Park, old rivals Kerry then piled on the misery in Tralee - leaving the 2021 joint-champions in urgent need of a pick-me-up this weekend.
Dublin host Mayo at Croke Park on Saturday evening knowing that a third straight defeat, something they haven't experienced since the 2000/2001 campaign, will leave them staring an unlikely relegation battle in the face.
The bigger picture for Rock is that with 43 different players seeing game time so far in 2022 - that figure could easily hit 50 when their injured players and Kilmacud Crokes representatives return - it's all an investment in the future.
"We know where we're at and what we want to achieve and where we want to go, that's the most important thing," said Rock, a seven-time All-Ireland winner. "We've lost so many key guys and squad members over the last number of seasons.
"This season, we've obviously introduced a lot of new players. There are 14 new players on the panel at the moment. Then there's a lot of injuries too, guys who are just out at the moment. So there's lots of moving parts. That's where we're at. A lot of new guys are getting great exposure.
"They're going to Croke Park against Armagh and getting used to tough games in Tralee against Kerry. That's all a massive part of their development and experience as a Dublin footballer. Obviously you want them to experience wins, and to experience those wins early on in their career. But a bit of adversity does no harm for those guys either. It builds up their mental strength for the season ahead."
Finally suffering defeat in a Championship game last summer has probably given manager Dessie Farrell some greater scope to look at new players, and even a little leeway to lose a few games whilst doing so.
Of those 14 new players who have come into the mix, several played in the 2019 or 2020 All-Ireland U-20 finals. One newcomer from leftfield is Rock's Ballymun Kickhams clubmate, Cameron McCormack who has started three games so far this year, two in the O'Byrne Cup and against Kerry last time out.
"He was playing junior football in Ballymun probably four years ago, he would have a basketball background in school and stuff like that," said Rock of the versatile McCormack who appears comfortable anywhere from the half-back line up. "He's a big man, athletic and well able to play football so he's got exposure now in the O'Byrne Cup and National League and hopefully he can kick on in the next couple of weeks."
Another Ballymun man, Evan Comerford, returned for the Armagh and Kerry games and with Stephen Cluxton's departure now official, Comerford looks poised to follow in the footsteps of not just Cluxton but John O'Leary and Paddy Cullen who all gave lengthy service.
"He performed really well for us last season and again this season he has been great," said Rock. "His attention to detail and analysing of games and kick-outs is phenomenal. He sets the bar like Stephen did."
Mayo, who beat Dublin in last August's All-Ireland semi-final, won't make any allowances on Saturday for the hosts' rebuilding phase. Like Kerry in Tralee, they will be more than happy to stick the knife in and twist it after years of Dubs inflicted pain.
"Every team has an agenda going into a game," reasoned Rock. "That's fine. We would have been in that position over the years as well. Any team, when they get a sniff to go after another team, they'll do it. That's what the best teams do.
"Kerry sniffed an opportunity with the black card in the second quarter the last day and they took full advantage of it and fair play to them.
"For us, it was just about trying to reflect on that second quarter and seeing if we could manage that period a bit better for the next time.
"It's just trying to take the learning from the first two league games."
* Dean Rock was speaking at the Dublin GAA and AIG Insurance official 2022 season launch and the rollout of the 2022 Equal campaign. See www.aig.ie/dublingaa