‘It was like a tennis game at times’: Rock on facing Tyrone
COMING BACK FROM the jaws of defeat is often the hallmark of great teams.
As if we needed a reminder, Dublin displayed all the qualities associated with a side at the top of their game against the men from Tyrone on Saturday night.
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With the rain bucketing down on a freezing cold night in Croke Park, the All-Ireland champions rallied on the home straight as they often do.
They kicked the last five points down the stretch to rescue a draw as Tyrone attempted to suffocate the encounter, making it 31 games now since they’ve tasted defeat in a competitive fixture.
Jim Gavin’s side have almost forgotten what it feels like to lose.
One man who summed up Dublin’s mental resolve was Dean Rock, who shrugged off the demons of a missed penalty on 40 minutes and steered the ship home with two late frees to capture a share of the spoils.
“Look, there’s great character amongst the squad,” Rock said.
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“It’s only when you go the well you know what is going to come out of it. Everyone dug in when it really mattered.
“When you have that kind of character amongst the squad, it breeds that resolve that we have when you’re a couple of points down with a couple of minutes left, to drag out a draw in the end.
“The main thing you want from teams at this stage of the season is mindset and we had that in bucket loads the other night in terms of our character. When the fight was there we really dug in for each other and got the draw.”
As expected, Tyrone arrived in Croke Park with a carefully thought-out defensive system.
Mickey Harte’s masterplan saw Tyrone concede just two points inside the opening 38 minutes and left his team ahead by 1-6 to 0-4 with 15 minutes of normal time remaining.
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Rock admitted it wasn’t a particularly enjoyable game for a forward to participate in.
“Not when it’s wet anyway!” he laughed.
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“They’re very good, our philosophy in terms of playing football is attacking and trying to get guys off the shoulder and playing that attacking side of football.
“Obviously Tyrone, they play attacking football in different ways in terms of counter-attacking football.
“We analyse opposition and see how we can beat the blanket defence as such. It was nothing new for us but they’re probably a few steps ahead of most in terms of how to play that system and they’re very effective at it.
“It was like a tennis game at times the other night, in terms of back and forth. It took a lot out of players.
“It is very defensive but we’ve come up against it numerous times before and it’s a challenge we kind of enjoy,” he added, channelling his inner-Jim Gavin.
James McCarthy went off injured after sustaining a bang to his calf near the end of the game, but Rock said his Ballymun teammate will make full recovery in time for their next game – a trip to Ballybofey to face Donegal on Sunday week.
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