DUBLIN GAA’s Dean Rock is one of the greatest free kick takers Gaelic football or the GAA has ever seen.
The Ballymun star has held his nerve in the biggest moments and on the biggest stage for Dublin GAA – who can forget his late free in the 2017 All-Ireland Final against Mayo?
Not to mention that in 2019, he kicked a total of 32 out of 36 frees to help Dublin complete the historic five-in-a-row.
In this blog, we’re delighted to have Rock himself share his free kick secrets and tips with us, covering kicking off the ground, out of his hands, mental cues and more.
The tutorial was done as part of our Leader Kicking series in association with Puma and Tadgh Leader, and also features Dublin LGFA’s Kate O’Sullivan.
If you want to improve your free taking, you don’t want to miss this.
Before you scroll, are you curious to see if Dean Rock made our Ultimate XV from the Past Two Decades?
Read on for more.
Dean Rock on… Kicking the ball out of your hands?
“It’s a feel thing for me.
“If I was playing with the wind, I’d usually always kick them out of my hands, because I feel once I get my shoulder position right, direction with which my feet need to go and commitment to the strike, the wind will do the majority of the work for me.
“If I’m kicking into the wind, there is far more that can go wrong, so I find it more comfortable to put it on the deck.
“I find it’s hard to get the elevation when you’re kicking off the ground with the wind behind you too. So it’s that bit easier to kick under and up through the wind.”
Dean Rock on… Getting his routine right
“Once a free is awarded I am getting ready mentally and physically for the kick.
“I might not be the person fouled, so I always take my time getting across to take it, allowing me to take a few breaths and get my heart rate down because that will help me think more clearly about the process.
“Once I get over the ball I am making my mind up whether to go out of my hands or off the ground. So in this instance, we’re about 30 yards, the wind is kind of in my favour, so I would have decided by now to go out of the hands.
“I then want to find the general direction in which the wind is blowing. Here, it’s going from right to left, so that will dictate my starting position.
“A big cue for me is always having my left shoulder facing towards the target, so I want it facing the right post.
“The other shoulder I am going to try my best to hide as long as possible in the run up so I don’t open up. If I open my chest in anyway, the likelihood is that I’m going to curl it to the left and miss.
“So my number one focus is left or near shoulder to the target before moving in a direction that doesn’t allow my right shoulder to rotate inwards and drag it to the left.
“After that, it’s trying to keep the head down and having a full commitment to the strike – don’t quite on the kick.”
Dean Rock on… mental cues when kicking
“Before I kick, I always use the word ‘commit’ – just as I’m approaching the kick, it’s ‘commit’.
“So not thinking of any outcome, just the process and the commitment.
“I much rather miss at the far post than the near post. Because when I miss at the far post I know I just need to change the angle at which I’m running so it should just go over on the inside of the post.
“In terms of the target, I always practice kicking between the far post and the black spot, narrowing the target. So in a game, you then have a bigger target and that helps when the pressure is on.”
Kicking off the Ground
“When kicking off the ground I always try and hit the valve. It’s not done with any science behind it, more just a habit in terms of what helps me point the ball towards the target.
“I try and strike the ball off the toe a bit more than usual as it helps get elevation.
“I step back directly from the target first and in terms of stepping left, it’s whatever I feel comfortable with really and depend on where I am on the pitch.
“If I’m shooting from the right side of the pitch, I’m not going to take as many steps to the left as if I was kicking from the left side for example.”
Kicking off the ground Routine
“There’s a bit more control when you’re kicking off the ground because you know the ball isn’t moving and all you need to do is focus on your alignment.
“When I’m kicking off the ground it’s all about getting my head and chest over the ball and get that full commitment because a bad miss for me are where I’ve quit on it, come up too soon and dragged it left.
“I used to count for 1 or 2 seconds after the kick to keep my head down and avoid looking up and worrying about the outcome – process is more important.
“My planted leg is also important in terms of trying to get that as close to the side of the ball as possible.
“I would say it is very close to the ball and where I’m trying to hit it from.
“In the past when I was kicking, I’d often get the cameraman to come out with me and record videos to find bits of inconsistencies and sometimes it would be here in the positioning of my planted foot.
“So I’ve found that if I can get my foot planted in the general direction of being side by side with the ball, it will give me the best purchase or strike.”
Free kick tips and insight doesn’t come much better than from Dean Rock.
Make sure to check out the full video below to see Rock in action alongside Kate O’Sullivan and Tadgh Leader.
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