hill be back Dublin hero Dean Rock says 'it will be nice to get back out in front of the fans'
Dublin football legend Dean Rock is looking forward to returning to the pitch this evening - before he begins wedding planning with fiancée Niamh McEvoy.
With Covid restrictions lifted and crowds allowed back in full, the star forward will line out in Croke Park in front of excited Dubs fans and is buoyed by the expectation that there will be plenty of noise in the stands.
Dublin face Armagh in their National League opener and supporters will be allowed entry without restrictions on numbers for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic.
"It's been such a strange time in our history really and everyone has gone through such hardship so it will be nice to get back out in front of the crowds again," Rock told the Herald.
"Sport is just incredible with what it can do and the GAA is so embedded in our communities that you get to thinking about what a lift it can give with the great games and battles that lie ahead.
"As a nation we love our sport so it was great that we were still able to play and people could watch on the TV, and obviously there was a period where stadiums had some people in them and were quarter full, half full.
"But nothing beats being there and the excitement and lift it gives the supporters - it was strange playing in Croke Park and hearing the echoes with nobody there.
"We were lucky, obviously, to be still able to play football with all that was going on but I really can't wait to get out there again with a full house and have the fans in the stadiums."
Rock popped the question to Dublin Ladies footballer McEvoy in the run-up to Christmas, announcing the news to his almost 38,000 Instagram followers, saying: "If she's not too busy that day she said she will marry me. I'll take that!!" and tagged his wife-to-be in the post.
With the Dubs back in league action, the 31-year-old will have to squeeze the time in to begin venue-hunting, and the pair haven't quite started the search just yet.
"We've just got the engagement out of the way," added Rock, laughing. "But in all seriousness, it was lovely to be able to have that to celebrate over the Christmas with friends and family and I suppose we'll pop down to a couple of venues.
"We do have a few friends getting married this year, so we'll have to find a date that suits everyone but it's very exciting and is something to look forward to.
"All going well, Niamh and I will both be involved in football well into the summer with Dublin - and with our clubs after that. That's the joys of me marrying a GAA footballer - and for Niamh, too, marrying me!"
Rock, who was launching the second consecutive year of the Vhi Health & Wellbeing Fund, said: "The last 22 months have been so challenging for young people, with disruption and uncertainty becoming part of everyday life.
"It's crucial for clubs to be able to offer health and wellbeing initiatives to young people who avail of their services.
"By offering these initiatives, youth leaders can support young people in managing their mental and emotional health.
"What we have been through over the past two years, with people dealing with anxiety and depression and the likes, this fund can only help with people to deal with those stresses in their day-to-day lives and it can only be a positive initiative and a positive partnership.
"Particularly throughout Covid but also, young people have so much on their plate - with the uncertainty of going to college, the Junior Cert and Leaving Cert etc, there's a lot going on in their lives.
"And also in the more disadvantaged areas, this will help people in this regard too. With the Vhi and the Irish Youth Foundation backing this fund, you know it's going to go a long way. That they can put their resources behind this, it will impact so many young lives."
The Vhi Health & Wellbeing Fund is open to not-for-project or charitable organisations that are seeking to deliver projects dedicated to supporting the resilience of young people aged 12-25 years old. Grants of €5,000 and €10,000 will be made available through the fund. Applications to the Vhi Health and Wellbeing Fund can be made via iyf.ie/grants.
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