GAA Football

Winning never loses its appeal for Dublin's Denis Bastick

Kerry's Bryan Sheehan and Dublin's Denis Bastick at Monday's launch of the Allianz National Football League Division One final, to be played at Croke Park on Sunday
Picture by Sportsfile 
Cahair O'Kane at Croke Park

YOU’LL be 35 in May. Three Celtic Crosses in your back pocket. More Leinster medals than you could count. The stage is set to go out on a high.

So why was Denis Bastick in Enniscorthy on the first weekend of January, lining out with a crowd of youngsters against Wexford in an O’Byrne Cup game: “Greed,” says the Dublin midfielder.

“Like, why does any sportsperson? Why do Kilkenny stay coming back and winning? It doesn’t get any less appealing to win an All-Ireland. That hunger, that’s always there. That stays there. Maybe it was the right time, starting an All-Ireland final and winning, to step away. Maybe that was the right time to go but, for me at the moment, I’m enjoying playing football, I’m enjoying playing on the team. Being involved in that group. It’s a special place. It’s a great place to be.”

Alan Brogan’s chassis was of a 1982 vintage, a full year younger than Bastick’s, but the slog was more telling on the legendary inside-forward. He stepped away from a 14-season inter-county career in the winter, content with his lot.

Bastick, though, only made his Leinster Championship debut in 2009. That’s part of it: “He was playing minor and U21 football, whereas my Championship debut was at 28 and I won my first All-Ireland at 30. It’s different for me, my career was later on, but it doesn’t make it any easier.”

The decision was quick and it was final. He was back in the fold straight away, not off enjoying the extended winter usually reserved for men of his vintage. He was six-years-of-age the last time Dublin met Kerry in a National League final in 1987.

The big two will renew acquaintances on Sunday in front of what is set to be the largest ever crowd for a National League decider. Over 50,000 tickets have already been sold, with the GAA set to mark the 100th anniversary of the first shots of the Easter Rising being fired exactly a century to the day ago.

That mouth-watering prospect always seems a long way away in January, Bastick admits with the demeanour of a man who has it all behind him now that the slog gets ever tougher: “Ah yeah, it gets harder and harder. It’s a tough place, the winter, you’re in the dark all the time and you’re in the bad weather and stuff like that.

“They’re the days that you look forward to the summer time and the nice weather and the bright evenings and that gets you through that period of time. But you’re there with 30 guys and everyone’s going through the same, tough thoughts and hard training, but you just pull each other along and get through it but, definitely, it is harder the older you get.”

The more scientific the approach to Gaelic football has become, the more gets asked of players. The veteran one-time defender feels the game, like any sport, will continue to evolve, but that the demand on players is very close to its plateau.

“I think you can see now that the players coming into a panel are in much better shape than, say, 10 years ago. Their conditioning is much better, they’re faster and more powerful. They’re starting at a much higher level than years ago.

“Sport is always evolving. There’s lots taken from other sports in terms of stats, video work, strength and conditioning. I think it’ll always evolve and change. How much can you actually get out of a human being? When Roger Bannister broke the four minute mile, they would have said that was impossible and then everyone started doing it.

“Sprinters in the Olympics were setting world records and they’re being broken all the time. The possibilities are endless.”

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