Denis Bastick loves being back in blue after injury plagued season
Midfield veteran is relishing every minute after last season's 'disastrous' injury run
JIM GAVIN announced to the waiting media in Clones on Sunday that Alan Brogan will return to the Dublin football panel this week.
What perhaps went unnoticed, amid the inevitable rush of Brogan's Back headlines, was the ongoing contribution of another 33-year-old veteran to the Sky Blue cause.
Denis Bastick was a late call-up against Monaghan, having been a late withdrawal the previous week from the team announced to face Derry - his only no-show in seven Allianz League games this spring. Prior to that, he lined out in four of their five O'Byrne Cup matches.
Do the maths: the Dubs have played 12 games in 2015 and their midfield anchor from Templeogue Synge Street had started ten of them.
The contrast with last season - when a litany of injury setbacks curtailed Bastick to one Leinster final cameo, as a 59th minute sub against Meath - could not be any more pronounced. It also helps to explain why the oldest member of Gavin's squad (he turns 34 next month) was so willing to recommit at the start of this season.
"Last year was pretty disastrous, injury-wise," he told The Herald yesterday. "It was a domino effect. It started off with a shoulder operation in December. My first game back I got to play a club game and did medial ligaments in the knee. That put me out for a further eight weeks. And then I came back from that and got a hamstring injury straight away.
"I was fit towards the end of championship but hadn't a lot of game-time under my belt, so it didn't put me in a good position to play any championship football for Dublin."
For this late senior bloomer and holder of two Celtic Crosses, it didn't feel like the right time to go.
"In theory you'd like to go out on a high, and that wasn't the case," he reflected. "It was very disappointing, the semi-final (against Donegal) last year, and the way the year panned out for me altogether.
"But I looked at myself and what I could bring to the team, and I sat down with Jim - and if he wanted me there was another thing as well."
Gavin did indeed and so far, touch wood, 2015 has been the polar opposite to last year. "Things have gone well in the early part of the year in terms of injuries and fitness. It gives you a chance then - you're available for selection which is a huge bonus," he said.
"Any time you get to put on the jersey is a special time, whether that be O'Byrne Cup or the National League."
No wonder, then, that Bastick feels such empathy for the recent plight of Eoghan O'Gara - even more so as a clubmate who was also playing in the game that resulted in his season-ending cruciate injury, plus a broken ankle for his younger brother (and Dub U21) Killian O'Gara.
"Devastating for the guys involved - the family, the club, the whole lot. Looking back, it was a really sad day for the club and Dublin as well. He'll be sorely missed in the Dublin camp," his colleague stressed.
"Again, these things happen in sport. To see such a bad break, for Killian first of all and then for that to happen Eoghan afterwards - what are the odds? It makes you value your time and your health a lot more when you see fellas going through stuff like that."
Still, the inter-county carousel keeps turning and Bastick is enjoying the ride, the latest episode coming in Clones where Dublin went up "expecting a really tough battle - which it was, indeed - but we weren't expecting the margin to be as big."
That 11-point cakewalk sets up a semi-final rematch in Croke Park next Sunday (4.0), with Dublin's seasoned campaigner keen to stress the mantra that "no two games are going to be the same."
For Bastick, one of this year's few slightly discordant was struck in that so-called 'Death of Football' match against Derry - the one he didn't start - where frustrated fans booed the visitors for their ultra-defensive set-up.
Watching on from the bench, he felt "slightly uncomfortable" at the reaction.
"They're there to play football and do the best they can, and to hear that from a crowd … it's not a nice element of the game. Those guys are training just as hard as us and trying to play as best they can, so hopefully that won't be something we're going to see later on in the year," he concluded.