Race for Sam: Evergreen Denis Bastick is primed for Blue battle
Two-time All-Ireland winner would love to add to his Celtic Cross collection
DENIS BASTICK turned 34 last Friday. Culturally, therefore, he may as well have been reanimated from fossil, so far as some of his Dublin teammates are concerned.
"It opens your eyes to how out of touch you are with these younger guys," he says now, on the brink of the Championship directly after a League campaign in which he made a more than decent stab at stunting the growth of that theory that this game is no longer any sort of prosperous country for old men!
"Life…the whole lot. How they operate. Their mindset.
"I'm not on Twitter. I'm so out of touch with these new guys coming in."
Such are the idiosyncrasies of being a 34 year old amongst 'kids'.
And not just any class of students either.
Coltish young footballers decorated with underage silver and educated in third level facilities where their talents for the game are engaged, harnessed and improved upon.
Denis Bastick in action for the Dubs
Bastick prowled the mean fields of Dolphin Park with his club Templeogue Synge St. Until 2012, he never went to college.
Bastick took the hard route into the Dublin panel. Then, he took a harder route out and back in again.
"In terms of your own role, you'd like to think that you've come through a bit," he says.
"That you can offer a word of advice or some leadership that you've learned over the years…what you've learned through the battles and the losses and the defeats, you might be able to bring that in.
"But these guys are winners. They're winning All-Irelands underage. There's very little you can actually tell them. But you'd like to think any bit you can add, that you will."
There is, of course, a great difference between the road-worthiness of a 34-year-old footballer who made his Championship debut at the age of 18 and a 34 year-old footballer who made his Championship debut at the age of 28, a la Bastick.
Whilst flittering in and out of Pillar Caffrey's panel, this is only the seventh season Bastick has considered himself an inter-county footballer, since the arrival of Pat Gilroy in 2009.
Had he flourished early, he doubts he'd still be around now.
"Probably not, I'd say. It does take a toll on the body.
"I don't think if I had had another five years of inter-county football at the start of my career that I'd be still going now."
Partly, he had himself to blame for not cracking it first time around - aggression being both part of his charm and central to his downfall.
His rap sheet covers the 'Battle of Omagh' in 2006 and carries into his O'Byrne Cup dismissal against Carlow in 2008, a retrospective suspension for an incident with Kieran Donaghy (a 'maor uisce' during the match) at the end of that disastrous 2009 All-Ireland quarter-final with Kerry, and further suspensions for red cards against Wexford in 2010 and Kildare in the 2013 O'Byrne Cup.
"I definitely made adaptions," he reflects.
"I tried to improve myself as a footballer. Early on, I had discipline issues and that was a huge part of what I had to try and solve in my own game.
"There were some good omens in terms of my commitment and on that side but in terms of being sent off…that's not of benefit to any team or manager so I tried to rectify that.
"It was a case of tailoring back the aggression and the commitment to a more sustainable level where you're guaranteed to stay on the pitch, which I still continue to try and do."
Having worked for Bank of Ireland since leaving school, Bastick accepted a scholarship through the GPA and undertook to complete an MBA in DCU in late 2012, around the same time Pat Gilroy left and Jim Gavin arrived.
Thus, his future wasn't entirely clear.
Bastick was 31. Emmet Ó Conghaile had made a splash on that year's All-Ireland under-21 winning team.
The likes of Shane Carthy and Brian Fenton were bubbling beneath the surface.
Dublin's future was sunnier now than ever before and 31-year-old midfielders with dodgy discipline records mightn't be viewed with any particular fondness.
At the time, he spoke about wanting to meet the new manager and about showing him what he could do, despite given the great tide of young footballers about to wash over Dublin's shore at that time.
"I suppose that's the worry when any manager comes in - and I've been through a couple. I was lucky enough with Jim that I got a chance.
"Even with the fact that he managed the underage teams and they were coming through and they strengthened the team but for myself, everything was a clean slate for starting off.
"And then it was really just back to me. It's back in your own court. And that's all you really want as a footballer: a chance to perform.
"There were new guys coming in. A few guys were retiring. The team was changing.
"I was conscious of my own age. But at the end of the day, it comes down to football and what you can contribute. And lucky enough, I got some game time."
"We all met as a group," he recalls of the very beginning of Gavin's tenure. "There were a lot of players there and the gauntlet was laid down for what we were going to do and what we were trying to achieve.
"And from the early stage, you just knew you wanted to be part of it. You knew that's where you wanted to be."
So as footballers with plenty more football in them - men younger than Bastick, such as Tomás Quinn and Bryan Cullen - took their leave, he hung tight.
"I made some great friends with those guys and they were great fellas to soldier with but I suppose that's when you look…it is a team game but you have to look at yourself individually and say what's best for you," he points out.
"Those guys played a lot of football and were very consistent for many years with Dublin and I suppose when I was looking on watching those guys play that I felt I wanted to try and hang in a bit longer to see if there was more in myself."
Last year, he had an operation on his shoulder. Then, he tore medial knee ligaments. Then his hamstring went.
And thus his contribution to Dublin's futile defence of their All-Ireland title was one Leinster final cameo, as a 59th minute sub against Meath.
In Dublin's 14 games of 2015 so far, Bastick has started 12.
And therein lies Bastick's newest sense of unfinished business.
Before 2011, it was because inter-county football had left him prematurely and only an All-Ireland could sooth that sense of abandonment.
In 2013, it was the end product from a group of players who decided they hadn't been sated by just one Celtic Cross for their All-Ireland heroics.
"There was a great sense of relief in 2011," Bastick admits.
"When you win one, you start to think that you can win one every year.
"It was a great sense of relief and achievement but you want more of that, more of the same.
"2012 didn't go well for us. We came back in 2013. 2014 didn't go well for us…so it just makes you appreciate when you do win but they're so hard to win."
So, at 34, as the oldest member of the Dublin dressing-room, how many All-Irelands does he think he can win?
"Would I like to win or do I think I can win?" Bastick laughs.
"Ten is a nice round number," he concludes, "but three would be lovely."
I'm not on Twitter. I'm so out of touch with these new guys