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Monday 26 February 2018

Proud Bastick exits with a 'heavy heart'

Durable Dub won five All-Irelands in his 30s

Denis Bastick celebrates with his son Aiden after Dublin’s victory over Mayo in this year’s All-Ireland SFC final at Croke Park. Pic: Sportsfile
Denis Bastick celebrates with his son Aiden after Dublin’s victory over Mayo in this year’s All-Ireland SFC final at Croke Park. Pic: Sportsfile

Good things come to those who wait ... the phrase could well have been coined for Denis Bastick, who yesterday announced his Dublin retirement.

The 36-year-old steps away from Jim Gavin's squad with a treasure trove of memories and a plethora of medals.

But it wasn't always thus for a player who had to bide his time, while defying the doubters who questioned his value and queried his discipline, before going on to enjoy a stellar second coming.

Bastick is the first of the current Dublin generation to retire with a full hand of Celtic Crosses - five in all.

"There is no easy time to step away from something that has been a driving goal and the fulfilment of a lifelong ambition," he explained in his valedictory statement. "But I feel that now is the right time for me to retire from the Dublin senior football panel.

Golden era

"I do so with a heavy heart, but equally with an enormous sense of pride and satisfaction to have been a part of what has and continues to be a golden era for Dublin football."

Incredibly, all five All-Ireland senior titles came in his 30s. The Templeogue Synge Street clubman started in two September deciders - the breakthrough final in 2011 and another in 2015, both against Kerry. He came off the bench against Mayo at the three-quarter point in 2013 and made an injury-time cameo in last year's drawn decider against the same opposition. But he didn't feature in the replay and wasn't listed in the match-day '26' for this year's All-Ireland, also against Mayo.

His last SFC appearance came as a late sub against Carlow, back in early June; given his dwindling on-field role, retirement comes as no surprise.

And yet his achievements are all the more remarkable in the context of his initial, sometimes fraught attempts to become a Dublin senior mainstay.

He was first promoted by Paul Caffrey in 2005 but it would take another four years - and another manager, in Pat Gilroy - before he made his SFC debut, as a 28-year-old.

Even more curiously, that 2009 baptism against Meath came in a new position - Gilroy's belief that Bastick could be the answer to Dublin's full-back dilemma lasted until the end of that campaign, but no further.

Even though his full-back foray would end in Kerry calamity, Bastick now bows out with 11 Leinster SFC titles and four Allianz League medals to go with his famous SFC five - plus an All-Ireland junior title won in 2008.

But why the initial struggles to nail down a place on the team, or even squad? Bastick touched on this himself during an interview in late 20 13.

"I was a liability to the team," he candidly admitted. "You know you are no good to anybody if you are not going to complete the full game, or if you are going to leave the team a man down ... it is no good to anybody. Definitely I had issues with discipline. There were areas I had to try and focus on personally, and sometimes that's harder because it's mental. There is nothing physical there to work on, it is purely mental and I tried to deal with that.

"It has helped me," he added, "because in the past some of the discipline issues probably added to the reason why I wasn't kept around the team."

In his retirement statement, he encapsulated what it meant to be a 'Blue'.

"Playing for Dublin is something I've never taken lightly," he said. "It has been both an honour and a privilege to wear a sky blue jersey, to run out onto a full Croke Park and to have been a part of Dublin county panels since 2005.

"I have been fortunate to win an All-Ireland junior medal and five All-Ireland senior medals in this time - but of equal value to me are the friendships and the memories that I have amassed along this journey ...

"There was a time when simply making a Dublin training panel was an all-consuming ambition, then staying there and trying to make the bus for the match-day panel, then the starting team and trying to bring Sam Maguire back to the capital. Apart from the injuries, I would gladly do it all again.

Treasure

"To have captained the junior squad under Mick Deegan, Mick Galvin and Jack Sheedy and been on the senior squads under Pillar Caffrey, Pat Gilroy and Jim Gavin was an honour I treasure, and I would like to greatly thank the assistance given to me by John Costello and the Dublin County Board and successive backroom teams and medical teams over this time."

Bastick offers special thanks to the GPA; to his employer EBS; to Sean McKiernan, Alan O'Brien and everyone in his club. He highlights his "debt of gratitude" to wife Jody; the inspiration of his son Aiden (two) and daughter Clara-Jane (six months); and thanks his parents, family and friends for "allowing me to pursue my dream." He also cites the unwavering support of fans who "were on the road with us on dark days, cold days and glory days."

"Playing for Dublin is special, and I feel blessed to have battled alongside so many special footballers," he says. "Stepping away from this group of outstanding athletes and people is not easy. But I look forward to seeing them continue and cheering them on the journey of being the best they can be and maximising the precious time that they have in that most sacred jersey."

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