Dublin's great survivor Bastick draws on criticism to fuel hunger for more glory
Over the course of his career, Denis Bastick has seen almost everything.
He's been discarded and recalled. Started and dropped. Won All-Irelands and been on the outside looking in from the bench. A midfielder by preference, he even filled in Dublin's trouble spot at full-back in 2009 and when it went wrong, he had to sit on his hands as the flak rolled his way.
That was 2009. Dublin won another Leinster title but did so with a fourth different full-back in as many years - Barry Cahill, Ross McConnell, Colin Moran and Bastick all had a go in the No 3 shirt.
Bastick was unfortunate enough to be there for the 2009 All-Ireland quarter-final. Declan O'Sullivan came into the edge of the square on Bastick when he was expecting a wrestle with Tommy Walsh. Colm Cooper had the ball in the net inside a minute. Dublin floundered for 69 more agonising minutes.
That was the time when Dublin were consistently flattering to deceive. A waltz through Leinster would be followed by some new and ever more painful way to lose a match of real significance.
Tyrone and Kerry took turns. Even Mayo, who were struggling with a similar problem themselves, put them out in 2006.
"Automatically you get doubts, especially after a defeat like that (in 2009). The press came down hard on us, they picked holes in a lot of us. Some stuff was written that time so you have to reassess yourself and get back on the wagon," says Bastick.
"You're out there, trying your best, and if it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out. You remember things like that, things that are written.
"Maybe I wasn't up to scratch at that time. I just took the criticism on, and tried to learn from it."
When the Dubs got over the line in 2011, an invisible weight had lifted. Sunday's opponents Mayo find themselves in that boat now. They are within touching distance and have been for years now but they've never quite managed it.
"There's a lot of it mental. We are a better team. We have been improving the last few years, but there is the mental factor in that. We know how to win, we know what it takes to get over the line.
"You have your doubts, and until you get over that final hurdle they are always going to be in your mind. It is a great place we are in right now. We have got the experience of winning."
Bastick was there in 2006 when the carnage unfolded in front of the Hill when both teams tried to warm up there. He had been training with the squad in the build-up but wasn't togged that day.
"We were in a good place then. We were playing a good, open style of football, but we let the floodgates open and they did one over on us," the 34-year-old reflects.
"I was in the stand and about to jump in over the edge!"
That he is still involved nine years later is a tribute to his longevity. When Jim Gavin came in first in 2013, Bastick (pictured left) looked to be on the clock. He was already the wrong side of 30 when he started that year's All-Ireland final on the bench.
Michael Darragh Macauley went on to win Footballer of the Year, while Cian O'Sullivan looked established as his foil in midfield.
Last year Bastick hardly played due to injury and he looked to be running out of road. But he has come back for more and looks like he'll start alongside either Macauley or Brian Fenton.
The sides' last two meetings have seen a win apiece: 2013 goes down as a "special" day. The year before, he reckons Dublin just "ran out of time."
"We came into that game in 2012 hoping we would click; if the game had been on another ten minutes we could have won that day," recalls the Templeogue/Synge Street stalwart. "We didn't start well, gave them too much of a lead and then we were chasing."
There'll be no problem with desire. A year ago Donegal sucker-punched them and Dublin couldn't react. They've been waiting for a chance to get back ever since.
"We were disappointed last year. If you come out to our training sessions, you'll see the hunger that we have there," he says.
"They haven't won it in so many years and there's a lot of talk about their hunger and their curse and what not.
"These guys in our camp are hungry for success. It's good to have that in the locker, that experience."