Monday 18 December 2017

Bastick's radar is on full alert for midfield battle with Kerry

Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

ALL THE imagined hoopla surrounding Dublin football is greatly exaggerated if you're to judge by midfielder Denis Bastick, who insists "the hype is just for fans."

Paul Griffin said as much earlier this year also, when he noted that he could generally wander around his local Dundrum Shopping Centre completely unnoticed, in sharp contrast to how immediately recognisable senior footballers are in most other counties.

If Gilroy's men break the 16-year All-Ireland duck next Sunday, that will surely change.

Bastick comes from a club (Templeogue) who, when it amalgamated with Synge St in 1999, brought him into contact with a particularly iconic Dub, the 'Blue Panther' Anton O'Toole, who is still involved in the club's team management.

He is thankful for having a much lower profile and says he is never recognised as a Dublin footballer, not even in his banking workplace in Drumcondra.

If he had been born an hour down the M7 he might have been recognised far more, especially if he'd inherited his family's hurling gene.

His relatives in Laois include a legendary hurling family from Camross.

PJ, Martin, Sean and Ger Cuddy are all his uncles and the latest generation of O'Moore hurlers includes cousins such as Packie Cuddy and Damien Culleton.

Now he can chuckle that the success of the current Dublin hurlers has really helped take the pressure and limelight off their footballers.

"I never got into hurling, but it's great for the county to be able to compete at both. There's a lot of competition obviously with the other codes (rugby and soccer), so it's great to have both strong now and, hopefully, it will boost more players to get involved," he says.

Gaelic football was always Bastick's game growing up in Terenure, but his gestation period before becoming a Dublin senior was longer than most.

He never played minor or U-21 for the county and his break didn't come until he captained Dublin to an All-Ireland junior title in 2008.

He was 27 then, so, did he think his chance was gone?

"I suppose I never gave up the hope," he says candidly.

"I was always trying to remain positive, trying to improve myself and hoping the window would open and luckily enough it did."

Yet, even when it did, it was not a seamless transition.

When Paul Caffrey did call him up a couple of red cards saw him earn a reputation for being too easily riled.

And when he made his senior championship debut in 2009, he found himself filling a hole at full-back.

Kerry threw Declan O'Sullivan in on him in an All-Ireland quarter-final that all Dubliners would prefer to forget, their performance most memorably summed up by their manager as being reminiscent of 'startled earwigs'.

But now Bastick is back facing the Kingdom in a final in his rightful place -- at midfield.

Like several of his team-mates, Pat Gilroy's arrival has coincided with an improvement in his discipline and a dedication to the team ethic.

Michael Daragh Macauley may be seen as the Sherpa Tenzing of Dublin's regularly rotating midfield, but Bastick has done an awful lot of the heavy lifting recently and was particularly outstanding against Tyrone in the quarter-final.

The inter-county midfield landscape has changed considerably.

Short kick-outs and third midfielders means it is no longer the habitat of cloud-ticklers like Ciaran Whelan and Darragh O Se, but men who are willing to test their endurance and strength in equal measure.

Kerry's midfield of Anthony Maher and Bryan Sheehan is a successful pairing that few would have predicted, but their first-choice back-up, Seamus Scanlon, may have to sit this one out.

Yet Bastick has no doubt that his radar will be particularly crowded next Sunday and expects to be operating in heavy traffic.

"I haven't come across a bad Kerry footballer yet, so it's going to be a huge challenge to try and cope with them. In midfield now every game is different, so it's about being able to adapt."

Irish Independent

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