Dubs warrior Bastick calls time on stellar career in blue
As Indian summers in inter-county Gaelic football go, none could possibly be more fruitful than Denis Bastick's last nine years with the Dublin senior football squad.
Bastick was 28 when he made his Dublin debut against Meath in the 2009 Leinster quarter-final. When he signed off yesterday, he had five All-Ireland senior medals to his credit.
A hard, uncompromising midfielder, the attitude he brought was something Pat Gilroy was keen to harness initially and cherished too by Jim Gavin who appreciated the standards he set for others at Dublin training sessions.
Bastick dipped in and out of Dublin squads during the mid-2000s, making his league debut in the infamous Omagh clash with Tyrone in 2006 but rupturing his cruciate knee ligament a year later.
Discipline could be an issue, however. He was red-carded in an O'Byrne Cup match against Carlow in early 2008. A few weeks later he was cut from the league squad.
That prompted him to hang a picture in his apartment of a scene from the 2002 All-Ireland final between Armagh and Kerry which he captioned 'unfinished business'.
He immersed into a Dublin junior team that he captained to win an All-Ireland title, prior to Dublin outgrowing that particular competition.
From that team, managed by Mick Deegan who went on to be a selector under Gavin, the inter-county careers of Darren Daly, Mick Fitzsimons, Jonny Cooper and Eoghan O'Gara spawned.
In 2008, he inspired his club Templeogue/Synge St to a Dublin intermediate title, prompting a recall from Gilroy.
Bastick played full-back for Dublin in the heavy 2009 All-Ireland quarter-final defeat to Kerry, clashing with Kieran Donaghy who was injured but on water duties that day.
As Gilroy sought to reshape the team in 2010 after that defeat and the five-goal defeat to Meath, Bastick looked a peripheral figure, having broken his ankle in the early part of the year, but in 2011 his value soared and he kicked an early second-half point in the 2011 All-Ireland final against Kerry.
It looked like he would pack it in after the 2015 All-Ireland final, which he started, but he remained on, encouraged by Gavin, admitting that it was motivation to hear of the relative strength of opposing midfield partnerships in Mayo and Kerry.
Championship appearances decreased, however, and this year his only summer outing was against Carlow as a late substitute.
Significantly, in paying tribute to their colleague a number of current players, from Ciarán Kilkenny to Brian Fenton, referenced Bastick's training-ground competitiveness.
The 35-year-old - one of 12 Dublin players with five All-Ireland medals - reflected on his decision to retire in a statement yesterday.
"There is no easy time to step away from something that has been a driving goal and the fulfilment of a lifelong ambition.
"But I feel that now is the right time for me to retire from the Dublin senior football panel. 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.
"Playing for Dublin is something I have never taken lightly. It has been both an honour and a privilege to wear a sky blue jersey, to run out on to 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 and these are things I will cherish."
When it comes to retirement, Henry Shefflin believes that GAA players are more capable of coping with it than professional sportspeople as they have a better life-balance during the careers.
According to the Kilkenny legend, continuing to have a job during their careers means it is not as big an upheaval compared to professional athletes.
"There are two kinds of people when you retire. You have such a buzz. I think professional people struggle more. It is their life, it is their work," said Shefflin, at the launch of a book in Galway in which 14 Irish sports stars outline how they dealt with retiring.
"We have a better balance in our life, we have a job, we play sport first and foremost to enjoy it, first at underage and then when we get to a high level."