I was a liability to the team – Bastick
Dubs midfielder insists past sins have taught him to turn the other cheek when provoked
With the comfort of two All-Ireland medals, Denis Bastick can look back now on a time in his Dublin career when he considered himself a "liability" to his team.
It's a strong word to use but one of his own choosing when asked to consider the perception of himself as a footballer too easily disposed to bouts of indiscipline on the field.
Bastick's rap sheet in blue extends back to the infamous 'Battle of Omagh' in 2006 – when he was one of four to see red – and carries into his O'Byrne Cup dismissal against Carlow in 2008, a retrospective suspension for an incident with 'maor uisce' Kieran Donaghy 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 earlier this year.
Sometimes too eager, often too late, Bastick has found trouble all too easily in the past. But he has found a way out of it, too. His last dismissal came in January after a heated moment towards the end of the O'Byrne Cup final against the Lilywhites.
Bastick struck out but pleaded provocation afterwards, and it's a theme that has resonated with the 32-year-old for much of his career.
"If you get a name for getting up early, you can stay in bed all day," he reflects. "The same really, if you get a name for being sent off, people are going to deliberately try to rise you and that's the unfortunate thing because you get extra attention.
"But I was a liability to the team. 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," adds the midfielder.
"It has helped me, because in the past some of the discipline issues probably added to the reason why I wasn't kept around the team."
For such a combative player to address such an issue was a challenge.
"It's not easy to do but I did it through my own different ways and it seemed to work. You walk away. You are going to get tested mentally in a lot of different ways," he says.
"That is the biggest thing, to take anything that is thrown at you and take it on the chin and be able to use that and put a positive spin on it.
"Of course, if you look at the top teams, they play on the line or the edge and you need that – you need that competitiveness, you need that edge to try and get you over the line, but the odd time you run the risk of crossing it."
His last sending-off cost him the first two games of the league and, as a consequence, left him chasing his team-mates for much of the season.
Bastick featured sparingly during the league and, with Cian O'Sullivan adapting so well at midfield, it soon became apparent that his impact would be off the bench.
In all the second-half appearances he made as a substitute he had an impact, most notably against Meath in the Leinster final and Mayo in the All-Ireland final, when he had the presence of mind to lay off the ball to Bernard Brogan for his second goal.
"We always knew every game was going to involve the five subs and as a player on the bench that gives you huge hope that you have a great chance of getting on," he says.
"Unfortunately, that tag may stay with you, but you don't listen to that. You try to just see what's best for the team. If you're coming on and making an impact you're really happy that you're doing that and proud of yourself for doing that."
His career has been a tale of redemption and perseverance.
In 2008, Paul Caffrey's last year as manager, he was left off the squad and it was only in 2009, when Pat Gilroy recalled him on the back of captaining Dublin to an All-Ireland junior success the previous year, that he made his championship debut at the age of 28.
"Somebody told me I was finished at that particular moment in time. Personally I felt I wasn't finished so I was going to do whatever I could to try and get back to that position to prove to myself I was able for inter-county football and able to play on the Dublin team," he recalls.
Bastick still has to make up his mind as to whether he will be a Dublin player in 2014. Or maybe, he suggests, that choice will be taken from him. The temptation to go out on a winning note is there.
"I haven't made any decision as I am busy playing with the club (Templeogue/Synge Street are involved in a Division 2 league promotion final against Ballinteer on Sunday)," he explains.
"I have a couple of niggles that I want to get looked at. It would be hard to walk away, but maybe the decision mightn't be mine either so I just have to stay positive."