Memory of 2009 loss to Kerry still fuels Denis Bastick’s passion
Even the subsequent wins over the Kingdom have not erased the Dublin veteran’s pain
Denis Bastick: “Having come back after winning it is very much in your mind what we did in ’11, what we did after ’13 when we weren’t able to go back to back.” Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho
In an unashamed act of ageism, at the end of this interview we try to retire Denis Bastick. Because we, the media, have this habit, this need, to put athletes in a neat little box.
Just like almost every BBC or RTÉ interview at the Olympics Games.
What next? Tokyo 2020? Even if the answer is yes, who can honestly leap that far ahead?
“If you focus on what is down the line you are taking away from what is in front of you,” said Bastick, sounding like Buddha reincarnated.
Still, every time this rare breed of Gaelic footballer (in that he speaks to journalists without seeking to promote anything) sits down we wonder about his exit strategy, because that is a better story than celebrating his longevity in a sport now designed for freakishly conditioned humans.
But to be a survivor at 35, having made his debut in 2005, is a phenomenal achievement. Every moment above water becomes a form of motivation.
“I try to relish where I am. Every training session I try to make the most of it.”
Sounds emanating from Kerry promise all-out warfare in Croke Park on Sunday.
Éamonn Fitzmaurice and Bryan Sheehan recently stated that Dublin have been the hungrier team, that Kerry failed to match their aggression levels in those 2011, 2013 and 2015 defeats.
“Whatever we did in the past is not going to be good enough. They are obviously looking at themselves, looking to give more.”
Despite making his debut for Dublin during the 2005 league, Bastick didn’t meet Kerry until 2009.
He will never forget that day at full back as Dublin under Pat Gilroy reached an All-Ireland quarter-final only to be embarrassingly dismissed within 40 seconds.
Mike McCarthy sauntered all the way up from centre back to link Darran O’Sullivan to Gooch Cooper for a goal into a stunned Hill.
This showed everything wrong with Dublin in microcosm. Tom O’Sullivan was next to raid up field for a point.
Twelve minutes played and Kerry led 1-3 to 0-1. Kerry had 1-10 up when Alan Brogan posted Dublin’s second point after 27 minutes. It was 1-14 to 0-3 at half-time.
That was a problem so clearly addressed by Dublin since but not even the success that followed has been unable to erase Bastick’s pain.
“No, that’s ingrained in your heart. And it doesn’t and it won’t [go away]. We often talk about ’09 but we’ve moved on, they’ve moved on.
They haven’t forgotten about last year’s final or 2013.
“You don’t forget. You don’t forgive either. You just have to move on.
“After a 17-point defeat you would laugh wouldn’t you? That’s in the past, it is there. Eventually there will be no one left from the ’09 team, no one to remember, so there will be no connection there.”
For Dublin the next step towards lasting greatness, or becoming the greatest, is to retain Sam Maguire. Only achieved this century by Kerry, twice Dublin have tried and failed.
“2011 was all new to us. 2015 wasn’t. Everyone wanted a piece of us in 2011 but that was important to do it for the city and the schools. I think we have moved on from that stage and I think, maybe, so have supporters. They have got used to winning a bit more.
“We had to do what most teams have to do on the back of a win but I think we over extended ourselves, possibly. And that was very difficult to get back the following year.
“Ultimately the goal is the same every year – to win the Sam Maguire – but having come back in after winning it is very much in your mind what we did in ’11, what we did after ’13 when we weren’t able to go back to back.”
Then we try to retire him, perhaps that’s not so smart because when he is gone we may have no one else to talk to. Not like him anyway, and not without promoting some brand and allowing PR companies control how modern sports journalism is presented.
“You don’t get time to soul search. Training starts back in December and you are either on board or you are not. I don’t have the luxury of taking a few months off.
“It’s better for me to continuously train rather than play catch up. That doesn’t work for me.
“This year I was in full health so it was a case of let’s get on the bike and go again. Played the first game, hopefully I’ll play the last.”