Dessie Mone may be the most reformed character in Gaelic football but 34-year-old Bastick is not too far behind him.
His lack of discipline was a problem, as much as Paul Caffrey tried to involve him, but his latter years have seen him flourish into a terrific midfielder.
We’ve lost count of the number of key plays the midfielder has been involved in for Dublin under Jim Gavin. Who will forget his clever work for Bernard Brogan’s goal in the 2013 final or his goal-line interception against Mayo in this year’s league? Last year might have been something of a write-off because of injury but few bettered him this spring.
A year younger than Bastick, Brogan isn’t sticking around for the goodness of his health.
He had to rely on some grace from Gavin earlier this year as he and his wife welcomed their second child but he’s played catch-up sufficiently to feature off the bench against Longford. He replaced his younger brother but the common belief is he and Ciarán Kilkenny are battling it out for the same half-forward spot. Can Dublin afford to accommodate two playmakers?
It’s been a few years since Brogan looked so sharp in early summer as he did against Longford. Now 31, he doesn’t appear to be taking on his man as much as he used to, relying on his ever-swift jink and movement off the ball to put him in space for scores.
His reading of the game means it will be quite some time yet before he passes his sell-by date for Dublin.
As Ger Brennan’s comeback grows closer, at least Gavin is safe in the knowledge he has a centre-back who can anchor the line.
Brennan knows himself his stock rose in his absence against Donegal last year. Would he have been the winning of the game? Unlikely but he would have been more dutiful than others in completing his defensive brief and providing Dublin with some shape. Small is from the same mould as Brennan in that his first thought after offloading a ball isn’t what’s in front of him but behind him.Communicating with his fellow defenders will be key as the gradient rises.
“I think Brian Fenton is going to be a name that everybody will remember at the end of the year.”
Spoken like a true club-mate, Ciarán Whelan is singing his fellow Raheny man’s praises. But there’s little seen so far to contradict the former Dublin captain. Only 22, Whelan has seen Fenton progress from an underage player, who may have lacked a little in aptitude, to a starlet who is keeping a footballer of the year out of the team. “Some of the question marks I would have had over him in terms of his work rate, he’s been fantastic so he’s learning and growing into the game all the time.”
Next to Stephen Cluxton, Rory O’Carroll is arguably the most irreplaceable player in the Dublin team. David Byrne coped well against Longford but he may have to be called on more and more throughout this campaign as his hamstring issues continue to haunt him.
He’s also made it clear, one more concussion and he’ll be kissing goodbye to the game. Byrne is indeed the heir apparent but Gavin would loathe to think he might have to go into future battles without his first choice full-back.
Steeling Byrne to be ready to replace him will be a requisite.
The proverbial new player this year after his cruciate difficulties last season, the former dual player looks stronger than he was in 2013.
The beauty about Kilkenny is that, like Alan Brogan and Kevin McManamon, he knows how an inside forward thinks having been one himself.
As genuine a young fella as you can meet, there will come a time when he wants to line out for the hurlers. Packing in as much as he can with the footballers first is the plan.
One wonders, given the lack of championship starts he’s had since making the switch from hurling, does the Na Fianna man privately regret giving up on the smaller ball game.
He missed out on the All-Ireland two years ago with a cruciate injury and while he is a major physical addition to the middle third coming off the bench just how long can he be satisfied with being an alternative?
Next to Diarmuid Connolly, nobody has better balance on the Dublin team. Given his prodigious talent, he may have anticipated he would be starting games more frequently but still appears to be making up for lost time after suffering a cruciate year two seasons ago.
Like Kilkenny, the hurling question will never go away particularly when the Whitehall Colmcilles man was just so good at under-age.