Denis Bastick admits he’s greedy.
Why else would he be back playing inter-county football? Last September looked like it had provided the ideal swansong: A starting berth with Dublin as they beat Kerry. It was his third Celtic Cross and he was aged 34.
He sounded pretty sure that it marked the end when he spoke the morning after the All-Ireland, yet he was in Croke Park again yesterday to promote Sunday’s Allianz League final against the Kingdom? The explanation?
“Greed,” he said, with little hesitation. “Like, why does any sportsperson… why do Kilkenny stay coming back and winning? It doesn’t get any less appealing to win an All-Ireland. That hunger, that’s always there. That stays there.
“Maybe it was the right time [last year], starting an All-Ireland final and winning, to step away. Maybe that was the right time to go, but I’m enjoying playing football. I’m enjoying playing on the team. Being involved in that group, it’s a special place.”
He didn’t come back on impulse: Bastick talked to family and he talked to manager Jim Gavin, but the most important discussion he held was with himself. Could he contribute? Could he still cut it in the league and championship, despite turning 35 in May?
He was a late bloomer, 28 years young when he made his championship debut, but sentiment couldn’t cloud his judgement. Sean Cavanagh said recently that the GPS stats being returned by players now are miles ahead of where they were even a few years ago.
Bastick needed to push on again or stand still.
“Sport is always evolving,” he said. “There’s always evolution there. There’s lots to take from other sports: Stats, video work, strength-and-conditioning. It will always evolve. It will always change. How much can you get out of a human being?
“When Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile, they would have said [beforehand] that it was impossible. Then, other people started doing it. The same with sprinters in the Olympics. So the possibilities are endless.”
For Dublin, certainly.
They stand 21 games unbeaten in league and championship. A rare four-in-a-row of league titles is just 70 minutes out of reach and they are the hottest of favourites to reclaim that All-Ireland title next September.
Dublin have developed the happy knack of having Kerry’s number in recent seasons, not least in two All-Ireland finals, but Bastick joined the panel in 2009 at a time when the Kingdom were the ones holding the whip hand and that still resonates.
“It’s not a case of looking back and saying ‘we got one up’ or ‘we’re better than them at the moment’. It’s not like that at all. It’s nice to have won those games and, in 2009, you’d have said that you couldn’t foresee that happening, because of the position we found ourselves in.
“But the bit of hurt is still there from that. That’s still there. No matter how many times we were to beat Kerry, you still remember those defeats. And I’m sure they remember the ones we’ve inflicted on them. So, this is a new game now at the weekend.”
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