The eldest of the three Smith brothers who are involved with the Boyle team is Cian, now into his second season as the team’s manager. The All-Ireland minor title winner from 2006 had to give up club football in 2014 because of health issues. Since then he has been involved with Boyle as a selector and with a couple of other clubs as well, including Kilmore, where he was the team manager.
Cian says that reaching the final is huge for the club but that his players have shown great maturity since beating St Brigid’s in the semi-final.
“We celebrated on Sunday night after the match, but all the lads were out in Lough Key on the Monday for a recovery session. There is a maturity about them this year”.
While vital guidance is provided by older lads like Sean Purcell, Roch Hanmore and Mark O’Connor, the manager says the 25 to 30 year olds in the group also have a lot of experience by now.
There is a great determination by all involved to improve on last season.
“Last year we were beaten by Pearses. We were scratching our heads after that one, so this year we never mentioned anything about the championship. Our only goal this year was to perform in every game we played. To be honest I was sick and tired going to Boyle matches over the years and being embarrassed coming home because we simply didn’t turn up on the day. We have kept it simple this year. We wanted a performance in every game. Before the Brigid’s game I said to them ‘Take off the handbrake, what’s the worst that can happen? We have lost four semi-finals (in recent times)…just go for it’”.
When Cian is asked is it hard to manage a team when his two younger brothers are such important cogs in the wheel, his answer is very interesting.
“The answer to that is yes and no. Before I took the job I asked the two lads (Enda and Donie) what did they think. In fairness they both said that they felt I was the man for the job and whatever you need to do we will do it. But you don’t really know until something happens. They are gone half the year with Roscommon, and I have no problem with that.
“But this year after the defeat against Clare in Croke Park, I know how gut-wrenching that was and especially for Donie as the captain, and also for Enda and for Cian (McKeon). I said to them I’ll see ye in two weeks. But the following Friday night they were all here at the training session, straight back into it. It says a lot about our set-up that that was the case”.
He was determined to have a good solid management team around him when he took the reins. Conor McGowan, a former Sligo player who has been living in Boyle for the past 15 years, came on board as a selector. Damien Tiernan, who had been a selector with Cian at Kilmore, was also brought in.
“The best thing I ever did was to get those two lads. Conor is a physio but this is his first time as a selector. The two of them are outsiders. I have my ideas but they have their ideas too and we pooled those ideas. Then we got feedback from the players as to what we were doing and they had an input too. While I am the manager and have the final call, a lot of what we do is player-led. Gone are the days when you are ordering fellas to do this or that, it’s much better to have the players to buy into what you are trying to do”.
As for the excitement and hype in Boyle ahead of a first final appearance in 95 years, the manager sees it in a positive light – as long as players and management don’t get carried away.
“There is no getting away from it. Since the Brigid’s game, between phone calls and texts it has been crazy. I work in the middle of the town and there are people calling in all the time. I think it’s great. The one thing I say to the lads is to enjoy it and embrace it. I am not telling any lads to stay away from it or stay indoors…the bottom line is all the people here chatting and talking is great. No one wants you to play bad so go with the flow and enjoy it”.