Enda Smith will become only the sixth Roscommon player to represent Ireland in the Compromise Rules series after he was named in the 23-man squad to face Australia in two tests on November 12th in Adelaide and November 18th in Perth. This year’s team manager is the former Armagh manager, Joe Kernan. The captain of the team is Mayo’s Aidan O’Shea and the vice-captain is Conor McManus of Monaghan.
Last weekend Seamus Duke spoke to Enda Smith about a great year which saw the Boyle man play a huge part in Roscommon’s Connacht title win, help his club to the county senior semi-final, an All Star nomination and a place on the Irish team.
You will have happy memories of 2017?
Yeah it has been a great year but it was not all plain sailing. The league campaign was disappointing but since then it has all gone very well. To win the Connacht championship was the highlight but it was disappointing to finish the championship the way we did and although we (Roscommon) have a long way to go we are going in the right direction.
It was also a good year for the club (Boyle) winning the O’Gara Cup and getting to the championship semi-finals again.
Your form seems to be improving all the time. What do you put that down to?
I had a year that was almost entirely injury-free and that always helps. I had a slight knock before the Leitrim game and I missed a few club games at that stage but I was able to play in that match and thankfully my form held up for the Connacht final and for the rest of the year.
Looking at the recent YouTube videos (AIB/GAA miniseries) on Roscommon’s championship year, you were very disappointed with the Mayo defeat in the replay and the way things finished up?
Definitely. Over the championship campaign, but especially the two games against Mayo, we learned a lot. We were seven points up in the drawn game and let them back into it and then we never got going the second day to be honest. It was a disappointing way to go out but overall it was a good year and hopefully we will learn from those setbacks for 2018.
How did the international call-up come and what’s the training been like?
I got a call for the provisional panel first – the training is on Fridays and Saturdays – and it went well from the start. We play 15 against 15 on a Friday night with the compromise rules mixed in, like the kick-outs going outside the ‘45 and the mark and tackle and it is very full on training. There is a lot of long kick passing and I like that to be honest. I love long kick passing so it suits me in that respect.
Then on Saturday mornings (we have) a skills session of 40 to 45 minutes. I find it very enjoyable. In the past there was ten or eleven weeks of training for the Irish team but this year they have cut it down to 5 or 6 weeks and I have to say I am really looking forward to it.
I think I’m only the sixth Roscommon player to be chosen so it is a great honour not only for the county but for the club in Boyle and also for my family as well. It will be great to go out to Australia for three weeks and train like a professional player.
So have you looked ahead to 2018 yet?
I have thought about it a bit to be honest. We are in Division Two of the league and that’s probably where we deserve to be at the moment and it will be very competitive. We have got to have the ambition to get promoted.
2018 is going to be very busy. The league is not over until the end of March and then the championship is starting in the first week in May so the matches will come thick and fast. We had to wait 11 weeks between league and championship this year which was a long time. I would prefer to be playing matches than training. We also have to have the aim of getting to the Super 8 in 2018.
I hope that there will be a few new faces on the panel as well. We have to hold on to the players we have at the moment and not lose anyone else. A county like Roscommon can ill-afford to lose players and we need all the county standard players we have.
What has been the reaction to your selection on the Irish team and to your All Star nomination?
It’s been very positive. I have serious support at home and they are all very proud. It is a great honour to be representing them, Boyle, Roscommon and to play for your country.
The amount of messages I have been getting has been phenomenal and hopefully when we get to Australia we can win the series. I am really looking forward to it and to 2018 too.
Note: Both tests will be shown live on RTÉ Television.