Enda’s day in the sun

Roscommon’s Enda Smith is presented with his PwC All-Star award by Uachtarán Chumann Lúthchleas Gael Larry McCarthy, in the company of Gaelic Players Association CEO Tom Parsons, left, and PwC Managing Partner Enda McDonagh during the 2023 PwC GAA/GPA All-Star Awards at the RDS in Dublin last Friday. Pic: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Enda Smith is never less than effective, and usually he’s excellent… a consummate footballer, one of the finest of his generation, routinely imposing himself on games, linking midfield and attack by calling on his array of skills, that and his football intelligence.

So, never less than effective, usually excellent… but there’s a third ‘Smith style’ – I refer to the times when he’s simply breathtaking.

Every now and again – on a good day it could happen several times in the one game – Enda brings his performance to a level that copperfastens his status as one of the most exciting Gaelic footballers in the country (year after year). In these thrilling phases of play, the Boyle warrior takes personal control of a game. These are the ‘Enda interventions’ we’ve become so used to, the defence-splitting runs that can almost take the breath away.

And it’s long past being Roscommon’s secret; the Enda moments – those remarkable, swashbuckling runs from deep – now have GAA supporters the length and breadth of the country looking on in admiration. In the end, Smith’s driving runs, his range of goals and points, the breadth of his skills, his leadership and calmness under pressure, all combined to make Gaelic football fans across the country sit up, take notice, and applaud.

As for the All-Stars experts, faced last week with serial champions, the safety net of eyeing the superpowers, the persuasive statistics… well, this time they could not avert their gaze. In making their selections, they felt they had to challenge convention. And so Enda Smith, despite Roscommon not reaching the 2023 championship last eight, deservedly met his All-Star destiny, and took his place on the team of the year. His award is worthy reward for a stand-out season, acknowledgment too of the outstanding impact he has made in recent years.

It’s hard to win All-Irelands, hard enough to even break into quarter-finals or semi-finals. Enda’s club, Boyle, has experienced heartbreak of late in the club championship in Roscommon. As a team player – and he is certainly that – Roscommon’s latest All-Star has experienced cruel defeat, disappointment, joy too. So it’s good to see a big personal accolade come his way. There will be more career twists and turns, joys and setbacks probably, and hopefully a few more seasons in the sun. God knows, we don’t want it to stop any time soon.

In the meantime, what’s great about Enda Smith’s All-Star accolade is its permanence. This is for the 2023 season, this is for recent years, this is for now, this is for the future, this is legacy stuff. This reminds one of the relief (with joy too) that we felt when Tony McManus was finally feted in 1989. This is the award – the enthusiastic national recognition – that gives permanent, sparkling endorsement to what our eyes and hearts and emotions know… that Enda Smith is one of the best footballers in the country, and one of Roscommon’s finest in living memory.

This is just right. Now, play on…