Enda Smith: 'We definitely feel we can compete'
By Cian O’Connell
For a brief few seconds Enda Smith pauses and wonders about what Roscommon could achieve.
Between 2007 and 2016 Roscommon contested nine Connacht Under 21 Finals winning four, All Ireland minor success was gleaned in 2006 with provincial crowns also earned at that level in 2011 and 2012.
Talented teams capable of operating on the national stage have been stitched together, but the challenge is to consistently deliver at senior level.
“Yeah, definitely,” Smith says about Roscommon needing to demonstrate their ability at the highest grade.
“A lot has been said about underage in Roscommon. A lot has been said, but ultimately senior is where we want to deliver it and we haven’t probably delivered performance-wise definitely where we should be or where we think we could be.
“I know there’s different things there, there’s management and we’re losing players at an alarming rate every year, main players, which is tough to deal with when you’re a small county. We definitely feel we can compete and it is in us somewhere, but we just need to get that consistency there.”
Smith acknowledges it can be extremely difficult when Roscommon are frequently without key performers for a variety of reasons.
“It is, it is, yeah,” Smith admits. “It is hard. I know some counties experience the same, but I don’t think the likes of Monaghan now have lost… Monaghan have had that solid base of player for the last seven, eight years that are consistently turning up, the Hughes’ and (Conor) McManus and Vinny Corey is still there and the Wylies, that’s the core of a team that if you name Monaghan’s team you could nearly name 10 of them off the cuff straight away because they’ve been playing for eight or nine years.
“Whereas if you come to our team, like you’ll name your three or four or five maybe, but then after that it could be someone else this year because we’re losing them. It plays a part, I think. It’s not the main reason, but it definitely plays a small part.”
Ciarain Murtagh and Niall McInerney aren’t available for selection presently so has Smith ever pondered about what could happen if all of Roscommon’s most formidable players were in the panel at the one time.
“Yeah, I’ve thought about it,” Smith replies. “I’d love to get that opportunity where we had, let’s say this year if we had Ciarain and Niall McInerney and lads like that who’ve been top players for us really.
“Really, really good players for us the last two or three years. A couple of years ago then you’re missing the three Dalys and Cathal Cregg so it’s just a case of… I’d often… I’d love if we all got in together and just gave it a couple of years, but it’s hard.
“Lads are just doing different things. You’re talking to them and you’re saying, ‘Just stay at it, we’re getting there’, but you can’t ultimately force the lad’s hand if he wants to travel.”
While Roscommon, who face Leitrim in the Connacht Championship at Dr Hyde Park, have reached the All Ireland Quarter-Final stage in the past two years Smith ultimately wants to return to the last eight once more.
“Definitely, the Super 8s would be a major aim for us,” Smith states. “I know last year performance wise was disappointing, but we would see ourselves as being well able to get to the Super 8s.
“I know depending on your group - and you are probably going to get one of Dublin, Mayo, or Kerry in your group - but you could compete with other teams. You could get one of them at home and you'd be full of confidence.”
Tyrone, Donegal, and Dublin all defeated Roscommon soundly in the latter stages of the 2018 summer, but Smith feels the primrose and blue outfit are better than what they showed in those fixtures.
“Yeah, we would like to think so,” Smith responds. “I know I said it to one of the lads that shipping scores too easy was a major problem last year. It did happen quite a bit so one of our aims this year was to shore up defensively.
“I think we've done that to a degree this year, we were quite solid in a lot of games. Going back into that environment again, into a Super 8s game in Croke Park, you'd definitely now without knowing who you are playing or doing work on them I'd feel a lot more confident going into it based on what we have done so far. Defensively and tactically I'd definitely feel a lot more comfortable going into a game, prepared as well.”
Returning to that environment is the challenge and the journey commences at the Hyde this weekend.