"He's a very ambitious guy for our group" - Smyth confident O'Donnell will be back hurling
Paddy Smyth says that, as a team, the Dublin hurlers are still stewing over their disappointing end to the 2022 Leinster championship.
It all started brightly for Mattie Kenny's charges, when they defeated Wexford by a point in Wexford Park but having beaten Laois and Westmeath in the weeks that followed, that was as good as it got.
And it's that Kilkenny game they'll be remembered for.
On a beautiful evening in Parnell Park, with expectations high around the county, the Dubs were given yet another hiding by the Cats and even though they still had a chance of progressing, the mood had changed. And it was no surprise when, the following weekend, Galway knocked them out of the championship.
"It's definitely still in the back of your mind, the whole time," Smyth says now.
"Especially now, since we stopped at the end of May, you're not playing another championship game until April nearly.
"So it's a long time to be thinking about it, trying to get a chance to rectify it. In an intercounty set-up, you're still always trying to push on and improve when you're back with the club. So you'd be still contacting people, looking for the best advice on how to improve, just trying to get the maximum out of yourself," the 24-year-old added.
In the meantime, Micheál Donoghue has taken over from Mattie Kenny and, with a young age profile, and in anticipation of a kick that a new manager can bring, Smyth says the Dubs still believe they can win Leinster.
"Yeah. Definitely. That would be an ambition of the group. Kilkenny are coming off an All-Ireland final - where they were just a few points off - so I can't imagine they'll be weakened too much. Galway were close as well. So it is competitive in Leinster. It's definitely an ambition of ours to be winning that so hopefully we can put in a performance to win that."
— GAA JOE (@GAA__JOE) February 26, 2019
Key to those prospects will be the future of Smyth's fellow defender Eoghan O'Donnell. Having been knocked out so early with the hurlers, the Dublin hurling captain joined Dessie Farrell's football panel at the tail-end of last season but Smyth says he's 'very confident' they'll have him back hurling next year.
"Our season was finished, and he had an opportunity there," explained Smyth, who works as an Assurance Associate with PWC.
"I'd be friendly enough with Eoghan, I haven't chatted about that stuff yet. But just from listening to him, when he's talking to anyone in our group, he's a very ambitious guy for our group, and he definitely has a lot of belief in what our team can achieve. I don't want to speak for him, but I'd be very confident in seeing him (in the hurling panel) next year."
"I haven't heard anything. I just seen he was at the games last weekend but I haven't heard anything. I'm sure he'll be reaching out to lads in the next couple of weeks."
"It was kept very quiet, I think that's the way the county board works," Smyth said.
To Smyth's credit, he was their leading light in that disappointing season and he says he really enjoyed the move from corner back out to six, where he plays with his club.
"I play there with my club so it's not alien to me. It's enjoyable, different aspects to your game being tested out there. I felt I did okay out there. I'm not sure now about next year but it's definitely nice to move out the pitch a bit.
"I don't think anyone would say their dream was to play corner-back," he laughs. I do enjoy playing there too. It's nice to move out the pitch a bit and get on a bit more ball so it was enjoyable."
As for the new manager, with O'Donoghue coming in under the radar to take the job, Smyth says that the Dublin hurlers themselves knew no more than the rest of us.
"We heard the rumours, but we all know how the Dublin County Board works, it's very quiet until you hear an announcement. Which is probably the right way to be doing things. But you do see a lot of names flying about, you can't take too much heed of that. It's good to have someone in place now that can be at the club games, watching over lads and seeing who is putting their hand up to make the panel.
"It's an exciting appointment so I'm just looking forward to getting to work with him."
For now, it's all eyes on the club season, and Clontarf are two from three in the group stages of the Dublin senior 3 hurling championship.