From Dublin to Westmeath, Jack Smith has traveled two sides of the same road

Sometimes you ask a question at an interview even though you already know the answer.

It’s not so much that it’s an obvious answer or a stupid question, but that the question has been asked before and the answer has already been sent and written over and over again. You ask anyway.


I don’t know, maybe it’s a consolation thing. You’ve read the answer in black and white, so you know the question will at least get your topic talking – they’ve had the practice, after all. And maybe in those interviews there’s something like beats, notes that you both know you can hit, and maybe that helps the rhythm of it all.

You see, for anyone who has played at this level of Gaelic football for any length of time, their story is probably already out there. The beats have been played multiple times but these guys are generally solid so they will play the beats again for you if you ask. I mean, why would they mind telling a story that everyone already knows, knowing that their interview won’t be the one that leads to the next media ban?

Depending on the journalist, the assignment, or who you’re writing for, you might approach those beats differently.

If we all know the story, we all face the same opportunities when interviewing a footballer. We’re either going back to old ground, or we’re trying to add something to the story and find something different. Or… or we choose secret option number 3.

Secret option number 3 is to hit the same beats again, but maybe you could hit them better because you are. In truth, we all like to try secret option number 3 at some point.

Jack Smith’s beats go something like this. Son of Westmeath footballer and Mullingar Shamrocks legend Peter Smith. U21 All Ireland Winner with Dublin. Part of Jim Gavin’s professional squad. Westmeath footballer since early 2019. Tailteann Cup Final 2022.


Jack Smith was pictured with the Leinster and All-Ireland U21 Cup during his Dublin days. Credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

But Jack Smith is also a stalwart companion of the Skerries Harps, and his rise to inter-county football comes with the territory of All-Ireland-winning captain and former teammate Bryan Cullen. That’s a powerful blow in fairness, given that Cullen’s impact on Skerries and Dublin is now legendary, but Smith’s admiration and gratitude for the man who climbed the Hogan Stand steps in 2011 is already well documented.

So maybe, just maybe, could I learn something else on this subject?

After all, I’ve had the privilege of sharing a dressing room with both men, and we all know how easy it is for a county player’s interviews to become light-hearted fodder on a club training ground. So by God, Smith is sick of being asked about Cullen now, if only to save him a few rounds when the ribs are distributed.

“Oh god no I don’t mind talking about Bryan at all! Are you serious?” Maybe secret option number 3 isn’t for me.

“Look what he did. He’s accomplished so much and he’s done so much for Skerries Harps, he really has. He’s brought this team forward so much and it’s great to be able to talk to him about football or you can ask him for advice on anything.

“I wouldn’t mind growing up Bryan any day of the week. And he’ll just be happy to hear that, I’m sure.”

Jack Smith was a teenager in 2011 when he played alongside Cullen en route to an intermediate football championship. The following summer he had his own success with the county, lifting the All-Ireland Under-21 title for Dublin alongside another clubmate, Harry Dawson.

That was the start for Smith, who was always a talented footballer and a tenacious underage-level defender but hadn’t developed physically in time for the county’s smaller teams.

These days his footballing arsenal is stacked. He’s fast, he’s strong, he’s skilled, he can jump high in the air and he has great hands. Smith dominates games from behind and sometimes from the front but despite being used all over the pitch for Westmeath for the last four seasons he has made the number 2 shirt his own and follows the long list of talented full-backs to feature in are tied to the corner.

“It doesn’t bother me,” he emphasizes. “Unfortunately, I’ve gotten used to it by now! As the levels go up, Corner Back seems to suit me a bit better.”

Conan Doherty: “But you made the big mistake and played well in the back corner. The moment you got put there you should have taken an absolute roast and no one would have blamed you. They wouldn’t just say, ‘Ah, he’s not a corner back, don’t worry, we’ll play him somewhere else.'”

JackSmith: “I know it would have been a lot easier. But I think I would have been on the bench if I hadn’t taken a corner from the back, Conán! I would have had big problems. There are far better players than me on the pitch.”

CD: “I know that’s not the same standard, but I remember playing an internal game and you were full forward and I was like, ‘Shit, why didn’t we play this boy full forward?'”

JS: “Don’t worry, it’s been tried before!”

CD: “Was it?”

JS: “I was always a back and only a back while I was underage, but I’m thinking about like five seasons ago, Terry [McGinnis] I had a bright idea there that I would become a corner striker for him and he played against me there for about half a season. Then he realized it wasn’t going to work, so I went back to where I belong.”

While Smith can joke about his limitations and laugh about how all these years later he still feels small, there’s a reason Jim Gavin has called him onto Dublin’s senior board on a number of occasions.

He’s had four good years at Westmeath but that might have been even more if Gavin hadn’t intervened. Three seasons earlier, before Jack Cooney took charge, and after a stint in the Capital squad, Lake County had invited Smith, and he seemed ready to follow in his father’s footsteps.

“But on the way home from that interview, I got a call from Jim [Gavin] asking me to work with the Dublin team again,” explains Smith.

“It was actually a really tough decision and in the end I decided I was going to try Dublin again, so I went back to Jim for another year and didn’t get through the league and two or three years later I got in Another call from Westmeath and I was absolutely delighted.”

This time Jack Cooney was headed to Skerries, so Smith was happy to meet him and take the manager to north County Dublin for coffee.

“It wasn’t even a nice coffee I gave him. It was shocking now that I think about it!

“But we had a good conversation and he just told me about the plans and what he wanted to do and I was very interested – he really wanted to develop the team and grow the team and I think he has done that since I was there am. it just got better and better.”

Smith is an integral part of the side’s defense under Cooney and the journey beyond the M50 and the N4 is now a familiar journey, facilitated by Westmeath teammates Kevin Maguire and old DCU friend Killian Daly, who are exploring the Sharing trip from Dublin.

On the field, off the field, he’s now a part of this team’s setup, even if his specific piece was imported from down the street.

“Jimmy Dolan kept letting you know you were a dub,” laughs Smith. “But this is another story!

“Mostly I swallow it. Every once in a while I’ll bite back and tell them how proud I am to be a dub.

“But the boys were absolute gentlemen, to be honest. You were so healthy. They welcomed me with open arms and when they were happy that I put my mind to it and gave my all, there were no problems at all. I really loved every minute of it.”

Smith is the eldest of three talented brothers who lead the Skerries team with distinction. Eoin Smith glides around the field like Jack, he’s a real leader and when he hits you with a tackle you almost want to throw the ball away just to get it out of your sight. Stephen Smith is a blockbuster inside striker with a fling that should border on the illegal and he actually scored a 2-4 goal for Dublin in late 2018 when he was selected against the underdogs.

On Saturday, however, Peter Smith’s entire family will be at Westmeath when Jack heads to Croke Park for his fourth time, this time for an All-Ireland final. 18 years after the Smith brothers partied as kids in the dressing room with this historic 2004 Leinster-winning team, Jack Smith will be vying to bring another league title to Westmeath and add another punch to his own story.

From full-back to corner-back, from the off-duty physio shooting down his club-mates before games, to the first-ever Tailteann Cup final, Dublin to Westmeath, things have changed on Smith’s journey but they’re all still so familiar.

In different jerseys or different teams, whether he’s competing with his brothers or not, Smith is simply playing the same game. He’s still trying to win. He’s still the same good man looking out for his teammates. He is still bred in GAA.

And through it all, there remains the one constant that is passed down through the family.

“All three of us have always loved to play.”

The rest takes care of itself. From Dublin to Westmeath, Jack Smith has traveled two sides of the same road

Fry Electronics Team

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