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Smith not looking back in anger as he begins life with Breffni Blues

THE cultured left boot of Gareth Smith -- or 'Nesty' to those with a close affinity with Dublin club football -- has been and remains to be one of St Oliver Plunkett's/Eoghan Ruadh's most creative and prolific weapons.

For years the subject of his brief dalliances with the Dublin senior football panel has raged on the Navan Road and beyond.

Twelve months ago, and on the wave of a hugely impressive Dublin SFC campaign with the club he captained to the final, Smith lined out against Offaly in the O'Byrne Cup as what effectively amounted to a Dublin 'B' got the capital's intercounty football season underway, while the blue frontliners were in La Manga on a training retreat.

But after that he disappeared from the radar.

Now, Cavan -- the homeland of his parents -- are set to benefit from successive Dublin management's apathy to his talents. Last Sunday he made his competitive debut for his adopted county, scoring 0-7 (6f) from centre-forward as Tommy Carr's men went down to Donegal in their Dr McKenna Cup clash in Breffni Park.

Afterwards, Carr himself was optimistic about Smith's prospects. "He's a good forward who knows what to do with the ball," complimented the former Dublin manager, entering year two of his reign in the Breffni county.

As for Smith himself, his Dublin disappointments are firmly in the past and he's grateful of the opportunity.

"I was in and out of a couple of panels throughout the years," he explains. "I was on the O'Byrne Cup team last year. Nothing happened this year and I got a phone call off Tommy Carr. He said: 'Do you want to come down? We'll give you a fair crack of the whip.' As a player that's all you can ask for.

"He's said he's going to give me a fair crack. I took the hand off him straight away and didn't consider Dublin after that. Tommy Carr rang me and gave me a chance. I'm going to have to repay Tommy in these next couple of games and hopefully show up good for him."

It wasn't the first time Smith had been approached by Cavan but the rule governing such a move would have forced him to switch clubs. That, according to the player, was "not an option" but as Cavan have not won an Ulster title in the past 10 years, they are entitled to play Smith without him leaving Plunkett's on the parentage rule. "I knew a couple of lads before I went down so it wasn't totally new to me," says Smith. "In fairness to the lads they all made me welcome. After a couple of training sessions, sure, I know all the lads and they're all sound fellas.

"I've trained with a lot of good teams and these lads are very passionate about their football. They know themselves that they've gone too long without an Ulster title. There's no better lads that want to turn it around this year and get an Ulster title."

"I've been to a couple of matches, when you see the lads training and the passion they have they've definitely underachieved, they're well capable ... I think one of the big goals is to get out of Division 3 and definitely reach an Ulster final as well. It's well within our grasp."

p Tomorrow night (8.30) Smith will line out against Dublin when his old school, St Declan's, play Pat Gilroy's Dubs in a challenge at Russell Park (St Brigid's GAA club).