IT'S early in his new senior inter-county career and already the signs are promising -- but then, Cavan manager Tommy Carr never had any doubt about Gareth 'Nesty' Smith's ability to step up to inter-county football.
The Dublin-born St Oliver Plunkett's/Eoghan Ruadh clubman might have got his Cavan career off to a losing start in the McKenna Cup last Saturday night in Donegal, but Nesty did enough to suggest that he will be a massive addition to a Cavan attack that -- Seanie Johnston apart -- has lacked real cutting edge in recent years.
Seven points in Ballybofey from centre-forward suggests that Smith is ready to take some responsibility off the shoulders of the mercurial Johnston and with the students of St Mary's visiting Kingspan Breffni Park in the McKenna Cup tonight, Nesty has another chance to rubber-stamp his return to the inter-county stage.
Despite being involved under several different management regimes, Smith never made the breakthrough to the Dubs' championship panel -- he was a starting forward in Dublin's O'Byrne Cup win over Offaly in Tullamore last January, scoring 0-1. Regarded as one of the most consistent club players in the capital, Smith didn't think twice about representing his parents' native county in 2010 when Carr called.
"Nothing happened (with Dublin) 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 at the whip'. As a player, that's all you can ask for."
A 2006 move to Cavan was halted because, at the time, Smith would have been forced to leave Plunkett's and he admitted that he believed his chance of county football had passed.
"It's always been at the back of my mind that it might be (over) but when Tommy Carr rang me up this year and said 'Do you want to come on down and give it a shot?'. At 27 I would have been foolish not to."
Despite only winning one Ulster title since 1970, expectation in Cavan is consistently high and much will be expected from the Dubliner especially in the light of Ger Pierson's move to London in search of work with 2009 All Star goalkeeper nominee James Reilly expected to follow suit.
"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 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."