Smith has been one of the major successes of McGeeney’s tenure at the helm; a star of the Lilywhites team that reached the All-Ireland U21 final, he was one of the seniors’ best performers as they reached the championship quarter-final later that year.
He improved further last season, scoring 4-9 as Kildare stormed to the Leinster final and pushed Tyrone all the way in the All-Ireland quarter-final, deservedly earning an All Star nomination for his efforts.
A back injury suffered in a weights session prevented the Sarsfields man from taking part in the O’Byrne Cup but McGeeney was not happy with Smith’s commitment and let him go this week. By dropping such a talented operator, McGeeney sent a message that he will accept no slip in standards as Kildare look to build on momentum built up in the last 18 months.
The door has not been closed entirely on Smith though, with a place in the squad available to him again if he can commit himself fully to the cause.
Meanwhile, Kildare defender Morgan O’Flaherty is to contest the eight-week suspension recommended by Leinster Council’s CCC following his dismissal during Sunday’s O’Byrne Cup quarter-final however Johnny Doyle has accepted his four-week ban while the county board has decided not to appeal the imposition of the €7,000 fine.
O’Flaherty was reported by referee Syl Doyle for “kicking with minimal force” but has protested his innocence in the aftermath of the game that had seven players sent off.
O’Flaherty claims he is a victim of mistaken identity and it is understood he will be looking to produce independent witnesses corroborating his position.
The potential unavailability of O’Flaherty for the first four rounds of the league and Doyle for the first two is far from ideal, while Smith’s fall from grace is also unhelpful.
Apart from that, All Star midfielder Dermot Earley is a doubt to take his place in tomorrow’s televised O’Byrne Cup semi-final against Louth at St Conleth’s Park for personal reasons.
Rob Kelly underwent a scan on his knee during the week but trained on Thursday night, as did James Kavanagh, who should be fit to take his place on the bench at least for tomorrow’s televised O’Byrne Cup semi-final against Louth.
McGeeney has emphasised his team’s desire to be successful in the pre-season competition because he wants to win every game. It is still an opportunity to experiment however. Last year, the O’Byrne Cup was the platform that transformed attacker, Mikey Conway, into a half-back and one of last season’s most effective playmakers. This term, midfielder Kelly has been successful up front, corner-back Ronan Walsh had a run at corner-forward against Laois while Gary White, who made his name as a midfielder-cum-attacker although he did play centre-back with the U21s two years ago, has been utterly commanding at full-back.
“Gaelic football is probably different than most sports. Because there’s no offside type of thing, you need to be mobile. The likes of Tyrone, Dublin and Kerry, they move players around quite quickly and you can’t let them go so you have to be able to play in a number of positions.
“There’s no such thing as the quintessential full-back anymore, or corner-back. You have to be able to play anywhere in that line. It’s the same in the middle area; five to 12 are basically the same type of players but just difference in height and physique.
“The modern game is like Aussie Rules in terms of you needing extremely mobile players around. There are specific players maybe for broken ball and catching and stuff, but in general you’re moving towards the same type of height, physique, athletic ability. You have to be a jack of all trades. If your man pulls you into corner-back or corner-forward, you have to be able to tackle or shoot."