It's a hard fact to escape – and one that star forward Donie Smith can’t offer too much of an argument against – but for the majority of people outside of Roscommon, when they think of the Boyle GAA club their thoughts instantly turn to Hollywood superstar Chris O’Dowd.

The Bridesmaids, This is 40 and IT Crowd star, who rates former Rossie 'keeper Shane Curran as one of his heroes, has always strongly held onto his GAA roots, and with good reason too.

In 1997, he produced a top display in goals in the Connacht minor final – including a brilliant save from Mayo’s Martin McNicholas – to keep his side in the provincial final. Despite that, the team, managed by a certain Kevin McStay, lost out by a few points.

O'Dowd's love for his club has always been evident too with many an American chat show learning about Boyle.

On Sunday though, Smith and his team-mates are hoping to put Boyle back on the map for another reason as they compete in the Roscommon senior county final for the first time since 1927.

That’s a 95-year wait, an eternity in GAA circles, and he’s determined to make the most of the opportunity against Strokestown at Dr Hyde Park.

"It has been well documented that it’s our first final in 95 years," the Roscommon forward told RTÉ Sport.

"When the final whistle went in our semi-final win over St Brigid’s, you had a few minutes to yourself reflecting on that. Then in the dressing room with the lads, it was unbelievable relief.

"Then it turned very quickly to saying ‘OK, there’s work to be done here.’

"We had a couple of days just being very happy about the situation, about being in the final, but we quickly got back to training and it’s very much a case of having to finish the job now."

Boyle native Chris O'Dowd has always been proud of his GAA roots

Smith’s determination is copper-fastened by the fact that the side are managed by his older brother Cian, who would have likely been lining out if circumstances had been different.

An All-Ireland minor winner with his county in 2006, his life was turned upside down just over a year later when he was diagnosed with throat cancer.

Cian recovered and in 2013 he was centre half-forward, brother Enda was midfield and Donie full-forward as Boyle defeated Tulsk to win the Roscommon intermediate title. However, his career would prematurely come to an end the following year.

"If things were different Cian would be playing in this final," Smith continued.

"To have him involved is special. When he did retire in 2014, he always had that ambition of being a coach or a manager.

"It was very special, mam and dad came onto the pitch after the St Brigid’s game so it was very emotional, it was great.

"He deserves it, the work he has put in, as have the management team around him, has led to this. We’re very lucky he’s involved with us."

Smith is right to feel fortunate to have his brother involved as the current coaching staff have managed to get the team over their semi-final yips.

In 2016 they lost to St Brigid’s by eight points, Roscommon Gaels were six-point winners the following season. Pádraig Pearses got the better of them in 2019, while St Brigid’s young guns were 2-15 to 2-09 victors the following season.

"We have been in something like five semi-finals in the last seven years and we haven’t performed at all, and I really mean we haven’t performed. The games have been over at half-time," Smith said of those last-four woes.

"The one thing Cian was adamant about in the semi-final was that regardless of the result, we just had to perform.

"Even if we did lose to St Brigid’s by a point or two, we’d have known we put in a good performance, something we haven’t done in previous semi-finals.

"We were lucky enough. We were against the wind in the first half and St Brigid’s had a very fast start, they were 0-05 to 0-00 up. We got ourselves back into it with a penalty and were able to keep within arm’s length of them.

"When we had the wind, we tried to play the same way, we didn’t want to overcook anything. Just because you have the wind doesn’t mean you have to go kicking everything, we wanted to be very smart on the ball.

"We knew our chances would come and they did in the last 10 minutes.

"When Cian McKeon put over the free at the end you were able to just say ‘yeah, this is a great place to be.’"

Cian McKeon is another key player for Boyle

That place could get even better at the Hyde this weekend. And if it does, one Hollywood star will be the happiest man in Tinseltown.

"He lives in America and he lives in London. A few times around Christmas if we’re training, you’d see him around the pitch and he’d have a chat," Smith said of O’Dowd.

"He’s a great fan but now we have a chance to put Boyle on the map for another reason, and the only way we do that is by completing the job at hand."

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