Callum Smith is hopeful of making an impact in the Club International games over the next ten days. He is the Ireland Club XV squad’s youngest member and is on the bench for Friday’s trip to take on Scotland Clubs for the Dalriada Cup.
The 20-year-old out-half is just the second Malone player to make a matchday squad at this level and was still at Coleraine AI when club-mate Glenn Moore donned an Ireland Club XV jersey in 2013. Smith went on to be capped by Ulster Schools, play for Ulster ‘A’ in the 2016/17 season and feature for the province against a star-studded Barbarians in June 2017.
“Coming out of the Ulster set-up after my first year, my sole focus was just Malone,” he said. “The standard is obviously really good, but you can see how the club international players are at a different level. It’s a great feeling to come into camp and see how I get on.
“My coach at Malone, Paddy Armstrong, said that he had put me forward (for the Ireland Club XV squad), but that I should just see how it goes. Then I got an email through to say I’d been picked for selection. It’s a good feeling. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting it but I’m glad I got on and hopefully I can show the coaches why they picked me.”
Ballymena, Ballynahinch, Banbridge, Dungannon, Malone and Queen’s University have sent a combined 16 players to play for the Ireland Club XV over the past 13 years.
Michael Cromie is the most recent Ulsterman and only Banbridge player to contest a Club international fixture. He also had stints with Rotherham Titans and Rodez. Current Ulster prop Eric O’Sullivan was in Dublin University colours when he received the Club International call-up.
Five Ballymena players have worn the Club XV jersey, including Stephen Mulholland and Simon Shawe who both played for Ulster in what is now the GUINNESS PRO14. Shawe also played for Leinster and lined out against current Ireland Club XV assistant coach Johne Murphy when Leinster beat Munster in the first interprovincial to be played at the newly redeveloped Aviva Stadium in 2010.
Paul Pritchard, Stuart Morrow and James Thompson are Ballynahinch’s capped trio, while Ritchie McMaster is the sole representative from Queen’s University.
All five of Dungannon’s representatives in Club Internationals were also capped for Ireland at underage level. Richard McCarter and Brett McNamee played in the IRB Under-19 World Championship in 2003. McNamee played against England Counties in 2009 and went on to play for them in 2015.
Glen Telford, Oisin Hennessy and Gareth Steenson all reached an Under-21 World Championship final in 2004. Steenson started the first ever Club International in 2006 before going on to become a golden boot kicker and Premiership winner with Exeter Chiefs.
Smith would do well to emulate the traits of such a successful Ulster man. He added: “The key advice I’ve been given is to go into it with no fear and be as loud as I can at 10. It’s about showing them that I can take control. If I get on against Scotland, I’ll just be trying to make an impact and do what I can for the team.”
The Ireland Club XV play Scotland Clubs on Friday night at Myreside Stadium in Edinburgh, before the deciding leg at Energia Park on Friday week (February 8). Tickets are available for the Dublin leg on Ticketmaster.ie.