"You wouldn't have these lads on a massive pedestal" - Lahiff not standing back to admire
Some sportspeople are guarded and don't give much away, which is fine, but the first thing you'd notice about Tom Lahiff is that this man is cool as a breeze.
You ask him about his breakthrough year with Dublin, he tells you there's more to come. You ask him about the disappointment of losing to Mayo, he doesn't shy away.
'What's the story boys?' He's hopped onto a Zoom call with ten journalists and he's ready to rock. Lahiff is the St Jude's captain, he'll captain them in this weekend's county final against Kilmacud Crokes but to get there he's travelled the back-roads. As a chap, you see, Lahiff wasn't thinking about Gaelic he was thinking about soccer.
He was good enough to play for Bray Wanderers where he stayed until under-19. It was only then when he started to take the GAH seriously. Now he's on the Dublin senior panel, eyeing up the wing backs who, this year, started ahead of him.
"Not really," he says, when asked if he was intimidated when he first walked into Dublin's six-in-a-row winning dressing room.
"You would have played against these lads in the club championship. There are a few lads like Brian Howard, Eoin Murchan and Con that I would have known from the under-21’s, so I knew a few familiar faces there...
"You wouldn't have these lads on a massive pedestal," he says ahead of the Go-Ahead Dublin senior football final.
You're thinking of the team-talks he's been giving the Jude's boys this year. Don't admire them. It can only be a positive too that, while the soccer didn't work out in the end, he experienced it up until a good age.
"Growing up as a kid, soccer would have been one of my main sports and playing in England or playing for Ireland would have been my dream back then.
"I would have played a small bit of GAA with Judes growing up in the under-15’s or 16’s, but it would only have been the odd case of if the soccer was on a Saturday, then that I could play GAA on Sunday.
"As it wasn't coming to fruition I wasn't enjoying my soccer as much as I was starting to enjoy the GAA.
"Then I just decided that I'd drop the soccer altogether and give the GAA a bit of a crack."
He's given it a right crack.
"I would have still had a soccer mindset, and some of your skills like your catching obviously and your kicking from the hand and soloing would have been all fairly weak, because obviously with soccer you are keeping the ball on the ground and you are not used to using your hands at all. But yeah, I definitely had to work on my skills and I suppose my strength as well was the second thing.
"You wouldn’t get as many bangs in soccer as you would in the GAA, so it was probably about building a better base strength and conditioning wise and then along with the basic skills of catching, soloing and all of that stuff needed to be improved on and it did over the course of time."
Those soccer days were hardly wasted.
"Once I sort of committed to the GAA I would be fully 100 per cent committed to it. I just played year by year, and got onto the under-21’s and once I got a bit of a taste with Dublin then, I thought ‘I’d love to get into the senior team.’
Men like his club-man Kevin McMannamon showed him the lay of the land.
Four or five years ago, he would have always said that there's an opportunity there for you if you keep working hard. I would have had the height, the athletic sort of build to make a Dublin footballer. He'd always tell me to keep working hard, to keep working on my skills and as I was progressing then, as I would have made the panel, he would have been a big sounding board. I would bounce ideas off him and he'd give me advice on different situations and stuff like that.
"It was a few years in the making, I was just working hard trying to improve myself. I knew if Jude’s were playing well and getting to semi-finals and finals, then you are going to get noticed but that’s sort of how it happened - just playing well for the club consistently over a couple of seasons gets you in the door."
Only because he bet the door down.
Tom Lahiff of St Judes ahead of Saturday’s Go-Ahead Dublin Senior Football Club Championship final taking place in Parnell Park in Dublin.
Leading public transport provider, Go-Ahead Ireland are the titles sponsors of all adult Dublin club leagues and championships. Photos David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile.