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'I just decided I'd drop the soccer altogether and give the GAA a bit of a crack' - Dublin focus

The Dublin senior newcomer is chasing county glory with St Judes next Sunday.

BUT FOR THE pandemic and the club football season coming first in 2020, Tom Lahiff probably wouldn’t have an All-Ireland winners medal with Dublin.

go-ahead-ireland-senior-football-championship-final-2021-media-conference Tom Lahiff at the Go-Ahead Dublin senior football club final media day. Source: David Fitzgerald/SPORTSFILE

It was the shop window through which the St Judes player caught Dessie Farrell’s attention, allowing him to break into Dublin’s six-in-a-row winning squad, and another great opportunity to underline his ability will present itself this Sunday.

Judes will face Kilmacud Crokes in the Go-Ahead sponsored county final and if Dublin manager Farrell has a mind for change after a disappointing 2021 Championship, versatile midfielder Lahiff may very well be one of the players he’ll be watching particularly closely.

A late bloomer, the 26-year-old committed his teenage years to soccer and made it as far as the Bray Wanderers first team squad before concluding that his dreams of making it as a full-time professional in the UK weren’t going to be realised.

He made his competitive debut for Dublin against Galway in last year’s National League before starting two championship games and he featured in all of their competitive games in 2021.

“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,” said Lahiff.

“As it wasn’t coming to fruition, I wasn’t enjoying my soccer as much as I was the GAA and then I just decided I’d drop the soccer altogether and give the GAA a bit of a crack.

“With the GAA, the biggest thing would have been my decision making – I would still have had a soccer mindset. Some of your skills then like 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.

“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 improving my conditioning and then, along with the basic skills of catching, soloing and all of that stuff, you look to improve and it did over the course of time.”

go-ahead-ireland-senior-football-championship-final-2021-media-conference Tom Lahiff at the Go-Ahead Dublin senior football club final media day.

That patience and commitment to long-term improvement stood to Lahiff when he suffered the axe mid-way through his debut season of 2020. He started against Westmeath and Laois in the Leinster championship and was initially named to partner Brian Fenton for the Leinster final but was replaced by David Byrne before throw-in and didn’t feature again in 2020.

“Once I got dropped or whatever, I was very disappointed but then you’d have to sort of just check yourself and say, ‘Look, you’ve come from nowhere, you’ve got two starts so don’t be getting your head down too much, rally again and try to get back in for the next game’,” said Lahiff.

“Obviously the team were playing well and there weren’t that many changes from that point of view so yeah, it was a disappointment not to be involved from then on but at the same time, to go from not playing at all to starting was something I was proud of as well.”

Lahiff has utilised as an impact sub in the 2021 championship, coming on in each game. A potential shake up for 2022 after relinquishing the Sam Maguire Cup could play into his hands and lead to regular first team activity.

“Look, after any defeat there is always going to be a period of reflection just to look back on the year and to see what changes or improvements can be made,” said Lahiff. “So of course anyone who was on the fringes will be looking to have an improved opportunity next year.”

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Lahiff was part of the Judes team that contested the 2018 Go-Ahead Dublin decider, losing to Kilmacud Crokes, Sunday’s opponents.

“We let the occasion get the better of us back in 2018,” admitted Lahiff, who hopes now is finally their time. “We’ve been consistently in the top four in the last number of years. There’s no medals for top four so it’s just about trying to get over that final hurdle now and pick up the silverware.”

An intriguing angle to the decider is the number of country players involved with Judes. Jack McGuire, David Mannix and Pat Spillane (all from Kerry), Alex Hassett and Niall Coakley (from Cork) and Mark Sweeney (from Antrim) all lined out in their semi-final win over Lucan Sarsfields. Cork man Brian Coakley came on while ex-Kildare defender Ciaran Fitzpatrick was on the bench.

“We’d never go out and look for players or anything like that,” explained Lahiff.

“What happens is that someone joins and moves to Dublin for work reasons and they set up in Templeogue or near enough and they usually just potter up and look to join the team. If they buy into what we’re doing, our culture and values and are willing to put the head down and work as much as anybody else, then they’re given a fair crack at it.”

  • Leading public transport provider Go-Ahead Ireland are the title sponsors of all adult Dublin club leagues and championships.

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