CJ Hamilton says he was always a late starter. He was 12 or so when someone spotted him playing for the local GAA club and asked if he'd give soccer a go, 19 when he first signed professional terms, and now, aged 27, he's on the verge of winning his first Ireland cap.
The pacy Blackpool forward was born in England, but moved to his mother's native Waterford when he was four. He played Gaelic football with Rathgormack, and hurling for Clonlea-Power.
'I started playing GAA before soccer'
"Literally, I started playing GAA before soccer," Hamilton, who recently received his first call-up from Stephen Kenny, said during a press conference on Monday.
"I grew up with my mam and her sisters, living there for 14 years. They were big into GAA so that’s how I started getting into sport.
"I was around 11 or 12 when I first gave [soccer] a go. I first played for Portlaw and then moved to Carrick United where I did well.
"I played both hurling and Gaelic football, I normally played in the full-forward line because it used to isolate me and I could use my pace, like I use now.
"In the GAA I played against a lot of the boys who are in the senior hurling team now, like Austin Gleeson and players like that."
Hamilton's football career in England began with Sheffield United. He spent time on loan at Halifax and Gateshead before joining Mansfield in 2016. After four seasons with the League Two side, he joined Blackpool in the summer of 2020.
He scored five times in 22 appearances in his first season as the club gained promotion to the Championship. This season, he made 24 appearances, scored twice, and provided four assists as Blackpool finished 16th in English football's second tier.
It was form which caught the eye of Stephen Kenny.
"I only got asked about being Irish back at the start of March before the last camp so to be here is a crazy experience," he said.
"It shows me as a player how far I’ve come.
"I think it was someone local down in Waterford who said something [about me being eligible to play for Ireland].
"At the time I was more focused on getting fit and doing well for my club. Then as soon as they found out I was Irish, it was quite quick to get sorted. And then based on performances, I earned a call-up.
"From when I started kicking a ball around first, to when I was playing GAA and got into playing football, you always think about playing for your country."