When Thomas Galligan was despatched into the fray as a second-half substitute for Cavan in the Ulster Championship Preliminary Round tie against Monaghan at the end of October last, he little dreamt that he was taking his first steps into the national spotlight.
The faltering Breffni side required resuscitation and that's precisely what the strapping 24-year-old Galligan applied, his barnstorming contribution underpinning a dynamic overall team performance that was highlighted with the winning point from a last minute long-range free by his goalkeeper cousin and skipper, Raymond Galligan.
If the all-action Thomas served up an aperitif on that occasion, then he followed up with succulent main courses garnished with power, pace and an unremitting work ethic against Antrim, Down and Donegal to help deliver a first Ulster title in 23 years for his county.
Not only did Thomas pocket an Ulster medal at the juncture but he was deservedly named the PwC GAA/GPA Player of the Month for November.
Dublin may have proved Cavan's masters at the All-Ireland semi-final stage but by then the Galligan duo, along with teak-tough full-back Padraig Faulkner, had done enough to assure themselves of coveted All-Star awards.
Yet, while the irrepressible Thomas welcomes this "unexpected bonus" he candidly admits that his journey into the elite GAA strata has been accompanied by no little pain.
And he hails the sustained efforts of Andre Quinn, a native of Warrenpoint, and now the Cavan strength and conditioning coach, in helping to get him "out onto the pitch in some sort of decent shape".
Quinn, who worked in professional rugby for 11 years, spending nine and a half seasons across two spells with London Irish and 18 months with Harlequins, proved central to Thomas's titanic input as Cavan ruled the provincial waves.
"To be honest, I had a bit of a hip injury last year and just as it flared up I got Covid-19," recalls Thomas.
"I had all but written off the year. After that, I just took every week as it came and André along with Risteard Byrne our physio got me back on my feet to the extent that I was able to get through games."
"I have to admit, though, that in the Monaghan game. I was under a bit of pressure. But Andre pulled out all the stops and his efforts allowed me to play through the championship. I have kind of got round it at this stage so hopefully I can push on and start working on getting a bit of extra fitness because I don't think I've been fit since I was about 17!"
And he sees his All-Star award as a further incentive to prolong his inter-county career.
"It's an unexpected bonus and I owe a lot to Andre in particular for getting me out onto the pitch in some sort of shape," he adds.
The fact that he has been paired with Dublin icon Brian Fenton in the All-Star midfield affords Thomas particular satisfaction given that the mercurial Fenton has never played in a losing Dubs side in a championship context.
Fenton is joined by Dublin colleagues Michael Fitzsimons, James McCarthy, John Small, Eoin Murchin, Niall Scully, Ciaran Kilkenny, Con O'Callaghan and Dean Rock in the side along with Mayo duo Oisin Mullin and Cillian O'Connor and Tipperary's Conor Sweeney.
While he laps up his latest honour, Thomas also enthusiastically embraces the awards which his cousin Raymond and Padraig Faulkner landed.
It was in his role as captain that Raymond proved inspirational, often deserting his post to advance almost to the half-way line in exhorting his troops.
Indeed, his post-match reaction vividly underscores the passion, commitment and sheer will to win that engulfs this Cavan side.
"We knew in the last quarter of the final that every single mother, father and child was at home driving us on. That got us over the line. The support has been relentless for years and we are so grateful for it," declared Raymond.
For full-back Padraig Faulkner, an All-Star award is "the icing on the cake" in the wake of a momentous year.
"I was standing beside my father during a welcome home after the game and he said very little because I don't think he could find the words," says the 24-year-old schoolteacher.
"The silence for a while just really showed the extent to which pure emotion had kicked in. It was an unforgettable experience for us all, to be honest. Now this All-Star award is just the icing on the cake as far as I am concerned and I could not be any happier to tell you the truth."