Everything about Ciarán McDonald was different. Long blond hair, white boots, untucked jersey, beads around the neck, socks pulled up to the knee and arms covered in tattoos but what really set him apart was the ability to make the football talk.
cDonald was a puppet master with ball in hand and that sweet left peg cocked, Gaelic's equivalent of soccer star Andrea Pirlo and his flamboyance alone warranted the admission fee as spectators knew they were going to see something special.
Be it passing or shooting, those exquisite efforts off the outside of his left boot were a thing of beauty. But while he was often dubbed the David Beckham of the GAA for his on-field persona, the Mayo maestro avoided the limelight off it and you could count on one hand his number of media interactions.
McDonald was his own man and didn't conform to common stereotypes. Gym training was becoming the norm as his inter-county career continued to blossom in the early noughties but he stayed true to his own methods.
His feats as a pipe-layer alongside his father Danny added to his mystique as he poured concrete and laid foundations with record-breaking frequency which helped to create a steely frame that could absorb plenty of punishment.
"I never went to gyms," McDonald once said in a rare interview. "Many managers have had words with me over it because I haven't turned up for gym sessions. I just didn't do it. My work stood to me for 25 years. I used to get up at four o'clock in the morning, whatever part of the country I was working in.
"You'd get up at four o'clock on a Monday morning and work longer on a Monday night because you'd get away early on a Tuesday for training. You get out of the van and you go training from 8-10 and then you go home and get up the next morning at four again."
When the Aussies came to town for the 2004 International Rules series, they tried to unnerve the long-haired 'Sheila' with a shemozzle before the ball was thrown in but he dusted himself off and delivered another masterclass in a series victory for the Irish.
That was McDonald all over and his memorable Mayo career ensured that he is considered the county's most gifted forward with a highlight reel that leaves jaws on the floor. The size five O'Neill's was his brush and the pitch was his canvas.
His best season came in 2004 - earning his sole All-Star that year - when he terrorised defenders with nonchalant brilliance while his mesmerising winning point at the end of the 2006 All-Ireland semi-final broke Dublin hearts.
He had earlier stroked over a sideline from under the Cusack Stand that evoked memories of Kerry legend Maurice Fitzgerald, another magician, and his maverick talent deserved to lift Sam Maguire with three heartbreaking final defeats in 1997, '04 and '06.
His greatest day would come with Crossmolina, a club he "loves to bits", on Easter Monday in Croke Park 19 years ago when the Deel Rovers became the first Mayo club to reach the All-Ireland pinnacle having ousted Cork giants Nemo Rangers by a point.
In a moment of sporting poetry, the final whistle blew with McDonald in possession, as if symbolic of his second-half performance that day when he owned the ball and refused to take no for an answer with one of the great tour de force performances.
McDonald is still defying Father Time at 45 - he doesn't look a day over 35 - and every few years a YouTube clip goes viral of his left leg firing over another peach with his place among the pantheon of greats summed up by a yarn from the '04 All-Star tour.
The artificial pitch at the Hong Kong Football Club had never witnessed anything like it as McDonald and a few others worked off the excess off the trip before the traditional exhibition game with his full array of skills and tricks on show.
Balls were sprayed over the bar from a variety of distances, out of the hand and off the ground, with all kinds of spin and curl displayed as Colm 'Gooch' Cooper, Peter Canavan, Declan Browne and Steven McDonnell watched on motionless from the sideline.
To have four attackers of the highest renown in awe of a genius at work spoke volumes of the unique attributes which he brought to the game and his involvement in the Mayo backroom team for 2020 sent ripples of excitement around the country.
The game is all the better for having icons like that at its coalface and let's hope some of the gifted playmaker's wizardry rubs off on the current crop. McDonald lit up the game and is revered by all - people simply never tire of class.