DAIRE O'CONNOR barely batted an eyelid when Liam Scales conducted his first press conference at Celtic in Irish. After all it was the Ayr United winger's mother who taught the Glasgow club's recent signing from Shamrock Rovers how to speak the language at Gaelcholáiste na Mara school in Arklow.

O'Connor and Scales were team-mates at club and schoolboy level. Later on, they joined Dublin's famed St Joseph's Boys Club within a year of each other, then played for the same University College Dublin (UCD) team, winning the inter-varsity Collingwood Cup and an Airtricity first division title together in 2018.

It has been a whirlwind couple of weeks for Scales. Following the completion of Rovers' Europa Conference League campaign came his £600,000 transfer to Celtic, a few early sessions under Ange Postecoglou then a call-up to Stephen Kenny's Republic of Ireland side.

O'Connor says his pal has taken it all in his stride. Not that he is in the least bit surprised because Scales has, after all, always been that way.

“My mother said Liam was a very diligent pupil. Liam's mother is a teacher back in Wicklow, too. His father would have been very laid back, would have had an interest in football but if Liam had said 'look I don't want to play football', there would be no forcing him to do it. His two other brothers don't play football at all. Liam was always a bit of an anomaly. His other brothers would have been much smaller and not as athletic. We don't really know where he got the sporting gene from because his father always joked that hadn't got it from him.”

“We were in the same schoolboy team, the same team growing up, same school, same university, same friends, lived together for two or three years at university and eventually went our separate ways when I went to Cork City and he went to Shamrock Rovers; now we find ourselves back living in Glasgow at the same time. It's weird how things work.”

“We met up last week and went for food together and played a round of golf. That was on the Friday. We had a suspicion that he might get called up to the Irish team because he was on standby. I actually dropped him at the airport that night.”

Pinning Scales down to a succinct set of traits is not a labyrinthine task. Ask those in the know about what maketh the man and the answer is invariably the same: the 23-year-old is laid back, intelligent and sensible; but do not mistake those parts of his make-up for weaknesses – far from it, they might just be the very components that take him right to the top. Certainly that's where some believe he is going.

Alan Mannus, the former St Johnstone goalkeeper, who was a recent team-mate of Scales' at Shamrock Rovers is confident it will only be a matter of time before Celtic supporters are purring over their new signing.

“He was brilliant. He stepped up to the challenge. He was the best player in the league over the last year and a half. He came in and was just very consistent, he improved upon everything in his game and he ended up playing quite a few different positions, he played left centre-half, left wing-back, left-back and I think he could play left wing. He was just finishing university as he joined us, he got his education – he was very sensible and smart in that sense. He won't get distracted by some of the things that footballers get distracted by. He's very down to earth and I think he will just get better and better. I have no doubt that he can play in that league.”

The left side of Celtic's defence has been a problem area for a while now. Carl Starfelt has not exactly covered himself in glory since arriving from Rubin Kazan while Greg Taylor has proved to be a solid, if unspectacular, option at left-back so what Mannus says next is worth considering. Unprompted, he compares him to former Celtic left-back Kieran Tierney.

“He's a bit taller and a bit bigger but there are similarities with Tierney. Tierney was exceptional and went on to the Premier League, who knows what will happen with Liam but he's that style of player who, in my mind, always takes the ball, is comfortable on it, is a good defender, strong, physical, athletic, will get up and down the pitch all day, put in good crosses, chip in with goals. In time, you will see how good he is and people will be raving about him.”

Where Scales might have the advantage over even Tierney, though, is as an attacker.

Playing for Arklow Town and in the school team, O'Connor says Scales played like a street footballer. He was a winger or a No.10 and he believes his unconventional route into the professional game – circumventing the traditional academy path that most young Irish players traverse – has been to his advantage.

“A lot of people who come through big academy clubs at 19 or 20 are almost robotic or over-coached but Liam played football as if he was playing five-a-side in school. He wouldn't have been coached at a high level until he went into university. Whatever raw ability he had, that was never ironed out of him. When people talk about street footballers – and I know he is a defender – he was a winger or a No.10 until he got to university. Then he stretched out a bit, got physically bigger and he went to left-back.”

His transformation to the backline owes much to O'Connor's prompting, when he would huckle Scales to the gym.

“We shared an apartment for two semesters. He was a bit scrawnier in his earlier uni days and I was the opposite. I was always wanting to go to the gym. I was big on strength and conditioning. To be fair to him, he bulked up and he got that extra yard of pace which probably helped him slot into senior football at Rovers so quickly.”

One goal during his time at Tallaght Stadium summed up his striker-like ability in the attacking third. He had initially wanted to study architecture at university and his appreciation of space, angles and geometric precision were in evidence during one game against Dundalk in the President's Cup.

The Irish sports journalist Andrew Dempsey says one goal was reminiscent of Dennis Bergkamp's finishing for Arsenal and Netherlands: a bit of ball-juggling followed by a devastating strike.

“It's insane that he is at Celtic,” says Dempsey who shared Geography classes at UCD with Scales. “I don't want to say that it came out of the blue. He was probably a bit of a late developer, really. He was never one of the players that when he was 16 everyone was like 'aw, jeez, he's going to be the next big thing' he was never like that until the last year.

“He's deceptively quick, he's got this really good knack of arriving in the box last minute. He's got this attacking threat that doesn't get spoken about enough, he's got a serious eye for a pass. He's so composed, he has something that you wouldn't expect out of an Irish player.

Collie O'Neill, Scales' manager during his time at UCD also highlights the attacking side to his game and refers to him as a bit of a 'silky winger' but he talks, too, of another side to his character.

“He's one of those players that is well able to switch,” says O'Neill. “He would walk into training at night, he'd be talking to people, very friendly, nice and humble, a little bit of joking but once training started nasty Liam came out and it was war time.

HeraldScotland: Liam Scales in action for Shamrock RoversLiam Scales in action for Shamrock Rovers

“Give him a couple of weeks, let him settle in and watch him go. Every stage he has moved on to he has adapted and came out on top. Give him one or two years and other [big] clubs will be sniffing around trying to take him. There are several factors that make a good football player and I think Liam possesses all of those factors but the real quality that he possesses is that he has a fantastic growth mindset, he wants to get better, he does the actual work.”

In 2017, Scales was on the fringes of O'Neill's UCD side but by the end of the 2018 campaign he had been included in the team of the season for his exploits in a first division title-winning campaign with the student side. Within weeks he was on trial at Manchester City's Under-23s, then came an abortive move to Bristol Rovers which eventually broke down after weeks of haggling.

“He wasn't really himself when he came back the first week or two,” recalls O'Neill. “But once he cleared it from his head he was fine. He hates the politics, he hates everything around it, he just wants to play football.”

Shamrock Rovers had kept a close eye on Scales' prolonged transfer and when it collapsed they made their move.

Where he had built his reputation in relative anonymity at UCD this was a move to Ireland's biggest club. The spotlight was several degrees warmer but the redoubtable Scales was unfazed and as such Mannus expects him to handle any pressure at Celtic with similar aplomb.

“[Shamrock Rovers] are expected to win every game, every competition,” says Mannus. “There is that pressure on you – from supporters but also from within the club, there's a demand to be successful but it wouldn't affect him in a negative way at all. There was nothing that happened in his time with us that made me think that anything would get to him in terms of pressure or negativity. I think Celtic fans will see that for themselves.”