It didn’t take long for Caitlin Hayes to be sussed out, her attempts to enjoy a low-key kickabout dashed by the fact that playing for Celtic women is no longer a low-key occupation.

Determined to get a head start on pre-season, she left the trademark pink hairband and Celtic attire at home in hope of joining a 5-a-side group without her true identity being revealed. Not so long ago, her chances of being rumbled would have been considerably lower.

But that all changed a few months back, the 27-year-old centre-back emerging as perhaps the most recognisable figure in a Celtic side that played no small part in launching Scottish women’s football into a new dimension. A thrilling three-way SWPL title race, record crowds at Celtic Park and a Hampden cup final against Rangers – Hayes was front and centre in one of the most compelling conclusions to any football season.

It’s why introducing herself simply as Caitlin who happens to play a bit of football didn’t cut it for long when she began joining in with the men at Soccerworld this summer, some of them sceptical of ‘this girl’ gatecrashing their weekly runabout, some of them even Rangers fans.

READ MORE: Oh Hyeon-gyu Celtic injury leaves striker on sidelines

“I joined a 5-a-side group without telling anyone my name,” she said at this week’s SWPL season launch. “I enjoyed that, just playing with grown men, it was good fun.

“I just turned up. I knew one of the guys, he was a friend’s dad. I turned up and they were almost like ‘what’s this girl doing here?’

“I just said that I played a bit of football, but a couple of weeks later they were like: ‘We know who you are!’ That was part of my training this year that was adapted to being in Scotland for a longer period of time.

“I went round to a friend’s house and their dad said: ‘You’ve been in the group chat, they know who you are!’

“I was like ‘that’s a shame, can I still turn up?’ and they said ‘yeah, sure!’

“There were a few Rangers guys, as well, saying: ‘We can’t believe you’re here after beating Rangers!’

“I didn’t give them my full name, I just said I was Caitlin. I wasn’t going to go around saying ‘Hi, I’m Caitlin Hayes and I play for Celtic’.

“I didn’t wear the hairband, absolutely not. That gives me away. I kept away from the hairband and kept away from Celtic things, I just said I happened to play a bit of football, which is actually every day!”

I suppose the obvious follow-up question is… what if you’d got injured?!

“But you can get injured anywhere, can’t you?” said Hayes. “I just really enjoyed it. It was nice to just turn up, play a bit of football and get the old ‘what’s she doing here? She’s a girl!’ – and to prove them wrong, obviously.”

The desire to switch off and simply do something normal is understandable for any player – whether it be Celtic, Glasgow City or Rangers – involved in the rollercoaster of emotions that the SWPL1 finale became.

READ MORE: Starfelt set for Celta Vigo medical, says Celtic's Rodgers

Hayes needs no reminding of how City wrestled the title from Celtic’s grasp with a stoppage time goal at Ibrox. She was left inconsolable on the Celtic Park pitch when news filtered through from across the city, but admits she is thankful the opportunity to banish that heartbreak with a Scottish Cup final victory came around so quickly.

Since then, it has been a summer of change for manager Fran Alonso and his team-mate. Key players such as Jacynta Galabadaarachchi, Pam Tajonar, Claire O’Riordan and Natasha Flint – among a host of others – have moved on, with no fewer than 10 coming in to replace them. Their summer graft is now set to be put to the test on Sunday against SWPL1 newcomers Montrose.

“I’m not sure of the numbers [of changes] but I’ve learned all the names!” said Hayes. “It’s no secret in women’s football. I’ve said it before, the turnaround – whether it’s because people want to be closer to family or whatever the reason – you can’t argue with them, and you just wish the girls that have left the best in their careers and their personal lives, that they are happy.

“It doesn’t matter, you’re Celtic football club - people want to be here, and they’ll want to be here until the end. So, you won’t struggle to find players and the ones we’ve got, we’re grateful to have.

“There’s some really good girls in there, and good players.”

That being said, Hayes confessed it was more than a little devastating to part with so many close friends from what was clearly a close-knit group.

“Of course, it’s gutting,” she said. “I’ll be honest about that, it is heartbreaking.

“There are girls from that team I still speak to once a week to wish them well – Claire O’Riordan was at the World Cup and we were texting a lot, I wanted her to do well.

“It’s obviously a shame when people leave but they’re bettering themselves, choosing their career path and you can’t argue with that. As long as they continue to be good people, that’s all I wish for them.

“It can be heartbreaking but that’s football, it moves and it’s a revolving door. I’m still here and I’ve got great new team-mates.

“The players get better each and that’s something we’ve got to keep up as players that have stayed."