What can you say about John Hayes that hasn’t already been said a hundred times over in the last week.
If there is one man that you can honestly say that Ireland and Munster could not have done without or had no replacement for over the last 9-10 years it is the rock solid John Hayes. Ever since I used to meet him on the training pitch in Kilballyowen twice a week when he started all of those years ago (I’m guessing about 4 or 5 stone lighter), a fit, thin whippet that we stuck out on the edge of the scrum for his first game, that I was able to lift in the lineout back then (when it was illegal to do so, but only if you got caught), we here at Bruff have watched his career grow from strength to strength. From the move into second row, Joining Shannon U20 as we had no U20 team that year, Thanks to Kynan McGregor, the move about as far south that you can go on this planet and the return as a Prop from Invercargill. All of a sudden he shot into the limelight with that famous start against Scotland almost 9 years ago to the day and everyone in the country finally saw what we had known all along.
There were a few surreptitiously wiped eyes around the clubhouse that famous february day and the crowning moment for many was the sight of a Bruff flag and banner flashed up on the big screen in Clarkes. John had made the big time and Bruff RFC was being carried along with him. While we had had a few younger players on international schools teams, Under 18 and Under 20 squads, this was our very first Senior International player and by heck were we proud of it. Even though at this stage he was playing full time with Shannon and Munster, he never forgot where he came from or where he started and in the few scarce interviews that he did over the years, he never failed to let everyone know just how it began.
John’s career blossomed, Munster Heineken Cup glory, Irish Triple crown glory and a Lions jersey followed. He’s just about to match the all time record for Irish caps, and going well will break the record for the greatest number of 6 Nations starts of any country before the end of this campaign.
We, as you probably know, have had our own successes, Under 20 All Ireland league winners and losing finalists in the space of twelve months, quickly followed by three Munster Junior league wins out of four. The tense final moments on the phone in Garryowen Green, praying and willing for the game between Clanwilliam and Nenagh to finish. That fateful jump to Senior on the third attempt on that fateful day in Coleraine, Where we cried, we couldn’t watch, the Northern lads put on a great atmosphere but we were too tense to enjoy it. This was followed by surviving the famous first year in senior rugby. John came back to his roots, to the place where it all began. This was quickly followed by being crowned champions without being promoted, followed again by last years absolutely fabulous season, which now sees us in Division 2. We wanted survival this season. We’ve accomplished that already and God knows how it will finish up this year.
Folks, while it’s been one hell of a ride for us, we can be extremely proud of the man they call “THE BULL”. The Cornerstone of Munster and Ireland, hopefully on Sunday, they will finally give him that elusive “Man of the match award”, although it’s highly likely that he wouldn’t do the interview, that’s just the type of man he is. While I’ll never forget the row in Keatings into the wee hours with Chick, Scoby, Dunnser and Ger Whelan over whether we would be better off in Munster Junior 3 for a season to regroup, little did I know back then where the future would take us.
Thanks you John for many many happy moments, and we know there’s more to come. Keep carrying that pack as long as they need you.