There isn’t too much left for anyone to say about the man who is John Hayes.
Over the last week, we’ve all been reading reams of paper about John and deservedly so.
I was fortunate enough to be present in the room last Thursday along with a couple of other committee members when John gave what may be his last set of media interviews depending on what happens later tonight. Knowing John he may get into the car and go home rather than face the fuss that will inevitably happen this evening in Thomond Park. He just doesn’t do fuss. With all the furore after the training session in Bruff, the backroom team at Munster hauled him in to face the press-gang in the committee room and he did some of the most honest talking I’ve ever seen at one of these things. No waffle, No BULL.
TV interviews with John are very scarce and the best one that I know of is of course with his former munster and Ireland teammate Keith Wood, who tied him down in the lead up to the game in Twickenham against England in 2010 which Ireland took with a 20-16 scoreline. I’ve linked to that at the bottom of this piece.
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 who you can honestly say that Ireland and Munster could not have done without or had no replacement for over the last 15 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 line-out 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 12 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 Clarke’s. 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 Cups, Irish Triple crowns and Grand Slam glory and Lions jerseys followed. He got the all time record for Irish caps, Heineken Cup caps, and broke the record for 6 nations starts.
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 last 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, the trip up along the league ladders to our current 1b Status, followed again by last years absolutely fabulous season, with our first Munster Senior Cup and All Ireland Bateman Cups. We wanted survival last season and we got there by the skin of our teeth. God knows how it will finish up this year, but wherever we are we are their with our own.
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 tonight, 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 Keating’s 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 we know back then where the future would take us. We’ve watched with immense pride as you broke all of the records in the face of so-called expert pundits criticisms, you cried and smiled at different times along the way and we cried and smiled with you.
On thursday, Tony McGahans description was all about the man and his effect on the team, the Munster family rather than as the player, and that is how he will be remembered there.
Thank you John, the gentleman, the rugby player, the Bruffian who went halfway around the world and came back to Bruff, the cornerstone of Irish Rugby for 11 years. The Legend. Your hands will be set in stone with a place in Kilballyowen as well as in our hearts. It has been a privilege to watch from the sidelines. Take the plaudits, you deserve them. They now know how hard you are to replace.Relax into family life with Fiona and the
two girls, you deserve every bit of it after a job well done.