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John Hayes Celebrates 100 Caps With Victory at Twickenham

John Hayes is six-feet-four inches tall.  He weighs 280 pounds.  He doesn’t drink.  He doesn’t party.  He doesn’t raise his voice.  He gets embarrrassed in the limelight and avoids TV interviews whenever he can.  When he can’t avoid them,  he stares at his feet and says it was all thanks to the lads.

Last Saturday, John Hayes became the first ever Irish player to win 100 international caps.  Nine years ago, Jason Leonard, the English prop, reached 100 caps in the  international between Ireland and England.  After the game, Leonard walked into the Irish dressing room with a six pack of beer, looking for Hayes.  He handed over his jersey with his name and the match date embroidered on it, and in recognition of the honour, Hayes shared with Leonard one of the few beers he has ever consumed in his life.

The two men met again yesterday, after the game, and shared a little time and a few reminiscences.

Respect.

When he isn’t playing professional rugby for Munster or representing Ireland internationally, John Hayes is a farmer, in Cappamore, County Limerick.  He might well be the only farmer in the world who has a pair of rugby goalposts in a field full of cattle.

Yesterday, at Twickenham, Hayes lined out for the 100th time as an Ireland prop.  The cameras caught him at the end of Ireland’s Call, crying like a baby, and that was when you knew how much this honour means to Hayes, a man of the utmost honesty and integrity, who has given everything asked of him by his country and his province.

He was sent off only once in an exemplary career, for stamping on Cian Healy in 2009.

It’s no harm to mention that he’s won two Heineken Cups with Munster, in 2006 and 2008, or that he has Magners League / Celtic League trophies from 2003 and 2009, or that he has a Celtic Cup title from 2005.   And I suppose we should mention that he won the Six nations and the Grand Slam in 2009, as well as the Triple Crown in 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2009.

That’s not a bad record.

He’s a bit slower now than he used to be, and a bit less mobile around the pitch, but there’s still nobody to compare with him for commitment and there’s nobody to match his lifting-power in the lineout.

Declan Kidney is not a sentimental man, and he didn’t select John Hayes to start against England so that he could collect 100 caps.  He selected him because Hayes was the  best man for the job, even at the age of 36.

He’s old for this job, and he knows it.  He doesn’t clear out the rucks like he used to, preferring instead to be one of the pillars.  He doesn’t move around the field as quickly, but he’s still able for this tough sport because he came so late to it.  He began his career playing GAA sports, just like fellow internationals Geordan Murphy, Brian O Driscoll and Shane Horgan, though none of them matched Tomás O Leary’s achievement of winning an All-Ireland medal, a Heineken Cup and a Grand Slam.

Because he came so late to the game, and because he was a huge young lad — 6’4″ and 19 stone at the age of eighteen — he didn’t sustain the early damage that plagued other greats, like Keith Wood.  He started as a wing forward with Bruff RFC, before moving to second-row, where he was an obvious choice  with his height and strength.   When he moved to Invercargill in New Zealand, he converted to front row, a position he has continued to occupy.

Since 1998 he’s played at tight-head for Munster and in the last ten years he hasn’t missed a single international game, playing in 52 consecutive contests for his country.

A quiet, modest, unassuming man, John Hayes won’t be going on TV as a pundit when he finally calls an end to his career, and it can’t be long now.  He doesn’t have the ready quip, or the flashy turn of phrase.  He doesn’t think of himself as anything special and if they pointed a camera at him, he’d do what he always did: he’d stare at his feet until it went away, and perhaps mutter that it was all thanks to the lads.

When it ends, John Hayes will go back to his farm in Cappamore, and his friends in Bruff RFC, and maybe every now and then reflect on a job honestly done.

___________

Also

Bruff RFC tribute to John Hayes

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Rugby

John Hayes To Play for Bruff Against Belfast Harlequins?

Munster and Ireland prop John Hayes has had his ban for stamping on Leinster’s Cian Healy in the Magners League clash between Leinster and Munster reduced by a week.

The original suspension was due to run until November 14 but will now end on November 7 after an IRFU Appeal Committee today decided the initial six week ban was a bit on the harsh side.

However, neither Munster nor Ireland have have any fixtures from November 7 to 14 so the one week reduction in the ban is academic.

Hayes missed last weekend’s defeat to Northampton in the European Cup and will also will miss Saturday’s clash with Treviso in Limerick.

But he will be available for Ireland’s November International series, which is due to begin on 15 November with a Test match against Australia.

He will also be able to line out for a club side in the All-Ireland League. He is currently registered with AIL Division Two side Bruff player but has played most of his AIL rugby for Shannon.  The Belfast Harlequins game might just suit the Bull down to the ground.  A source close to Bruff RFC refused to rule out the possibility.

Meantime, once upon a time if you told a rugby player he was cited he’d assume you meant he was spotted falling out of the Duck & Drake at some ungodly hour of the morning.

But since the advent of the pro game players are now being cited every weekend – and it has nothing to do with being spotted flagging down a medivac after drinking gallons of porter.

Leinster flanker Shane Jennings is the latest to fall foul of the rules after allegedly making contact with the eye or eye area of London Irish lock Nick Kennedy during the defending champions’ defeat to the Exiles in the European Cup in Dublin last weekend.

Kennedy later admitted that he may have over-reacted – you wouldn’t have been trying to get Jennings yellow carded now would you Nick?

Nevertheless, the match citing commissioner Richard McGhee, from Scotland, decided Jennings has a case to answer. His case will be held tomorrow, Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the quote of the week must go to Ospreys coach Scott Johnson who compared last weekends 32-32 draw with Leicester to kissing his mother in law.

How does he know? Did he snog her indoors?

Munster have named a 26-man squad for next Saturday’s visit of Italians side Treviso to Thomond Park next Saturday.

Treviso beat French champions Perpignan last weekend and in a typical “understated” Italian reaction to the win team manager Franco Properzi (great name) claimed the victory was “the greatest in our Heineken Cup history.”

Is there another historic victory in them this weekend?