Despite its title there will be no bull in John Hayes’ book.
The Bull: My Story will be published on Thursday, September 27 and launched that night in Clohessy’s. The Cappamore man always left everything out on the pitch during his illustrious career, and nothing has been left out of his book.Ghostwriter Tommy Conlon describes the book as, “the John Hayes that the public admired but didn’t know”.
Many will be surprised that John chose even to write a book, considering he always shied away from attention. “There was no doubt the material was there - his career ensured that because of its longevity and achievements. He played 105 times for Ireland, over 200 for Munster, won two Heineken Cups, four Triple Crowns and a Grand Slam,” said Mr Conlon, who is from Leitrim but lives in Limerick city.
Tommy’s one reservation was that “John Hayes was known to be a reticent sportsman. He did his job and didn’t do much media at all. I asked him about it and he had a very rational explanation.
“He didn’t want to bring attention to himself. It is not his temperament, his personality or his nature at all. It was as simple as that.
“He felt it was a team sport and no one should be singled out more than anyone else. By nature he preferred to keep a low profile. He did not enjoy public acclaim, he was as uncomfortable with that as public criticism.
The Bull and his ‘ghost’ worked at John’s kitchen table over two months, often eight hours a day for five days a week.
“Like a lot of quiet fellows when he did speak, he spoke well and intelligently. He thought about his answers before he gave his answers. Seeing him open up is a story in its own right.
“The reader will get his life and times which we didn’t really get [during his career]. There is a lot of insight in to the dynamic among Munster players, the whole comradeship and lots of funny yarns,” he said.
As John has a “photographic memory” the do-or-die matches at Thomond Park and the emotional connection between players and fans are recreated in minute detail. Many sports autobiographies look at everything through rose-tinted glasses, but not The Bull.
“I don’t think it will surprise anyone to hear that he didn’t duck any issues and that includes Cian Healy,” said Tommy. John received a ban over a rucking incident with the Leinster and Ireland prop.
“He actually found it difficult to talk about it but like everything else he did talk about it. That is a big regret of his career. He felt embarrassed by it.”
John’s supposed scrummaging difficulties, oft highlighted by the national media, are also addressed: “He knew it himself when he played badly.”
You could count on one hand the number of times he played badly and it is hard to think of a more popular sportsman, not only in Limerick but in Ireland.
“Modern sportsmen,” says Tommy, “are put up on a pedestal because of the TV exposure and the fame. A gulf materialises. By his personality he managed to avoid that. People see him as one of their own.”