TRIBUTES have been paid to ‘gentle giant’ John Hayes who will don the Munster jersey for one final time on St Stephen’s Day.
The Cappamore man was due to retire last September but was persuaded to stay on due to a series of injuries to the province’s front-rowers.
Monday’s RaboDirect Pro12 game against Connacht at Thomond Park will be an emotional one, not only for the prop but also for those who have played a part in his illustrious career.
Eddie Price, president of Shannon RFC coached John in the early days. “He came in to us when I was coaching Shannon U20s. He was a 19-year-old with real raw talent,” said Eddie.
“If there is to be a tribute to be paid to John - he is probably one of the most professional guys I have ever met in my life. Even from day one, his application was superb.”
According to Eddie, John never missed a training session “and by the end of the following year he was probably the best player we had at that level and then he moved up to senior level.
“He settled in there very, very quickly - again he was so professional. He never caused a bother. He is an absolute gentleman.”
To mark the retirement of John Hayes, members of the Munster squad trained at Kilballyowen on Thursday ahead of Monday night’s match.