ONLY time will tell if Saturday’s pulsating Magners League Grand Final victory over Leinster proves to be John Hayes’ final game for Munster, but if it is, then the Cappamore man could hardly have picked a better occasion with which to sign off.
In a rare post-match interview, 37-year-old Hayes said he was looking forward to catching up with some farm work in the coming weeks as Ireland’s international players begin a four-week break before the focus switches in earnest to the World Cup.
“I would normally go straight home to the farm at this time of the year to get a few jobs done. Hopefully the weather will hold up. It’s not looking too good at the moment,” John Hayes chuckles, the look of satisfaction plain for all to see.
Munster’s victory means Hayes’ Munster medal haul accrued over 13 seasons now includes three Magners League medals, a Celtic Cup medal as well as two Heineken Cup medals.
Saturday’s Grand Final was his 201st appearance for Munster and the tighthead prop agreed that the satisfaction came from maintaining their excellent regular season form in the Magners League into the play-offs.
“It was great to get a win. It has been a long season,” John Hayes admitted.
“We were disappointing in Europe, but good in the Magners. You can finish the League phase of the competition on top of the table, but it doesn’t get you anything. It is important to win the knock-out matches.
“We had a two-week run into the game. It was different from that point of view. Leinster had one week obviously, with a huge game last week.
“I don’t know if that was my last game for Munster is the honest answer. We will just have to wait and see how it goes.
“The body is fine. It’s the end of the season now, so I’m looking forward to the break.
“One of the things which has stood to me is that I started playing at this level late. That definitely did help. You can develop more. I reckoned that is one of the reasons I’m still involved.”
Hayes has been impressed with the quality of the young forwards Munster have utilised in the Magners League this season.
“There are some great young fellas coming through the squad at the moment. That is one of the great positives we can take from this season,” John Hayes insisted.
“There were fellas who were not involved tonight who stood up at different stages through the season, the likes of Ian Nagle, Stephen Archer. I love training and playing with them. There is great enthusiasm around training when they are there.
“You saw when Mike Sherry came on, the impact he had. He has done that for the past number of weeks in different games. That is what it is all about.”
While Hayes says he is undecided about his plans for next season, his Shannon, Munster and Ireland team-mate Alan Quinlan is beginning a new life away from rugby as he officially retired following Saturday’s game.
Hayes agreed Quinlan will be missed by the province on many levels.
“Quinny is a huge character. He has been here for years,” Hayes added.
“It is not just that he has been here for years, he is a character in the squad, it’s his personality and he’s a great player. All those things together have made him what he is. He will be a big loss, but that’s what happens.
“Hopefully there are a few new Quinnys out there, guys who are starting out.”