John Hayes’ progression to becoming, perhaps, Ireland’s most valuable player has been astonishing. A late comer to the came, he started playing with Bruff at the age of 18 before joining Shannon as a raw second row. His move to prop came after a spell in New Zealand where he played for a year and under the guidance of Brian O’Brien and Niall O’Donovon he quickly found himself as first choice on the Shannon senior team.
His outstanding displays with Shannon in 97/98 saw him make the Irish summer tour to South Africa, although he didn’t play in any of the tests. He did however gain invaluable experience in the mid-week matches. His first A cap came the following December when South Africa toured Ireland and he remained part of that squad throughout the season. His constant improvement enhanced his reputation but it took a further 18 months for his first full cap. After what has become described as the “Twickenham debacle of 2000” he was selected to play against Scotland along with club colleague Peter Stringer. Apart from being ruled out through injury, he had been ever present in the side up until the 2010, but despite being in serious contention for the 2011 WRC squad he’s non selection prompted his retirement from the International game. Selection for the British and Irish Lions 0f 2005 was an obvious highlight as well as the Grand slam of 2009.