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18th Jun 2019

“The state of some of the boys on the plane made it an easy decision to get out of there”

Patrick McCarry

Those that were at The Mansion House, or later caught sight of footage, will still clearly see Tommy Bowe giving it socks into that microphone.

Ireland won only their second ever Grand Slam, on a soggy Saturday back in March 2009, and the celebrations were still in full swing by the time they flew back to Dublin and were guided onto buses towards the city centre. John Hayes had his own plans.

Tens of thousands of fans lined Dawson Street and cheered on the Irish team at a reception hosted by Des Cahill at The Mansion House.

Of all the interviews and raising of various trophies, Bowe stole the show with a rousing, bleary rendition of ‘Black Velvet Band’ that raised as many laughs as it did cheers.

One man that was not present for the hooley was Munster and Ireland prop John Hayes. ‘The Bull’ had toasted the Grand Slam win in Cardiff on the Saturday night but shot away home almost as soon as the plane landed at Dublin Airport.

Legend has it that Hayes was back at the farm and pitching in as Bowe was crowing away. Hayes gave his side of that famous in a wide-ranging chat with Baz & Andrew’s House of Rugby:

“We had just had a little girl. Baby Róisín was born two weeks before and I hadn’t really seen her that much because we had been in camp the last two weeks before that game.

“So I said it Declan on the plane home that when we got back to Dublin, could I slip away back home.

“But the state of some of the boys, as well, on the plane who hadn’t been to bed at all the night before, I’d say, made the decision easier just to get out of there.

“I was back home before Tommy gave his performance and just looking at it (on the news), I was glad not to be there!”

Hayes missed all those antics in Dublin, that day, but he was usually right in the thick of it. A pillar of the squad for a decade, Hayes often liked to hang out with the younger squad members as they were ‘up for the craic’ and not too precious.

In his final three years with Ireland, he palled around with Munster teammate Keith Earls who was 14 years his junior.

Like most players, when John Hayes retired it was not so much the big games or the hunt for trophies that he missed. It was the sense of camaraderie.

“You miss everything with the lads as I don’t think there is any other profession where you carry on and get on with each other the way you do when you are professional sportspeople.

“The gym, the bus, it’s childish at times and you could still carry on that childish humour the whole way on. But the feeling after a big win – not just a trophy, just a big win – for those 20 minutes or half an hour after is just the best feeling in the world. You’ve just backed up everything you said you were going to do all week, and it’s just brilliant.”

Heineken Cups, Grand Slams, World Cup campaigns and it is the sense of brotherhood and mischief that ‘The Bull’ misses most.


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