Hayes will leave 'wonderful legacy' behind in Munster
TONY McGahan believes John Hayes' retirement will be a huge loss to Munster both on and off the field, but he knows the Cappamore man will leave a wonderful legacy behind him.
The 38-year-old will bow out when he plays his 212th game for his province against Connacht on St Stephen's Day.
Hayes (pictured) participated in his last full training session yesterday when Munster moved base to his home club in Bruff and several hundred fans turned up to see him off.
"His general demeanour has always been about the team," said McGahan.
"That has been evident all the way through, but for him to sign up with us after the World Cup to help us out of a situation speaks immeasurably of the man.
"His giving nature was always evident. It didn't matter who you were in the squad, whether it was first team or staff, anyone. It didn't matter, he treated everyone the same.
"His legacy as a person will be one of the remaining features of him in Munster.
"It was always going to be his decision when he wanted to exit. He started in the Magners League final and had a terrific game that day, which culminated in a penalty try at the end. This is just his time to finish up.
"It is an excellent way to sign off. He'd have liked to have had a World Cup final to finish up on with everything he has achieved in the game, but that wasn't to be.
"I think it speaks volumes of the man that he was willing to continue and battle through when he had the notion to retire at the end of last season.
"He wanted to continue to the World Cup and then with Munster through the development of our front row. So to finish at home at Christmas is terrific," added McGahan.
Hayes admitted that he is sad to be bowing out but has no complaints after a career which saw him win 105 Irish caps, the Heineken Cups twice, two Magners League titles as well a place on Lions tours to South Africa and New Zealand.
"There is a certain amount of sadness that it is coming to an end after a very long run," he said.
"There is a realisation that it is time to go, but I am just looking forward to it now in the last game. I am delighted that it is in Thomond.
"I am delighted to have had the career I did. A lot of things changed since I started, the game wasn't even professional then and I have enjoyed it over the years, it has been brilliant."
Hayes started out his career with Bruff, having only turned his hand to rugby at 18 as a second-row and back-rower, but he believes the two seasons he spent in Invercargill when he converted to a prop in his first game, was the really decisive move that kick-started his career.
"It was huge at the time. I had only played two seasons when I went and to do two seasons back-to-back turned it around for me. It was in my first game down there that I changed to the front-row," he said.
The game has changed completely since Hayes started playing.
"It is a 15-man game now. You have to be able to do all aspects of the game now. You really get found out in defence if you are not up to it," he said.
"You cannot be one-dimensional now, with the GPS systems they are measuring fellas with, and the distances that fellas are covering is going up each year."