THOMOND Park bid farewell to John ‘The Bull’ Hayes and received a vision of the future as a young Munster side took apart Connacht.
Hayes gave a vintage display as Munster easily beat their provincial rivals 24-9 in Limerick.
Before the kick off, Hayes, an iconic figure in Munster rugby, emerged alone to be acclaimed by the Reds faithful in a fitting tribute to the man who has selflessly given his all for the cause.
Having played in all four of Munster’s Heineken Cup finals, become the first player to star in 100 Heineken Cup matches and enjoying an international career which saw him play in 55 consecutive Six Nations games, Hayes departed with fond memories.
"Obviously there is a feeling of sadness that it’s coming to an end after a very long run but there’s the realisation that the time has come," the giant 38-year-old said.
"I never thought I’d have this length of career. There were many highlights, with Munster it would have to be the two Heineken Cups and for Ireland the Grand Slam game in Cardiff in 2009."
It was unfortunate that in his last competitive game for the province Hayes was not given more of a challenge, with basic errors putting Connacht on the back foot early on.
In the opening half, lightning-fast debutant Sean Scanlon, backed up by Simon Zebo and Keith Earls, tormented Connacht.
Munster were well worth their 18-3 half-time lead and it could have and maybe should have been more with Ian Keatley, playing against his former side, missing a brace of penalties in addition to a conversion.
At that stage Munster led 3-0, with Keatley converting a 16th-minute penalty in front of the posts either side of pulling penalties right of the target.
He then swapped penalties with Connacht’s Niall O’Connor before Munster took control.
Paddy Butler intercepted a Niall O’Connor pass and a couple of phases later a great move involving quick hands from Zebo, Earls and Luke O’Dea sent Scanlon over for a fine try which Keatley converted.
Tomas O’Leary added another try after a fine kick and chase to make it 18-3 at half-time.
Both sides traded two second-half penalties and Munster were forced back but in reality only one team was ever going to win this game.