Friday 23 March 2018

John Hayes: We said good luck to each other. I didn't think it would be the last time

John Hayes and Anthony Foley sing the national anthem before Ireland’s clash with Scotland in 2004. Photo: Sportsfile
John Hayes and Anthony Foley sing the national anthem before Ireland’s clash with Scotland in 2004. Photo: Sportsfile

Barry Duggan

Irish rugby great John Hayes has revealed he learned of the sudden death of Anthony Foley through a former teammate who rang him from Paris.

Hayes (42) from Cappamore, Co Limerick, is three days younger than Foley and played with him throughout his rugby career with Shannon, Munster and Ireland. Hayes won 105 caps for Ireland and lined out for Munster 217 times, retiring in 2011.

He told the Irish Independent how he was preparing to watch the Munster v Racing 92 match on Sunday when former teammate Jerry Flannery rang from Paris to inform him of the heartbreaking news.

"Jerry Fla rang me. I was going to be watching the game from Paris," Hayes said. "I thought to myself 'What's he ringing me for?' He's got a game to prepare for.

"Jerry told me….It is hard to make sense of it all. I was just looking at the phone. It was the last thing we expected. What can you say?

"I played with Anthony since our under 20s day in Shannon.

"He was three days older than me. Whenever he had his birthday, I could slag him for three days saying he was a year older than me."


Hayes and former Munster teammates met at Mick Galwey's 50th birthday party in his Kilkenny home on October 8.

"We were all there and the craic was great. That's the way it always is with us," he said.

"We mightn't see each other for a while and you're straight back into then - slagging each other immediately.

"Nothing changes. It can be unmerciful but it is always good to meet them.

"We slagged Anthony about going grey and he could give it back to us just as good. Frankie Sheahan was getting an awful doing about going bald even though he was trying to grow his hair. Anthony was in good form, talking and joking away.

"We spoke about the Munster v Leinster game in Dublin that day and everything else rugby.

"He (Anthony) was the last person I saw at the party.

"We were standing outside the front door at 2am and I said 'I have to go back to Limerick'.

"I said 'good luck' to him and he said 'good luck' to me. You don't think it will be the last time you will see each other."

Hayes and Foley are both held in the highest regard by Munster fans for their roles in helping the province win the Heineken Cup in 2006 and 2008.

"He was a true captain and leader. He'd always get more out of players and those around him. He never saw any reason why we should lose to anybody," Hayes said.

"If we were on the back foot or had conceded a try, he was the focal point under the posts telling us what to do next. He assumed responsibility and led from the front - that was his nature.

"He was our teammate but most of all, he was a husband, a father, a son and a brother.We'll miss him greatly."

Irish Independent

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