Monday 20 May 2019

Celtic move giving Jonny Hayes a taste of first-class environment

Republic of Ireland's Jonathan Hayes. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Republic of Ireland's Jonathan Hayes. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Jonny Hayes is the only Irishman left standing in this year's Champions League.

The Celtic recruit has a job to do to force himself into Brendan Rodgers's side with competition for places intense since his summer switch from Aberdeen.

And he is now getting his head around the difference in status that comes with life as a Hoops player.

That was brought home to him on last week's trip to Kazakhstan where they did just enough against Astana to book a ticket for a group that includes PSG, Bayern Munich and Anderlecht.

"There were people queuing up in the middle of nowhere in Kazakhstan to meet us during the middle of the night," said Hayes yesterday.

"It's a massive club and it's nice to get a taste of that first hand."

Hayes is aware of the enormity, although he wouldn't be a huge football watcher in his spare time.

As it happens, he's from a family of Celtic fans and they've experienced the Champions League nights as Celtic Park fans, whereas he will be a first-timer.

The 30-year-old appreciates the scale of the opportunity, though, after coming to the boil late for club and country.

He says that looking after himself better has been a simple key to advancing at this stage of his journey. Former Aberdeen team-mate Gavin Rae introduced him to a nutritionist.

"Every little bit helps you, especially as you get a little older, you try to think 'what can I do?' even if it just makes 1pc or 2pc of a difference.

"The nutritionist was into fitness as well, it wasn't just about looking good, he helped me improve my diet and what not. I felt the benefits of being much fitter and stronger."

Hayes says that the facilities at Celtic remove any excuses about conditioning and extended that comment to the set-up with Ireland, where he has made inroads under O'Neill.

That said, he admits that it would be a surprise if he was selected against Georgia on Saturday as the players ahead of him have done nothing wrong.

"It's easier when you come to Celtic or go away with the international team," he said.

"There's food supplements and everything is first-class anyway. If you can pick up good habits along the way, and you have the support here to help, it doesn't leave room for any excuses."

Irish Independent

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