16 December, 2011

The ultimate Mr. "Nothing is Impossible" has reached the end of the Munster road:

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Hayes (2nd left) celebrates Munster's 2006 Heineken Cup win
            Munster Rugby have a number of sayings.  Whilst  "Stand up and Fight"  and  "The Fields of Athenry"  will resonate for people all over the island (and not just the province);  the most relevant Munster Rugby mantra must be:  "To the Brave and Faithful, Nothing is Impossible."             No Munster Rugby player has surely ever lived up to this moniker than John  "The Bull" Hayes.  Having only taking up the game at 19 years of age, his size (6'4" and 20stone) enabled him to overcome his very late start to enjoy one of the most amazing careers of any Irish rugby player.
            Hayes was famed for his professionalism and commitment to the cause and quite amazingly, became  the first ever Ireland player to win 100 caps.  Whilst Brian O'Driscoll and Ronan O'Gara have since surpassed his record international haul, he holds Munster's all-time Heineken Cup appearance record with a total of 101 appearances.  His 102nd appearance this Sunday will be his last.  
            Hayes won just about everything that the game of rugby has to offer (except for the World Cup) and his rise (like Ronan O'Gara's;  who rightly gave Hayes his 100th Munster cap) coincided with the rise of Munster and Heineken Cup rugby.             After the bitter disappointment of Heineken Cup Final defeat in 2000 and 2002;  John Hayes finally won European club rugby's greatest prize in 2006 and became part of one of only three sides (the other two being Toulouse and Leicester Tigers) to win a second Heineken Cup in 2008.  He became the first man to make 100 Heineken Cup appearances against Northampton Saints in November 2011.
Hayes with 100th Munster cap

               Hayes was selected for the British and Irish Lions in 2009 and played in the final Test against world champions South Africa.  Hayes reached the zenith of international rugby in 2009 as part of the Irish front row which won the Six Nations Grand Slam at Cardiff's Millenium Stadium and became Ireland's most capped player (at the time) during that game.  Hayes is also the first Irish rugby player to win 100 caps for the national team.
Doing the hard yards as always
For a prop to achieve 100 international caps at both international and Heineken Cup level, in such a physically demanding position, is a truly remarkable feat.   "The Bull"  will appropriately enough be remembered for his bullocking runs through midfield and always giving 100% and sometimes even more.  
His first rugby match was in a Munster Junior League match for Bruff R.F.C. against Newcastle West which ended in a 0-0 draw.  He quickly earned the nickname  "Calf"  before becoming the  "Bullock"  upon his call up to the Munster senior set-up and finally being labelled  "The Bull"  upon earning his stripes for Ireland.
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