2010 Cork All-Ireland winner JOHN HAYES recently made his 100th championship appearance for Carbery Rangers. Marking the milestone KIERAN McCARTHY picked his brains with a Q&A on his club career to date
KIERAN McCARTHY (KMC): You’ve reached a milestone – 100 football championship games for Carbery Rangers. From your championship debut against Gabriel Rangers in a 2002 Carbery JAFC first-round game to the recent Premier SFC match against the Barrs, that’s 21 seasons of service. An easy question to kick off with – of the 100 games, which is your favourite and why?
JOHN HAYES (JH): The county senior final in 2016, because it was the culmination of everything that had gone before from junior to senior. For that time Carbery Rangers were top of the tree in Cork football, which I felt we deserved given our consistency in league and championship in the six or six years previous.
KMC: Where do you keep your 2016 Cork SFC medal?
JH: Like every other good GAA lad, Mam has it somewhere at home.
KMC: Have you any recollections of your championship debut for Ross against Gabriel Rangers in 2002?
JH: I remember winning and scoring two points, and doing a chip pick-up on the run in front of our dug-out which was the kind of thing managers didn’t like too much back along. ‘Bend the back!’
KMC: You’ve been prolific for Ross for over two decades now, so what’s been the best goal you’ve scored?
JH: Probably against Ballincollig, I think around 2011 in Bandon. I gathered a long ball under pressure from two defenders, got knocked to the ground but got up and broke between the two of them. After that I dummy soloed the keeper and finished past two defenders on the line.
KMC: At this stage you’ve racked up north of 450 points for Carbery Rangers in championship football. Narrow it down to your favourite point scored.
JH: Maybe my first in the county final in 2016. It was a pretty good score from the right wing in poor conditions, and it helped settle us into the game. I’ve scored better, but that’s among the most important.
KMC: As much as you’ve caused headaches for defenders, who has been your toughest opponent?
JH: I remember marking Sean Óg Ó hAilpin way back in possibly 2007, and he was far too physically strong for me. I ran at him a couple of times and he just gobbled me up! Castlehaven’s David Limrick was another I had loads of battles with, he just never gave up even when you thought you had him beaten. Sam Ryan is very sticky as well for the Barrs.
KMC: It’s been some adventure with Ross, from the junior ranks up to senior level, so who is the best Carbery Rangers footballer you’ve played alongside?
JH: You’re looking to start a riot, Kieran! I can’t pick just one so I’m going to cop out and give three. Haulie (Micheál O’Sullivan), Kevin MacMahon and the brother, Seamus. Haulie and Kev were an unbelievable midfield pairing for years for Ross, perfectly balanced. Sham was a brilliant forward, and a physical player around the field. Walked a fine line with discipline at times … I don’t know where he got that trait!
KMC: Pick your dream Carbery Rangers full-forward line?
JH: Another tough one, but I’ll go with all Hayses. I’ll put Deccie in with myself and Sham (Seamus). Dec was another great servant to Ross. An electric, quick goal machine as a young player, he adapted his game after a terrible injury and often played a deeper role helping to link the play. I also want Mossy Moore as our super-sub, since he played the role so well in 2003 in Clon and enjoyed it so much!
KMC: Your best pair of football boots?
JH: I bought a cheap pair of red and black Adidas boots for €40 in Tenerife once. I played two championship games in them and scored 1-9 against Castlehaven and 1-7 against the Barrs so they were good value.
KMC: There have been highs and lows with Carbery Rangers over the years. If you could play any game again to try and change the final result, what game would it be?
JH: Easy, the 2014 county final against Ballincollig. I was captain and we were playing very well that year, roared into the lead, 0-9 to 0-2, and looked good to kick on. Fitzy (James Fitzpatrick) went off with a head injury, and between a few soft frees and some wonder scores against the wind from Ballincollig, we were only a point up at half time having played with a gale. Sham (Seamus Hayes) got a goal early in the second half, but we coughed up a cheap one soon after. Ballincollig defended well then with the wind, even though the ref appeared to award a penalty for a foot block late in the game, only to change to a 45. Not something you see too often.
KMC: Have you any superstitions before a game?
JH: Nope. To be honest, I think it’s a little bit of weakness to think such things can influence how you play. Prepare well, go out and play hard.
KMC: Fill us in on the secret to your longevity?
JH: I love playing the game, I love the club and county aspect of playing for where you came from, and I’ve been lucky enough both to play on very good teams with very good players, and to avoid serious injury.
KMC: Best bit of advice you have received as a Carbery Rangers player?
JH: The club will need you long after your county doesn’t.
KMC: How proud are you to have played in 100 championship games for Ross?
JH: Very proud, I wouldn’t have known if The Southern Star hadn’t done the piece a couple of years back which told me I had played 93 at the time. It was easy enough to keep track of getting to 100 then, even if injuries and suspension have meant it took a little longer than it should have.
KMC: You’re 37 now, and still contributing – is the hope to play as long as you can?
JH: I suppose that’s what everyone who loves playing sport wants, without going on so long you stop being of any use. I’m not hung up on when I will finish though, I’m just looking at Saturday against Nemo Rangers and nothing else. One more game or 10 more, I’m just going to give my best and the future will look after itself.