Hayes set for another milestone
Prop John Hayes is set to equal Malcolm O’Kelly’s Irish caps record on Sunday as he lines up in the front row for the Six Nations clash with Italy.
That tally, added to the Bruff man celebrating his 35th birthday last November, and you would think that he is fast heading towards the twilight of his career.
However whisper that quietly around the man known as the Bull and one of his biggest fans – Ireland coach Declan Kidney.
Hayes has started 86 games during his 90-cap toll but Kidney, who knows him so well through their time together at Munster, is confident that there are many more caps and milestones to come.
"Everybody says tight head is the cornerstone and I think no more so than John,” Kidney said.
“To amass 90 caps is a phenomenal record and a testament to his professionalism and the way he's gone about it.
"If I was to really say what I think of John, we'd be here another 20 minutes and he probably wouldn't thank me for it.
"Sunday’s another milestone and please God he'll have another few more after that.
"I'm delighted for him and his family.
“Knowing John all he'll want to do is to get a result out of this one, that will be the best way he'll remember it.”
Hayes 90th cap, of course, came last Saturday in the memorable victory over France and he marked the occasion with another big display of ball carrying in the loose and a powerful performance in the scrum.
And all this from a man who started his career as a flanker with his local club Bruff in Limerick, but spells with Shannon and Invercargill in New Zealand shaped Hayes into a prop.
He helped Shannon to All Ireland League success in 1998 but had to wait another two years to make his Irish debut.
He beat Phil Orr’s long-standing record 58 caps as Ireland’s most-capped prop by starting against Italy, France, Wales, Scotland and England in the 2006 Six Nations.
Hayes has won two Heineken Cups with Munster and if the defending champions can reach this year’s final at Murrayfield he will break Anthony Foley's 86-match caps record for the competition.