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Hayes plans coaching role after the longest goodbye

By David Kelly

Aand so the long goodbye continued.

As Jerry Flannery later joked: "It was kind of getting hard to watch him get all the attention but, sure he loves the limelight so it's hard to begrudge him his send-off!"

Nothing became Hayes' understated approach to his career than his leaving of it. Prompted to take a lap of honour around Thomond Park on Monday night, accompanied by wife Fiona and girls Sally and Roisin, Hayes managed all of 20 yards or so before beating a hasty, embarrassed shuffle back into the dressing-room.

"I went towards the middle and said I wasn't going any further," he said, laughing broadly.

Once safely ensconced amongst the bosom of his team-mates, he immersed himself in the ceaseless, classless banter for one last time. And then, the boys sang a familiar tune, 'Stand Up And Fight' as Hayes disrobed for the 217th and final time in Munster red.

This week, there will be no team meetings to prepare for Ulster at Ravenhill on Friday. No pre-match meal. No dressing-room nerves. No more. For the last time, this was life as he knew it. Now that life is irrevocably changed.

"It is definitely going to be a bit strange, yeah," he said, still basking in the acclamation of over 15,000 Munster faithful. "That even happens after a period at a Six Nations or a World Cup or something like that.

"You can actually wake up in the morning and go 'where is the day sheet?' And you have to get used to going down to boil the kettle for yourself instead of going into the breakfast room and everything is laid out for you.

"From that point, I suppose it will be weird after this Christmas period especially. When the Heineken Cup games come round again and you know that you are not a part of it anymore.

"You are not one of those fellahs 'not being considered because of injury' anymore. There would have been times when you were missing for games, but you won't be a part of it and that's it. You have to accept it.

"It could have been October but now it is now. It hasn't come quickly, I am ready for it."

Despite his steadfast refusal to countenance even a token appearance for his native Bruff, club members should not be surprised if The Bull decides to bestow some of his knowledge towards his old stomping ground.

"Firstly, I'm definitely taking time away from the game for now," he admitted. "But yeah I'd like to coach. You'd always like to give something back and help in whatever way you could."

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