Now three years in the job, Hayes has grown accustomed to the various hurdles that accompany the role, but having almost half your panel involved in club championship action three days before a Munster semi-final meant an uneasy wait to see if each player came through unscathed.
From the starting team which saw off Clare in last Wednesday’s Munster quarter-final, Michael McSweeney, Sean O’Donoghue, John Mullins, Ronan O’Toole and Michael Hurley lined out with their respective clubs as various U21 divisional championships took flight.
Subs Kevin Cremin, Mick Dineen and Ballincollig pair Cian Kiely and Cian Dorgan were also in action, while Peter Kelleher was on duty on the edge of the square at Páirc Uí Rinn as the Cork seniors swept past Monaghan. And but for two or three postponed fixtures, Hayes reckons 17 of his squad would have been out on Saturday and Sunday.
Hardly ideal prep for the trip to Fraher Field this evening.
“The problem at U21 level is the 72-hour rule which means any division can stage a championship game up to the Sunday before a Wednesday fixture,” Hayes explains.
“So if we had two weeks between the Clare and Waterford games, there probably would have been a second round of club matches this weekend. Be it one week or two weeks, there were always going to be club games.
“Preparation wise, you are at the behest of the clubs. We met on Friday night, but anyone that had a championship game on Sunday with their club was not required to train. We were working with a light enough panel.
“We trained again on Sunday night, but again, you couldn’t ask lads who had played that day to be doing a whole pile.
“There is not much you can do in the space of a week.”
Neither was there a whole pile more Hayes troops could have done in their emphatic 0-23 to 0-8 dismissal of Clare at Cooraclare, but the Cork boss was unhappy with the amount of kick-outs won by the home outfit.
“Particularly our own kick-outs, we didn’t win half enough of them. That can’t be the same in Dungarvan.”
He continued: “I was impressed with our attitude and we got to look at a lot of our players. Stephen Sherlock, in particular, did well when he came on.”
And what of this evening’s challenge, another journey into the unknown?
“We really don’t know a lot about them. We have only seen them once. From my enquiries, they are a dedicated bunch. That is a good place to start from so it is up to us to match that.
“Two years ago at minor, Cork beat them 1-14 to 1-8 in a Munster semi-final. I imagine a good number of players from that game will feature.
“We won’t be looking beyond Waterford.”