Hayes happy in the fast lane

All-Ireland SHC Quarter-Final
Galway v Tipperary, tomorrow 4pm (Croke Park)

THERE are some people – and we all know one or two in our own lives – who are workaholics, balls of energy. In their whirlwind world the word ‘relax’ doesn’t exist.

Galway hurler Damien Hayes is such a man. You see it on the field every time he plays – he’s a buzz-saw, the road-runner, the guy who’s popping up everywhere, looking for the ball if the ball isn’t finding him.

As he is the maroon-and-white of Galway, however, in the blue-and-gold of Portumna, so he is in life.

A couple of hours in his company this week, even as he prepared for the All-Ireland quarter-final against Tipperary in Croke Park tomorrow, and you’re left gasping for air.

He jumps from the car and rushes across the forecourt of the impressive Al Hayes Garage forecourt where he works as a salesman (Al is his Dad). He’s running slightly late and you’re about to tell him that there’s no hurry, to slow down, when you realise it is pointless. Damien isn’t rushing – this is his natural pace, fast-twitch muscles forcing him into a walk that wants to break into a run.

“This is the way I am, and that’s the way I want it,” he explains, “I’m always on the go and am very seldom back at the house.”

Between work and play there are no breaks. In the hurling, for example, he’s training through the pain barrier. “I’ve been unfortunate in that I’ve got belts on my kneecap in three club games which has caused a lot of swelling. I got that sorted but I now have cyst on the kneecap – (and he rolls up the trouser-leg to display the problem).”

That will require an operation to remove, surely? “I don’t know, I haven’t asked that question, but I’m getting physio at the moment to try and get down the inflammation. Will I be playing on Sunday? For certain! I’ll soldier on, I’ll battle on. Something like this wouldn’t stop me anyway.

“It’s partially locked there at the moment, I can only flex the leg so far. After I warm up I get the full mobility but within hours of training finishing it stiffens up again.

“The knee would be sore after a competitive match for about three days. I’ve been taking time off work, no point saying I haven’t.”

Which brings us to the question of holidays – and the reply shouldn’t come as a surprise.

“I don’t take any. I took four days last year, went to Edinburgh from December 26 to the 30th with my girlfriend, that was my holiday. We stayed in a hotel on the main street, and walked everywhere. It was a great way to see the city and we loved it.”

The pair didn’t even stay for Hogmanay, the biggest date in the annual Scottish social calendar. Again the Galway star had more pressing issues on the home front.

“No, and I’ll tell you why. You can start registering cars on New Year’s Day, and we do, just to take the pressure off. Then we were back training on the second, with Portumna.”

Registering cars? Isn’t there a recession on, sales of new cars slumped – what’s the rush? And then, true salesmen that he is, with a trained eye for the kind of opening he has never eschewed on the field, he’s in! “We’re very fortunate in that we have Volkswagen, we’re Main Dealers. Volkswagen is a brilliant car to sell, new and second-hand. Last year we suffered big-time in the commercial sector but we continued to sell cars in the private sector. The recession didn’t hit us there. We had a great selling season, and this year started off very well also.

“We have our hire- drive cars coming back next month and that generates another boost in the market. Some people hold out for those cars that are coming back with eight or 10 thousand miles on them. And we retail everything, no matter what the age of the car we don’t trade to another garage. We have our own workshop, labour costs, mechanics, body-shop, and as long as we’re selling, that keeps everything going.”

He’s in second-hand sales, is Damien, and loves it, enjoys the interaction with the public, enjoys the sale especially. Well most of the time.

“Sometimes it’s hard. After losing the Leinster final, for example, you’re meeting people and they want to know – ‘why didn’t ye do this, why didn’t ye to that, were there problems in the camp’. And you have to answer all those questions, and answer them as politely as you can. But there’s a thrill in selling, a buzz when you close the deal.”

Bigger than when you score a goal? “No, definitely not. There’s a lad in the club and he’s great with stats and he tells me I’m after scoring 3-9 in the four championship games this year, which is good going. People often ask – how do you put up with it? I wouldn’t have it any other way. We’ve had some great days. Things are going well – I just hope that it continues, that we’ll meet the challenge of Tipperary this weekend.”


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