John Hayes: Munster need to find the 'X-factor' to get back to winning trophies

The 2011 Celtic League was the last competition Munster won
John Hayes: Munster need to find the 'X-factor' to get back to winning trophies

John Hayes pictured at home on his farm in Cappamore, Co Limerick. John is an ambassador for Sport Ireland's 'Your Personal Best' Month, a project aimed at encouraging men over 45 years old to become more physically active and engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity five days a week. Visit SportIreland.ie for details. Picture: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

It says it all about Munster's recent record, that the last time they raised a trophy John Hayes was on the pitch.

The 2011 Celtic League Final against Leinster was the game, and of those who were on the pitch at kick-off, only Keith Earls and Conor Murray are still wearing red.

There have been some close calls since, from European semi-finals to PRO14 finals, but no team has yet managed to get across the line, and add to the glittering list of silverware at Thomond Park.

Hayes believes some 'X-factor' has been missing when comparing the recent teams to his era, but just when he thought Johann Van Graan had gotten his hand on some – bad luck struck to knock them back down again.

“They have been missing a few big players at big moments in games,” he argued. “Big carries, big tackles, any team who has ever won anything, they’ve had players with an X-factor.

“You could see with (RG) Snyman, Joey Carbery and (Damian) De Allende coming in what they were aiming for. If all those players were fit that Munster team would take on anybody.

“It is just that injuries have robbed us of Carbery for such a long time; we are looking now at good young players like [Ben] Healy and that coming through so hopefully it will all come together that way and we can be very competitive again.

“Snyman is a huge loss; you could see what he managed to do for South Africa and you could just imagine what Johann van Graan was thinking when he saw him go off after five or six minutes.

“He must have been thinking, ‘I just can’t get a break’.

“You know if you had him in the pack, they could take on anybody. That was the thing they needed, a couple of players with an X-factor. They’ve got them; they now just need to get them fit and on the field at the same time.

“I genuinely believe that when Joey Carbery gets back, Snyman, Dave Kilcoyne got injured as well... there is energy and dynamism there that can actually challenge teams.”

Healy is one of a handful of youthful players making a push for first team inclusion at Munster, and Hayes hopes Van Graan can continue to give them their opportunities at senior level.

“There has been a lot said about it over the last couple of years and more so because Leinster's academy was going so well and people were matching one off the other,” Hayes said.

The Leinster Academy is the envy of Europe the way they're producing players, but Munster have started producing a good number of players too, there's a good few coming through.

“We've seen some of them against Edinburgh with Ben Healy and Craig Casey starting, so it's starting to happen.

“Now we just need to give them a bit of game-time, which hopefully they will get over the next couple of weeks.

“If that happens, you could see these fellas step up. They want to do it, these fellas know what it takes and have the attitude that they want to do it.

“I think the players are there, they just need the opportunity.”

Hayes, 46, speaking at the launch of Sport Ireland's “Your Personal Best Month”, a project aimed at encouraging men over 45 to become more active, revealed he's started to put on the rugby boots again thanks to son Bill's “obsession” with the game.

“It's probably the first time I have started doing it again,” Hayes said, after taking a few years away from the sport.

“I coach on the under-9s, my son Bill is playing, with Bruff and I coach every Sunday with them wearing a pair of jeans. I've done it the last two years, under-7s and under-8s, and this year I've started wearing a tracksuit and a pair of boots so it's taken that long before I came back around to it again.

“At the moment, it's just coaching as a parent. All of our three children play. Fiona [Steed] coaches with the girls, I coach with Bill, he's the youngest. Obviously, when he was mad keen to start playing, when you were dropping him off to play, you just had to fall in as a parent as a coach. I enjoy doing it, it's good old craic on a Sunday morning.

“I help out from time to time with the first team in Bruff, once a month or whatever like that, just to give them a help with the forwards, nothing official, my only official role is with the under-9s.

“I didn't have anything for a good few years but now in the last few years as the children have been getting involved, I've been getting back involved as well.”

John Hayes pictured at home on his farm in Cappamore, Co. Limerick. John is an ambassador for Sport Ireland’s Your Personal Best Month, a project aimed at encouraging men over 45 years old to become more physically active and engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity five days a week. Visit www.sportireland.ie for more details.

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