IF the season had panned out the way it was shaping up, Brian Hayes and his Cork Constitution colleagues would be celebrating another All-Ireland League title this week.
Instead, the 29-year-old second-row forward had to be content with being crowned the energia AIL Player of the Year, no small achievement indeed for the well-decorated Hayes.
It’s all conjecture of course as to whether Con, who were unbeaten in all competitions before the season was pulled because of the Coronavirus pandemic, would have gone all the way to the Aviva and triumphed.
Hayes, who is now working remotely with Accenture in the Dutch city of Utretcht, where girlfriend Louise Daly, a research scientist, is based, reacted to the news.
“It’s obviously a big honour, yet it feels so long ago that it could be three seasons ago.
“I got a few texts from a few people informing me of the decision. It’s a nice accolade to get.
“The league final should have been played on Saturday and this week would be confined to celebrating, if we had won, of course.
“And in keeping with recent years, the best of the weather seemed to co-incide with the final, so that kind of brought it home, too.
“It’s a special occasion because big days in the AIL are few enough, especially, when you have the sun on your back.
“We’d normally take the week off work as well to celebrate after a very long season with most of the games played in rain and wind.
“That’s all in the past now. Hopefully, we’ll get another chance next year,” he said.
Ireland coach Andy Farrell announced Hayes as the MVP for the truncated season during a virtual awards ceremony.
It’s another significant piece of silverware along with his three league medals, five Munster cups and four Bateman Cups, as well as representing Ireland Club.
Hayes was recognised for his contribution to Con’s campaign by rival coaches, making it all the more praise-worthy.
“I’ve been around long enough in this league to get to know most of them, chatting after games.
“I won my first medal 10 years ago and it would have been great to add another, but it wasn’t to be.
“We were supposed to play Clontarf in March and our captain back then, Evan Ryan, was after organising a re-union, but it was cancelled obviously.”
Now in downtime before next season, whenever that will be, Hayes will still train away, but it won’t be as intense.
“We’re different to the professionals because we’re working 9-5 and you’d go to the gym, for example, to get away from that, as well.
“You’d be a bit more liberal, too, at the weekends and you’d go for a pint after work on a Thursday, something you wouldn’t do during the season. You tend to be a bit more care-free socially.”
Hayes doesn’t see a September start as being anyway realistic.
“Recently Brighton had three players tested positive and that’s in a far more structured environment.
“I suppose rugby is the same as all the other sports in that it’s up in the air and nobody knows for certain when we will be back.
“The Cork Charity Cup starts the season in August and I can’t see any appetite at this stage for that to happen.
“And the nature of rugby is that you need a good bit of time training before going into contact. You just can’t go straight into rugby.
“Yet there are bigger things at play here, like people’s health and getting the ecomony up and running again,” Hayes concluded.