Rising Star

Shopping for an All-Stars tuxedo, 'down to earth' JP McManus and Limerick's huge potential

Limerick forward Kyle Hayes says life hasn’t changed too much in the wake of their All-Ireland victory.

THE NEWS THAT billionaire JP McManus donated €100,000 to each county board in the country came as a surprise to many, but not to Limerick centre-forward Kyle Hayes.

Kyle Hayes Limerick star Kyle Hayes James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

McManus made the gesture in honour of Limerick’s All-Ireland hurling final triumph and Hayes, one of the stars of that victory over Galway, paid tribute to the contribution he’s made to the county.

“I’ve met him a few times, JP is the most down to earth man ever,” Hayes says. “If you didn’t know his face he wouldn’t stand out or anything. 

“It doesn’t really surprise me to be honest because he’s very, very generous. He has nearly a hand in everything in Limerick that’s being built and he’s always donating money. So it didn’t actually surprise me. 

“He’s a sound man, to be fair to him.”

JP McManus looks on at The Irish Gold Cup before the presentation JP McManus Oisin Keniry / INPHO Oisin Keniry / INPHO / INPHO

Hayes doesn’t turn 21 until next year but he’s already an All-Ireland champion and looks set to claim his first All-Star later this winter. Despite the whirlwind 12 months he’s enjoyed, he says life hasn’t changed too much.

“Same old me, anyway. It’s crazy, the reaction we’re getting in Limerick, people are still coming up and congratulating you and it’s four or five weeks on since the final. 

“You’re meeting men in their 50s just after the match or the week of it and they’re nearly breaking down crying to you. It shows you how much it means to everyone in Limerick. It’s such a major thing and something I want more often. 

“The 10 minutes after the match it was fairly special. Just chilling out and sitting down on the field and taking it all in. It was crazy, they’re brilliant memories. In the dressing room as well was very good. 

“The reaction over it has been good, it’s nice, but we’re back now with the club and back to reality,” added Hayes, the winner of the PwC GAA/GPA Player of the All-Ireland hurling final.

Limerick’s entire starting 15 from the decider were nominated for a 2018 All-Star, meaning the group will have another outing together in Dublin before the year is out. 

“It’ll be a nice social occasion. To be fair, every one of the lads, not just the 15, put in a serious shift all year. I think that’s why we were successful this year, because of the squad we have. 

“If someone got injured there then someone would come in off the bench and you weren’t batting an eye-lid. We just had that trust between all of us.”

PwC GAA / GPA Player of the Month Launch the PwC All-Star App PwC GAA/GPA Player of the All-Ireland Hurling Final Kyle Hayes speaking at the launch of the PwC All-Stars App Piaras Ó Mídheach / SPORTSFILE Piaras Ó Mídheach / SPORTSFILE / SPORTSFILE

Has he his tuxedo sorted for the big night yet?

“No, I actually haven’t. I must look into it now and we’ll go in shopping together some day. Sure there’s 15 of us going to it, someone will organise it. I won’t be the one doing it anyway!”

Hayes accepts Limerick will have a target on their backs when they enter next season as the defending champions, but he’s confident this young team will only get better over the coming years.

“We’ll welcome on that challenge. We’re going to defend it with everything we have. We want to improve more, we’re not just content with staying where we are at the moment. 

“We want to push on and win another few anyway, definitely. We’ll take it match by match, hopefully. 

“Everyone is the same, that’s why we did well this year. We weren’t getting carried away. There’s no point listening to stories outside of the camp. You’ll only get your head blown up. 

“Everyone is fairly grounded to be fair. And as long as we keep that way it should be alright. We’ll always dig deep to get something more out of us. Speaking on behalf of all of us, we haven’t reached our full potential yet. 

Kyle Hayes and members of the Limerick team TommyDickson / INPHO TommyDickson / INPHO / INPHO

“We’re a young team and we’ll relish that challenge now for, first of all, next year when we defend it first. We just want to grow and get closer as a team and we’ll mature and get a bit more experienced and we should improve anyway.

“While you’re here now really make the most of it. I think all the rest of the boys are all the same. They have that in their head. We just want to put the jersey in a better place, really.”

As well as the All-Stars banquet, they’ve got the Super 11s trip to Boston and a team holiday to Mexico to look forward to in the coming months. 

“We’re going to Fenway Park in November so we’ll probably have to do a few training sessions before that anyway. I don’t know if they’ll be too hectic. 

“Probably when you get back from there you’ll be looking even doing a bit in the gym and doing your pre-season gym. By the time we come back out on the pitch we’ll be absolutely bulling to get out on it. You need a bit of a break as well, you can’t stay going all year round.

“You just build up that hunger again once you get a bit of a break.”

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