Cancer won't beat my pal Liam Hayes
An Irish sports legend battles cancer
Liam was already a trainee on the staff of the Chronicle when I took my baby steps on the road to a lifetime’s worth of memories on the sidelines of sport’s great dramas.
My initial brief was to cover hurling matches in Meath. He covered senior club championship games -- often with the notebook in the back packet of his Skryne club shorts, so to speak.
We grew up together in that Meath Chronicle office on Market Square, shared ham salad rolls in Joe Smith’s pub, shared nights out in Diamonds and Spiders and even went to a Boomtown Rats gig together in Castlebar with two local girls who didn’t become our wives.
As his GAA star went into the ascent, so did Liam Hayes’ journalistic career. Without him I wouldn’t be annoying you on these pages today, not least because he passed the Irish Voice baton on to me all those years ago, as Liam was the original Voice sports columnist when the paper started up in 1987.
When Liam moved to the Sunday Press in the mid-‘80s, those of he left behind in Navan were desperate to follow in his footsteps and make the big move to the nationals. Thanks to Liam’s help I eventually got there, via the Sunderland Echo of all places.
Less than a year after I had left for Wearside in England, I met Liam for lunch on a long since gone Chinese restaurant on Dublin’s Westmorland Street.
I mentioned that I had applied for a job on the soon to open Irish Star and had heard nothing in return. That very afternoon Liam met the future sports editor of the Star in the lift in the Irish Press building and mentioned my name and my application.
Within a week I had an interview, within a month I had started work on Ireland’s first -- and still best -- tabloid.
Thanks to Liam I ended up at Euro ’88 and Italia ’90 and USA ’94 with the Star while he was winning All-Irelands and National Leagues with Meath and Boylan just as he had always promised to do.
Thanks to Liam I went on the road with Jack’s Army. Thanks to Liam I got the opportunity to act as a co-founder with him when he launched Ireland’s first sports paper, The Title,in 1996.
The Title was meant to be an Irish version of L’Equipe but the market here wasn’t ready for such a bold venture.
We made mistakes along the way, loads of mistakes if truth be told, and there were fraught moments when we re-mortgaged our own homes in an effort to pay the wages of those we had asked to share the dream with us.
Tensions were high at times -- he once tried to take my mobile phone off me which almost led to a complete breakdown in our relationship -- but we soldiered on, always in the belief that what we were doing would eventually pay off and make sense.