Cancer won't beat my pal Liam Hayes
An Irish sports legend battles cancer
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.
And it did, but not before we’d turned The Title into Ireland on Sunday, the full blown newspaper that is now theIrish Mail on Sunday and not before we had to sell out to Scottish Radio Holdings for the first decent offer that would keep us afloat.
Liam soldiered on with SRH for a couple of years and I left to go back to the sports beat -- I eventually ended up back at the Star -- and our paths have crossed regularly in the years since we both left The Title in other hands.
A serial entrepreneur, Liam launched the Dublin Daily and the Gazette Group, published several books including Brian Cody’s, and generally proved himself as adept as a businessman as he was as a footballer and an award winning journalist.