The revival of Tipperary’s hurling fortunes brought a new generation of hurlers into focus, many of them from the west division. Joe Hayes was part of the revival, an intermittent part admittedly, frequently substituted, but always colourful and often playing an underestimated role.
Joe was a central component in the Clonoulty juvenile upswing in the seventies. 1980 was big year, helping Cashel C.B.S to an All-Ireland B Colleges win and winning the coveted All-Ireland minor hurling medal when Tipperary defeated Wexford by 2-15 to 1-10 in the final. Joe was mid-field in that success, partnering Philip Kenny (Borrisoleigh) and scoring a valuable 4 points. A year later he helped Clonoulty/Rossmore to a County Minor final win, there first ever.
After success at county minor level Joe was unlucky at U21. He played on two losing All-Ireland final teams. In 1983 he partnered Liam Bergin at midfield when the side lost by three points to Galway in Tullamore. A year later it was an all Clonoulty partnership at mid-field with John Kennedy, but Joe had to be satisfied with his Munster medals.
Senior promotion came with ‘Babs’ .At the start of the ’87 championship he was introduced as a substitute against Kerry in the first round and when it came to the replay against Clare in the provincial semi-final he was partnering Colm Bonnar at midfield. The ‘Tipperary Star’ reported on the occasion: ‘Debutant Joe Hayes, confident from the start, grew in stature as the game progressed”. For the Munster final he was again named at midfield and played well that day in Thurles before retiring injured near the end. For the epic replay in Killarney he was again on the substitute bench.
In 1988 Tipperary had qualified for the league final against Offaly and Joe hayes and Colm Bonnar were now performing a regular partnership. The final was in Croke park and the team captained by Pa ‘O Neill won an impressive victory. The Tipperary star reported ”Joe Hayes at midfield and goalkeeper Ken Hogan were others to press for top billing”. Culbaire was more complimentary of Joe ” Attacking eagerness was immediately noted as Joe Hayes led in the provision of low, good ball and forward play stretched Offaly defence to both flanks……Hayes’ blistering first half at midfield was a great source of Tipp’s fast start and sizeable lead-he hit an immense amount of ball from many places”.
Joe Hayes went on to win an All- Ireland medal with Tipperary in ’89. They defeated w Limerick in the first Joe amongst others was listed as the ‘Foundation’ for Tipp success that day. In the final against Waterford Joe was a solid performer at number eleven. Joe started against Galway in the semi-final but was substituted by John McCormack of Loughmore. It was a stormy game but Tipp won though to meet Antrim in the final. Joe was on the bench for the final but as Tipperary strode to a comfortable win he was introduced for Cormac Bonnar.
The 1990 championship campaign saw Tipperary beat Limerick and then fall surprisingly to mark Foley and Cork in the Final. Joe Hayes was at mid-field on Both Occasions. In the fall of the year there was an individual highlight for Joe when he captained Tipperary to an Oireachtas final win over Galway. The game was played in Ennis on November 11th and Tipp won by 1-15 to 0-7.
For the 1991 championship bid he again started at mid-field. Tipp beat Limerick and then had those two epic games with cork. Joe was substituted in the drawn match , replaced by Aidan Ryan, but again had played his part according to ‘Culbaire’ :”Hayes was the better of our midfielders, having a fine first half”. For the replay at Thurles he started on the bench but was introduced for John Madden. Likewise in the All-Ireland semi-final Joe Hayes was introduced as a substitute this time for Ger O Neill. The Clonoulty man collected his second All-Ireland medal when Tipp beat Kilkenny in the final but he viewed the game from the dug-out.
There was one major highlight left in Joe Hayes inter-county career. In May 1994 Tipperary played Galway in the League final in Limerick and won by 2-14 to 0-12. Joe was partnered by Pat King at midfield that day and the Tipp star had this to say about his display ”Joe Hayes and Pat King outplayed the highly rated Galway midfield partnership of Micheal Coleman and Pat Malone to a degree that alarmed Galway Supporters”. It was a second national league for and very much a last hurrah for him with the county. Tipp to Clare in the championship that summer, Joe Hayes was missing that day due to injury.
On the club front Joe Hayes was a central character in Clonoulty’s 1989 county win though he missed out on their success in 1997 before making a comeback in 1998. His job as Garda has brought him to Monaghan where in 1997 he took the county to an All-Ireland junior hurling title as player-manager. Joe Hayes’ medal collection includes two All-Ireland S.H., All-Ireland M.H. & J.H. – thoseU21 defeats deprived him of the full collection. He has five Munster S.H. medals, two leagues and an Oireachtas. It’s a hugely impressive hoard of silverware.- J.J Kennedy