Munster legend Alan Quinlan has led the tributes to John Hayes who will retire after Monday’s RaboDirect PRO12 clash with Connacht.
‘The Bull’ will make his 217th and final appearance for Munster in the Boxing Day clash alongside regular front row partner Marcus Horan.
Hayes, who has won three league titles, two Heineken Cups and a Celtic Cup with Munster, had been set to bow out at the end of last season but agreed a short-term deal to help the club’s front row development after the World Cup.
Quinlan, who featured in both Heineken Cup successes alongside Hayes said in his column in the Irish Times: "The first time Hayes and I played against each other, the try was still only worth four points. Clanwilliam beat Bruff in a Munster Junior Cup match back in 1992 and Hayes was playing second-row.
"He was useless that day, clearly a man with the footballing ability for the front row and nowhere else.
"The whole of Ireland can see that he had no interest in attention, that all he ever wanted was to get on with the job. He's very humble and respectful and all the things most people think he is, but he's very funny too and he'd do anything for you. And I do mean anything.
"When I had my dislocated shoulder in Australia during the 2003 World Cup, I couldn't reach around to wash my own back. Hayes never blinked – he scrubbed my back for me for the rest of that tournament. Talk about above and beyond the call of duty.
"I'll be there for his send-off on Monday and, hopefully, we'll be able to slip off and have a quiet pint when it's all over."