Damien Hayes speaks of disbelief at death of Galway team-mate

Portumna veteran speaks about the shock of losing Niall Donohue

 Damien Hayes in action against Clare last year: “I remember being told at a club training session on the Friday and I just couldn’t believe it.” Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

Damien Hayes in action against Clare last year: “I remember being told at a club training session on the Friday and I just couldn’t believe it.” Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho

 

GalwayDamien Hayes

“It was an unbelievable tragedy. I remember being told at a club training session on the Friday and I just couldn’t believe it. I had gotten to know him better in 2013 than I had in 2012 because neither of the two of us could seem to get on the team. So when the team would be having their talk in one room in Croke Park before a match you’d be in the other room.

“I got chatting to him better then and it’s just an unbelievable tragedy. It’s very, very sad. He was an absolutely lovely fella and a real character. He was really bubbly with great one-liners and just a great laugh. It’s an awful loss to be honest.”

Hayes, who confirmed that he will be part of Galway’s plans again this year, was speaking at a promotional event in advance of the AIB All-Ireland club semi-finals tomorrow week. His club Portumna will play Munster champions Na Piarsaigh from Limerick and he remembered how his team-mate’s funeral took place on the day scheduled for the Galway hurling final, which was put back 24 hours.

Guard of honour
“You have to put everything into context. The match was meant to be played on the Sunday and next of all it wasn’t – we were burying Niall, Lord have mercy on him, and we were doing a guard of honour.

“I remember when we laid Niall to rest, I happened to be standing beside a man who said – ‘God, Damien, it won’t be easy to hurl tomorrow’. You were going into a county final after burying one of your team-mates, one of your county colleagues and one of your friends. So obviously enough, it wasn’t easy.

“You had your minute’s silence and you said your prayer to him before the match. You just had to get on with it, as simple as that, but it wasn’t easy.

“The day before the match we were all in Kilbeacanty together at 12 o’clock and I didn’t return home until seven o’clock when it was all over.

“It was a long, hard day. And Lord have mercy on him because he was a lovely fella. We all returned to Kilbeacanty for Niall’s month’s mind. I’ve spoken to his dad Francie and I’ve spoken to his brother as well. It’s not easy times.”

Depression
The death of Niall Donohue was one of a number of events that focused attention on the issue of depression and suicide amongst young men

“It can be hard. To nail down a job, give work commitments and team commitments, it can get difficult for some of the lads. But I didn’t see it coming for Niall. I always thought he was unbelievably happy and always messing. I used to often be over in the same corner with him in the dressing-room, messing and chatting. When you go back in, it’ll still be hard.”

Asked about proposals to bring the All-Ireland club series forward from spring and complete it by Christmas each year, Hayes was unenthusiastic. He said he believed it would be difficult to play off the county and provincial championships in time and was opposed to losing the now traditional St Patrick’s Day date for the final.

“In Irish traditions the club All-Irelands on St Patrick’s Day is a massive tradition. As far back as I was a youngster I can remember going up to Croke Park to watch club All-Irelands that day and I can’t see it and I wouldn’t like to see it changed, I think it works very well. I like it on that day, it’s an annual fixture.”

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