BEFORE leaving the field at Miltown on Sunday, Joe Hayes journeyed towards his Wexford counterpart, Shane Roche, where they traded a few words that only goalkeepers are allowed in on. Ironically, it’s probably only the man defending the other net that can fully appreciate it when his opponent at the far end either saves a certain goal or worse, lets a soft one in. Goalkeepers spend a lot of time on their own, even during games and when the game-ceasing whistle blasts, they generally seek each other out.
Just 12 months ago, Hayes endured a spell when it seemed that his days guarding the Clare football goalmouth were behind him. A hip operation didn’t initially heal as envisaged and the prognosis was somewhat bleak.
“I suppose my career was in the balance. I didn’t know whether I was going to get back or would I ever get back to where I was. I missed out on the promotion. It was great but it was tough not playing. I won’t say I didn’t feel part of it because the boys made me feel great but you want to be playing all the time. It’s great to be back for another league campaign after missing all of last year’s league,” he reflected, minutes after starting and finishing his first league game since April 2013.
Hayes made two smart saves late in the first half. As dominant as Clare were, a Wexford goal would have got them talking very positively in the visitors’ dressing room at half time.
“People say they might have been good saves but they were at a nice height as well. If they had crept past me, I would have been disappointed. We [backs] chatted at half time and Wexford only kicked two points in the second half. We tightened up and while I know they were a man down, I don’t think that was going to make a difference the way we were tuned in at the back for the second half,” the Limerick-based garda said.
Before lifting the bonnet to view some areas where he felt Clare could improve, Hayes acknowledged that a 14-point Division 3 league win was worth dwelling on for a minute before they tuned in to Louth on Sunday.
“For me, it’s a good feeling any day you win with Clare. I suffered enough defeats down through the years and bad defeats. It’s good to be winning and long may it continue. It doesn’t matter how or what way we got them. It might have been fairly handy in the end but we wanted to come up here, get two points and get out of here. That’s what we’re doing. We’re going up to Louth on Sunday and they are going to be looking for a big performance after getting beaten by Fermanagh on Saturday night. It will be a battle again next weekend,” he predicted.
Retaining their own ball is something that he feels Clare need to work on.
“We gave the ball away continuously. We didn’t get punished today but we just have to improve on that. I think it’s all about improving and getting the two points every weekend,” the Clare number one maintained, before heading to the home dressing room, delighted to have won but already thinking about what needs to be done in Drogheda this weekend.
By Peter O’Connell