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Saturday 19 August 2017

Jon the boy from Aberdeen has Don good

Work to do for Hayes but new cap sees Ireland future ahead

Ireland’s Jonny Hayes. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile
Ireland’s Jonny Hayes. Photo: David Maher/Sportsfile
Ireland’s Jonny Hayes gets a cross in as Slovakia’s Peter Pekarí closes in during last Tuesday’s friendly at the Aviva Stadium. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

He's not yet on the plane, but he is very much in the frame.

Jonathan Hayes has made a big journey in terms of international football in the last six months, from being a little-known ex-U21 cap to his current status, a man with two senior caps on his CV and a chance, albeit a slight one, of making it to France with Ireland next summer.

The 28-year-old, who made his debut against Switzwrland on Friday and added a second cap against Slovakia, has grafted his way to here and he knows nothing will be handed to him between now and the time in late May when the squad for Euro 2016 is named.

Hayes laughs when asked if he'd now consider himself in between the 23-man travelling squad and a provisional squad.

"I may be in the 40 but beyond that I don't know," Hayes told The Herald as he prepared to head back to Pittodrie, a club honoured to have Hayes on the international stage at a time when Scotland have only friendly games to look forward to for the next few months.

"It's not a case of being over-optimistic, you never know what can happen, the manager has so many quality players in his thoughts already and there are, realistically, only two or three places up for grabs now with 15-16 players trying to grab them.

"All you can do is hope that you made an impression, be that in training or in the games. I felt I did ok and the manager, Roy and Wally [Steve Walford] will scout around England and Scotland looking at games for the next few weeks.

"Hopefully I can go on now and do well for Aberdeen and see where that takes me. Speaking to Roy [Keane], I know he has been up to Scotland and it's a credit to them that they have been up to see games, they are bringing boys in and giving them a chance no matter who they played for, that might not have happened before but it's happening now.

"I am a lot further up the ladder than I was 12 months ago, even getting into the 40-man squad was a bit of a shock so to make the final 33 for the last two games, and then play twice, was amazing, it's happened quite quickly. Things are going well, I've had a good season at club level and if I can keep this up you never know," added Hayes.

Due to his age (debut at 28), Hayes was not weighed down by nerves. Having played with, and against, a lot of the squad previously was a help while Shane Long - a team-mate at Reading a decade ago - also made things comfortable.

"It's such an easy atmosphere to settle into that you're at ease. I knew a few of the lads already. But all you want to do is get out on the training pitch, once you kick a ball you are fine," he said.

"I'm delighted to have done what I did, with such a big squad in Dublin over the last week I wasn't really expecting to play, you do your best in training but you're more hopeful than anything else.

"To come on the other night against the Swiss was brilliant but I wasn't expecting it. Dan, the physio, came over and gave me a shout, said Roy wanted me to keep warm and be ready to go on. I had two chances off the bench in the space of a week and it was great."

While the Cherry Orchard product is on a high thanks to his own achievements, a fellow Dubliner back in Scotland was in his thoughts. Injury to Aberdeen striker Adam Rooney kept him out of the squad and, considering the shortage of strikers, a certain cap.

"I had been speaking to Adam every day, I didn't want to rub it in with him too much about how I was enjoying it over here," says Hayes.

"He's back running now and it won't be long before he's back in the side with Aberdeen. It's such a pity for him, with all the injuries we had he probably would have played against Slovakia.

"He will be back in three or four weeks, he'll certainly be back before the end of the season, it was just such bad timing as he was in brilliant form before the injury happened. I always said Adam could do a job for Ireland, he's the type of player who will score goals if he gets the service, hopefully he will get a chance again."

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