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Hayes ready for another fight with former team-mate

JONNY Hayes and Richie Foran are fellow Dubliners and friends who still hook up every now and then for a coffee and a chat.

Jonny Hayes has much to thank Inverness Caley Thistle for   Photograph: SNS
Jonny Hayes has much to thank Inverness Caley Thistle for Photograph: SNS

So the Aberdeen winger is well aware of his countryman's fabled powers of motivation, especially after one infamous night in Dunfermline in January 2012 when the two men grabbed each other by the throat, with match official Euan Norris having to act like a boxing referee to soothe the situation.

Considering the pair were Inverness Caley Thistle team-mates at the time, it is fair to expect a feisty confrontation today when they engage in internecine combat with a major cup on the line. Neither man, you suspect, would have it any other way.

"Richie's a good lad, and a good captain, he leads by example, and I think in that game he was just trying to fire us up because we weren't playing too well," said Hayes. "We're really good friends off the park and I think a few people read a bit too much into it. But it was a regular occurrence on the training ground if one of us wasn't playing well or there was a late tackle - there was definitely come-uppance from the other one.

"I don't know John Hughes too well but I know what Richie will be demanding from the players today."

Although a threatened air strike in Ireland is an additional headache for family and friends seeking to travel to the match, Hayes' career is clearly taking off and victory today would be the next stage of the journey. He hasn't always listened to every scrap of advice his father John has given him during his career but he will always be grateful that he persuaded him to join Inverness Caledonian Thistle ahead of second-tier US side Rochester Rhinos. The move to the Highlands has been the making of him.

"I'd been at Leicester and wasn't in the manager's plans," recalled Hayes. "I'd been out on loan a few times, here, there and everywhere. I was never really settled and there was actually talk that I was going to move over to the States.

"Then Terry Butcher rang me. I didn't know where Inverness was but I knew who Terry Butcher was. I was only 19 and I spoke to my dad. He said America was a long way away for a young lad so I should give Scotland a try. My dad has been there from the start, but to be honest, at times, I wish I'd listened to him a bit more.

"When he told me to come to Inverness that was probably the first time I had. Before his advice was in one ear and out the other. He told me as a 19-year-old that going to New York I could easily get lost if it didn't work out, while in Scotland I'd still be in the public eye. Everybody would know where I was. I'm glad I took his advice."

While the player's career regained impetus in the Highlands, it only takes a glance at today's respective supports to illustrate why in time he felt the urge to move on to Aberdeen in 2012.

"I'm from a suburb back in Dublin that's probably three times the size of Inverness," said Hayes. "It's a small enough place and there's not as much pressure on them to play football and do well. They obviously don't have the support to back it up really. When you look at a club like Aberdeen, this could be the start of us coming out of the darkness and getting to cup finals on a regular basis.

"In previous years Aberdeen finished in the bottom six and it's only since I've come here I've realised we shouldn't be anywhere near the bottom six. It's hard to compete with Celtic because there's such a financial gulf, but if we can be the best of the rest and keep on improving year after year, maybe in a couple of years we can challenge them."

Stewart Fisher

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