Liam Hayes: "We're built as human beings to really face anything"

The journalist and former GAA star spoke to Ivan Yates about his life, career and battle with cancer

Liam Hayes: "We're built as human beings to really face anything"

Liam Hayes from the Irish Daily Mail makes the draw for the Sigerson Cup Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Former Meath GAA star Liam Hayes has established himself as one of the country's most prominent sports journalist.

He was Ivan's guest for this week's profile interview on Yates and Sunday - and he spoke in-depth about both his football and journalism careers.

The football All Star also opened up about his recent battles with cancer.

In 2010, Liam was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. He spoke about his experiences since then - including when the disease recurred two years ago. 

He told Ivan: "There's no great drama at the moment. I go into St James's every six weeks for a top-up - I'm on a maintenance programme.

"It recurred in 2015 - I found a lump on the back of my neck [...] That was Stage 3, first time I was Stage 1 [...] Stage 3 is obviously a more serious form."

For Liam, cancer is something he knows he will have to fight again.

He explained: "My cancer is follicular cancer... It means it's recurring, and it will recur again. Next time when it recurs, I'll be looking at a bone marrow transplant, or a stem cell transplant.

"The team at St James's are remarkable, and there are so many studies being done now into different forms of cancer. Genuinely there is no great daily drama attached to my illness at all."

"We're all built to face anything"

Despite the intensity of the treatments he has gone through, Liam remains optimistic about both his own and other people's capacity to deal with a major illness or other challenges in life.

He said: "I think we're all built to face anything - I don't mean that in a macho way. I've gone through tough times in football and business and health, and I think once we know what we're facing... We're built as human beings to really face anything.

"The courage of people who have been stricken down with terminal cancer and far worse cases than me... their bravery and their courage is just inspiring."

He added: "I've never had a fear of dying. I would like to live as long as my dad - he died at 76, and he worked until he was 75. I always thought that was a tragedy - because he didn't have any retirement time."

"It seemed like my own world had ended"

Liam also spoke to Ivan about his brother Gerard, who took his own life at the age of 24.

Liam observed: "I've had a mixture of emotions. For instance, I'm not sure why but I can never talk to my mother Margaret about Gerard. There is a wall there. She wants to talk to about him all the time - I can't talk to her at all about him without getting very angry, and without getting very tensed up."

Gerard died on the local football field, and he was discovered by Liam (who was only 20 at the time) and his uncle.

Liam recalled: "For me, as my only brother, it seemed like my own world had ended. Within a week, Colm O'Rourke came into my house and literally dragged me down to that football field to play a game of football on that same field.

"The manner in which Skryne Football Club, the people in that club, helped me and my family... In many respects they brought me back to life.

"I was able to do it not because of my own courage - obviously I had to have certain levels of bravery - but it was because of the people around me. They were able to see to it that I was able to be there, and I was able to continue with my football career."

You can listen to the full interview below: