Hayes was a member of the Aberdeen side which lined up against Inverness Caledonian Thistle in the 2013-14 final, staged in the east end of Glasgow as Hampden had been commandeered for the Commonwealth Games.
Just a few seconds after kick-off, Hayes suffered a dislocated collarbone which left him unable to continue and forced him to watch the remainder of Aberdeen’s victory, on penalties after a goalless 120 minutes, in considerable discomfort from the sidelines.
As he prepares to make his first League Cup appearance for Celtic at home to Kilmarnock in tonight’s last 16 tie, the Republic of Ireland winger hopes to make a more robust contribution towards winning the trophy again.
“I got injured after seven seconds that day, straight from kick-off,” recalls Hayes. “I knew I had hurt it straight away. Richie Foran came over to me and we spoke about it. I tried to carry on and close down David Raven but I could feel my collarbone popping in and out. I knew something was wrong even though I’d never had that type of injury before.
“It was a cup final so I tried to carry on but I knew it was no good. There was no point us being a man down. Richie was an opponent that day but also a good friend. A little bit of advice from him persuaded me it wasn’t worth risking a potentially serious injury. I ended up coming off the pitch. It wasn’t a great game to watch but getting our hands on the trophy was the most important thing. Luckily it was light and small enough to lift it with one hand at the end!
“It was a great couple of days afterwards, seeing how much it meant to everybody. Coming to Celtic now, you’re keen to taste that again with a different club. If I got to the final with Celtic, I’d take the same again.
“There were a lot of painkillers taken that day, plus I’d a few beers on the bus going back up the road, so I wasn’t feeling too much pain! That was probably even more so because of the adrenalin of getting our hands on the trophy. That carries you through. I woke up the next morning and was in a little bit of pain so went for an X-ray.
“The next day was St Patrick’s Day and all my family were over from Ireland, plus there was an open-top bus parade with the trophy through Aberdeen as well. A few days later the painkillers wore off and I had to get used to life in a sling for a wee while.
“I wouldn’t say I was devastated when I got the injury, I was more annoyed that I couldn’t be on the pitch to help. If we had lost that game I wouldn’t have had any impact on it and then I would have been upset with myself.
“I came back out and watched the game. When it’s a big one like that and you can’t have any influence on it you are just hoping and hoping. When it goes to penalties it’s pot luck and thankfully Jamie Langfield did us a turn and won us the cup. But not being able to affect things on the pitch, knowing if you were fit that you could have a big influence, was a big frustration.
“We were in the home dressing room at Celtic Park that day. I remember because the ice baths were really cold! You never forget where the celebrations were. When I go in there now and see where I was after the game, I’ve noticed I was sitting where Scott Brown sits. A few years ago I was sitting there with Aberdeen. Little things like that, you remember. It’s a little bit strange, but it’s nice. It feels like home for me now.”
Hayes, of course, has more recent experience of playing a League Cup final, as a member of the Dons side swatted aside 3-0 by his current employers last season.
“I just try to forget about that one,” he added. “We just never got started. On the day I didn’t think Celtic were brilliant. They were very clinical and we just weren’t at the races for whatever reason. You can’t afford an off-day against a team of Celtic’s calibre.”
Hayes is poised to make just his second starting appearance for Celtic tonight but is content with how he has settled down to life at the club following his summer move.
“When you go to a new club it’s like the first day of school and you don’t know what to expect.
“But everyone has been brilliant with me. I knew I was never going to walk into the team and I never expected to. I’ve been on the pitch enough to be happy. We’ve started well after last season and it’s always going to be difficult to break into the team. But there are so many games and the manager will rotate the squad.”