The 30-year-old was stretchered off after a full-blooded collision with Josh Meekings and Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers initially expressed his hope that the injury would not prove as serious as feared and that Hayes might only have suffered bad bruising.
However, X-rays showed a fractured tibia and Hayes had a pin inserted in his leg that will mean a rehabilitation period that is unlikely to see him appear again before May for the Scottish champions.
The Irishman has enjoyed little good fortune since his £1.1m move to Celtic from Aberdeen in the summer. He has made only eight starts in struggling to translate his mainstay status at Pittodrie into regular game-time for Rodgers’ men. Ironically, his best display, and first goal, had come only days before the leg break, when he scored in a 3-0 victory over his old team.
After that win, the Celtic manager spoke about how he felt that Hayes was at last beginning to assimilate successfully into his new surroundings. “Sometimes when you come into a club you are a little bit safe and be everyone’s friend but now he is really aggressive in his game, with and without the ball,” Rodgers has said.
Meanwhile, Rodgers has hailed the burgeoning influence of Kristoffer Ajer on the Celtic side and in indicated that the 19-year-old is set for a derby debut as Rangers are hosted by the Parkhead side on Saturday.
The Norwegian has proved the answer to the Scottish champions recent central defensive problems with his elevation to the side in the aftermath of the thumping 4-0 loss to Hearts coinciding with three straight clean sheets by Rodgers’ men for the first time since December. The latest in the 2-0 Boxing Day win in Dundee,
“He was top class,” the Celtic manager said of his display at Dens Park. “He’s 19 years of age, defended well, read the game well. He’s 6ft 5in, quick and you see how he steps in with the ball. He’s recognising the space and when to go in, and that gives us the extra man. He was very assured and what I like about him now is his concentration. He’s very alert now as a defender and I like defenders to be alert, on edge for the danger and he’s very much that.”