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Weekly reunites woman, 90, with photo of international footballer son

Austin HayesA weekly newspaper reunited a mother with the only known photograph of her professional footballer son in his national team’s colours almost 30 years after his death.

The London-based Irish Post was successful in its campaign to reunite 90-year-old Patsy Hayes with the picture of her son Austin, a former Republic of Ireland international who died in 1986 aged 28.

Mrs Hayes had written to the Post, which caters for the Irish community in Great Britain, last month in a bid to find the photograph of Austin, which was taken before he won his only cap for his country in a 1979 game against Denmark.

Austin, pictured above left, was born in Hammersmith, London, but represented the land of his parents’ birth, as well as playing for Southampton, Millwall and Northampton Town at club level in the 1970s and 1980s.

Sports editor Jamie Casey promptly responded to Mrs Hayes and issued an appeal in the newspaper, which yielded no success, while a check with the Football Association of Ireland also proved fruitless.

However, a further search of the Getty Images archives under the Post’s subscription revealed a picture of the two team captains shaking hands at the match in which Austin played.

Jamie then spoke the newspaper’s account manager with Getty, and his editor gave the green light to a search of the agency’s offline archives, costing £60.

Once the photograph was found and made available to the newspaper for a further £150, Jamie presented it to Mrs Hayes at her home in Staines-upon-Thames, Surrey.

Irish Post sports editor Jamie Casey, right, with Patsy Hayes and her son Tony

Irish Post sports editor Jamie Casey, right, with Patsy Hayes and her son Tony. Credit: Malcolm McNally, Irish Post.

Said Jamie: “Patsy’s letter melted my heart and I got the sense that we were her last hope, so I knew we had to do something.

“The search and publishing rights didn’t come cheap for a small publication like The Irish Post, so I have to thank my editor-in-chief, Siobhán Breatnach, for commissioning the piece having been equally moved by the story’s potential.

“Unfortunately, such is the way of today’s world, a lot of negative reporting has to be done these days, so it was nice to be able to do something positive for the Irish community in Britain.”