UEFA Regions' Cup: Hayes secures opening victory
Made up of players from Connacht Munster, the team are known officially by UEFA as Region 2 but head coach Gerry Davis (pictured above) knew that Irish pride was on the line in their opening match of this year's finals tournament.
Newmarket Celtic attacker Hayes pounced on 26 minutes to break the deadlock and there was no way back from there for the opposition despite fighting right to the end to find an equaliser.
Goalkeeper Brendan O'Connell was on high alert throughout, although his confidence in the players in front of him was justified as the Irish side attempted to play on the front foot and push their opponents back inside their own half at every opportunity.
In what was an all-action first period, David Hoban and David Stack went close with efforts, while Hayes had a number of chances before he eventually found the back of the net.
South Region responded by making an early substitution and adopting a more adventurous approach. They had opportunities to pull one back but the Irish defence stood strong and kept them at bay.
The victory puts Davis's team joint top of Group B - Castilla y Leon won 4-1 against Olomouc in the other game - ahead of Monday's showdown with their Spanish counterparts.
Passage through to the final remains on track as Davis aims to guide his team all the way to glory - just like in 2015 when Gerry Smith's outfit triumphed on home soil.
Region 2: B O'Connell; Hoey, Horgan, Kelly, Higgins; Carr (Daly-Butz 65), Joyce, O'Donovan, Stack; Hayes (K O'Connell 83), Hoban (Murphy 75).
South Region: Lyashenko; Voroskalevski (Devadze 30), Serov, Tishchenko, Kartashov; Donskov, Mochkarski, Khodzhumyan, Sanko (Valiulin 70); Obernibesov (Nastavshev 64), Lednev.
Referee: Dimitar Meckarovski (MKD).