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Lockdown came at right time for fit-again Hughes

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Mark Hughes. Pic: Sportsfile

Mark Hughes. Pic: Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Mark Hughes. Pic: Sportsfile

Mark Hughes insists he'll be fit for selection when Drogheda United face Shamrock Rovers II this coming weekend despite playing just 45 minutes of Saturday's friendly against Shelbourne.

The defensive midfielder, who didn't feature in any of the club's three league games before the Covid-19 lockdown intervened because of a niggling foot injury which was sustained in pre-season, came off earlier than planned, but will be available for the trip to Tallaght.

'I had planned to play more than 45 minutes today, but I just had a little tight quad,' he reported after the match against one of his old clubs, 'so it was a precaution to come off and be right for next week. That's the main thing.

'The foot is grand. I'm back to full fitness now, so I'm happy enough with that. Every time I was playing a match it just kept swelling up afterwards and it kept recurring, so I had to take a few months off and the lockdown obviously helped.'

While Saturday's game ended in disappointment, with Shelbourne scoring the winner in the final seconds, Hughes insisted that Drogheda are in a good place heading into the resumption of the league.

'It was a good workout for us and we've had three good games in lockdown pre-season,' said the 27-year-old who is in his third season at United Park, spread over two spells.

'Obviously the result didn't go our way today, but getting minutes in is the most important thing, the lads are looking sharp and we're playing good stuff.'

Competition for places in the centre of midfield is particularly fierce, with Jake Hyland almost certain to start as captain and Richie O'Farrell, Sean Brennan and Luke Heeney also in the frame, while Hughes can also play in the centre of defence when required, as he was for 20 minutes on Saturday as Jack Tuite went off injured.

'It brings everyone's game on 100%,' Hughes responded when asked about the number of options in his favoured position. 'Everyone's sharp and chomping at the bit to play.

'I'll do a job at centre-half just to play, but it's centre midfield where I want to be.'

One thing is for sure. Drogheda won't be taking Shamrock Rovers second string's lowly league position as an indication that an easy three points will be up for grabs come the weekend.

'They are all young lads and hungry to play,' Hughes insisted.

'They have a point to prove and are trying to get into the Shamrock Rovers first team, so we're going to treat it as if we are playing every other side.

'It's a big game for us and obviously we want to kick off with a win and get the momentum going again.'

'We're in the same boat as everyone else [only 15 games left], so we still have to go out and do the job on the pitch, but if we improve on last year's league performance then we should be alright.'

Drogheda Independent