Sunday 21 January 2018

McHugh eager to atone for 'worst day in football'

Ryan McHugh, Donegal
Ryan McHugh, Donegal

Orla Bannon

He has not known too many bad days in a Donegal jersey, but Ryan McHugh ranks the All-Ireland quarter-final defeat to Mayo in 2013 as his worst moment yet.

The Young Footballer of the Year, who will be bidding to end three years of hurt in the EirGrid Ulster U-21 FC final against Tyrone on Wednesday, will first try to secure a league semi-final spot for Donegal in Castlebar on Sunday.

It's the first time the teams have met since the 16-point drubbing Mayo inflicted on Donegal in Croke Park.

"It was one of my toughest days involved in Gaelic football, up there with the worst of them" said McHugh (below), speaking at the EirGrid Ulster U-21 final launch in Belfast yesterday.

"Nothing went right. You have to take your hat off to Mayo, they gave us an exhibition in how to play Gaelic football that day, but we haven't looked back since then and are building all the time."

Donegal continued their dominance over Tyrone with a surprisingly one-sided league win in Ballybofey last Sunday, McHugh scoring the only goal of the game.

They have a chance to extend their psychological grip over the Red Hands to the county's U-21 side next week.

McHugh said: "We were anticipating a very tough match against Tyrone but everything went right for us and wrong for them.

"But it won't count for anything come May 17 and the Ulster championship. It will be a completely different Tyrone team coming to Ballybofey that day.

"The (U-21) final definitely will be a tougher battle because this is a very good Tyrone U-21 team who won the Ulster minor title three years ago."

McHugh is one of five Donegal players to have lost back-to-back U-21 provincial finals to Cavan in the last two years but says the "hurt" from last year won't guarantee a trophy.

His injury-time goal defeated the four-in-a-row holders last week, which was some measure of revenge for the disappointment of previous encounters.


"The last two finals were hard to take, especially last year. The first year we thought we were ready but in hindsight we weren't good enough but last year we felt going in that we had a team good enough to win it," he said.

"Cavan got the rub of the green that we probably got against them in the first round this year.

"They probably played the better football and we nicked the goal at the end.

"But we won't be looking back on hurt from last year, we know Tyrone will be hardest test we've had this year."

Irish Independent

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