Door ‘always open’ for Mark McHugh to return
Former All-Star one of four players to quit Donegal panel ahead of football championship
Mark McHugh “felt he needed a bit of time out” according to Donegal selector Damien Diver. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
Donegal coach Damien Diver has said that “door is always open” for Mark McHugh after the former All Star walked away from the county senior football panel this week.
Asked whether there was any prospect of the Kilcar player returning to the panel ahead of Donegal’s Ulster championship first round meeting with Derry on May 25th, Diver said: “I would say no more than any other player in the county, the door is always open.”
Panellists Gary McFadden, Anton McFadden and Thomas McKinley have also walked away since Sunday’s Allianz league final defeat to Monaghan.
McHugh, who did not start the final but came on as a substitute before half time, was not present at training on Tuesday night. Diver, speaking at last night’s Ulster championship launch in Belfast, confirmed the four departures but would not elaborate on whether any of the players had been ordered off the panel by manager Jim McGuinness or had left of their own accord.
“I would not be privy to that kind of information at all,” said Diver. “I don’t really know. All I know is he (McHugh) has left.”
Diver also confirmed the departure of three panellists, including Anton McFadden who is a brother-in-law of Jim McGuinness.
Earlier in the day, 23-year-old Mark McHugh - whose younger brother Ryan remains part of the squad - would not confirm that he had left the panel and said he was waiting to talk to Jim McGuinness. Diver denied that a lack of game time in this year’s league campaign had been a factor in McHugh’s departure.
“You don’t want to be losing players,” he said. “I know he (McHugh) had bother with injuries and all that and his form was a bit indifferent and I suppose he felt that he needed a bit of time out.
“Maybe he just was not enjoying it at the moment between injuries and that kind of thing.
“I just think he missed the Armagh game because he pulled the hamstring on Tuesday night and that was it.
“He missed only 20 minutes of the final because he came on after 20 minutes.”
It’s understood McGuinness has had a strained relationship with some players in the squad in recent months. In what has been a very bad week for the Glenties man following on from a very poor display against Monaghan, this controversy is the latest sign that all is not well in Donegal.
Rumblings of discontent have been rumbling all year and the shock departure of McHugh in particular has put the 2012 All-Ireland champions under scrutiny ahead of the Ulster championship first round tie against Derry on May 25th.