With every rehabilitated step that Donegal have taken this summer, thoughts have turned to Mark McHugh. The Kilcar player, who won an All Star when the county made off with the All-Ireland two years ago, walked away from his involvement with Donegal before the start of the championship in order to spend the summer in the US.
In McHugh’s absence, his brother Ryan has stepped into the breach and after gradually picking up momentum, Donegal manager Jim McGuinness sprang one of the great coups to beat champions Dublin and reach this year’s final.
Speaking at yesterday's launch of the Kilmacud Crokes FBD 7s, to be held on its usual date, the day before the All-Ireland final next Saturday week, in the club premises in Glenalbyn, Mark McHugh said that there had never been any question of him re-joining the county panel on his return home a few weeks ago.
“I don’t think it would be fair on the players. Definitely not. You couldn’t really go away for a whole summer and not train with the team and come back in and think you are good enough to take over another person’s position, (someone) who has been playing and training all year.
“Jim himself knew he couldn’t ask me back in. It didn’t cross my mind. People in the street say that to you but they don’t know the ins and outs of what Gaelic football is these days. You can’t go away for 10 weeks and not train.”
He said that he had always wanted to get away while young enough to find the time and had decided to park his football commitments
“When I finish my career in however many years I’m going to look back and say, ‘did I make the right call?’ and not even that but ‘have I any regrets at the end of it?’. If I didn’t do it my main regret would have been not going away for the summer and enjoying myself and seeing a bit of the world.
“Now I can say that I have my All-Ireland medal and I’ve travelled to America and hopefully, there’s more things to come down the line.”
He’s optimistic that Donegal can add a second title in three years.
“I think, well, I hope that Donegal can get their defensive duties in order and close out the Kerry attack which is probably one of their strongest weapons this year and then build on it, the same as they did against Dublin, and not panic. I think Donegal will then hopefully edge it in the end.”
Also in Kilmacud yesterday Dublin county chair Andy Kettle said that the appointment of a senior new hurling manager to succeed Anthony Daly was moving along quickly.
“The approach is that we have sat down and identified some people who we will be contacting. We have been contacted by some people, not very many – it’s a cat and mouse game, who wants to put their head above the parapet looking for the job, and who is sitting there hoping that they will be approached.
“The pool is not exceptionally deep, there aren’t that many people there, so we will be getting to the coalface and identifying the people we want terribly, terribly soon.”
Bray Emmets GAA club hold their annual Kick Fada competition tomorrow. It kicks off at 1.30pm with the women’s competition and the senior men’s is at 2.0pm with a host of intercounty stars and GAA president Liam O’Neill due to attend.