Ryan McHugh is willing to stand by a corner flag as ‘it’s all about winning’
Donegal Under-21 and senior player insists ‘it’s a competitve business’
Ryan McHugh says he would stand by a corner flag to win a game of football. Photograph: Darren Kidd/Inpho
He’s right in the thick of it, and Ryan McHugh sees no justification for the prophecies of doom regarding the current state of gaelic football.
The reigning Young Footballer of the Year is juggling Donegal Under-21 and senior commitments at the moment and will be bidding to end three years of hurt in next week’s EirGrid Ulster Under-21 championship final against Tyrone.
Before that, he’s in Castlebar as Donegal go in search of a league semi-final place on Sunday, the first time the teams have met since the 16-point drubbing Mayo inflicted on them in the 2013 All-Ireland quarter-final.
He certainly didn’t seem burdened by demands or suffocated by negativity at yesterday’s Under 21 launch in Belfast yesterday, smiling: “it is a busy time for me alright, but I wouldn’t swap it for the world.
“There are thousands of footballers who wish they were in my position so I am going to enjoy every minute of it.
“Okay, football is not easy but chatting to Dad (Martin), it wasn’t easy back in his day either. That’s the way gaelic football has gone and I can guarantee you in another two years we’ll be sitting here talking about a completely different game. It changes all the time.
“To be honest I don’t mind what way the game is. I’m fortunate to be playing for Donegal so I’m going to do whatever it takes to help make Donegal a successful team.
“If that means standing out by a corner flag, so be it. It is a very competitive business and it’s all about winning.”
Winning is something he’s become pretty good at. An Ulster SFC medal, an All-Ireland final appearance and a Young Player of the Year award were all bagged before his 21st birthday, and 2015 has begun with more than a hint of promise.
His injury-time goal against four-in-a-row holders Cavan in last week’s EirGrid Ulster Under-21 quarter-final exacted some revenge over the Breffni county who had beaten Donegal in the previous two Ulster finals.
McHugh is one of five players still in the Under-21 side, along with his cousin Eoin McHugh, Darach O’Connor, Willie Gillespie and Conor Parke, to have lost back-to-back Ulster deciders.
This final also gives Donegal the chance to extend their dominance over Tyrone teams, with McHugh scoring the only goal in the win over the Red Hand senior team in Ballybofey last Sunday.
“We were anticipating a very tough match against Tyrone but everything went right for us and wrong for them,” McHugh admitted.
“That’s what happens in football, when one or two wee things go wrong for you, other things go wrong and you know it’s not your day.
“But it won’t count for anything come the 17th May and the Ulster championship. It will be a completely different Tyrone team coming to Ballybofey that day, and we know that.
“The (Under-21) final definitely will be a tougher battle because this is a very good Tyrone team who won the Ulster minor title three years ago. We won’t be looking back on the hurt from last year, because we know Tyrone will be hardest test we’ve had all year.”