Belfast Telegraph

Danny Hughes can call it a day having made telling contribution

By Declan Bogue

We found Danny Hughes in – unusually for him – gloomy mood at the Tyrone GAA night at the races last summer at Down Royal.

Hughes was there as a corporate guest and throughout the evening might have grown weary of some of the most fanatical Gaelic games supporters in the country asking him over and over what his plans were.

This week, the admission of Down manager James McCartan that Hughes has retired caught many by surprise, not least Hughes himself.

He is no great believer in the 'retire' word because, as he explained yesterday, it's not as if it is your employment.

Still, he went on to describe how the devotion required to the modern game has begun to strip all the enjoyment out of it for him.

"It's hard to let go of Gaelic football, very, very difficult," said Hughes.

"It consumes your life, it was number one and it is very, very difficult to let go. The type of person I am I would be a perfectionist. I wanted to do everything 100 per cent and it had became increasingly difficult to justify the time and effort when you don't see much benefit out of it.

"I suppose that's the point where it got to, because I wasn't getting much enjoyment out of it. Some of my close friends on the team had left or quit. It's very difficult when you are going to training on your own and coming home on your own. You are not able to discuss it so it was difficult."

Hughes began to have injury problems in 2011 – a Gilmore's Groin condition required cuts to his adductors on either side (an Adductor Tenotomy) to help relieve the pressure on the pelvic bone.

He made a late appearance as a sub in the Ulster final against Donegal in 2012 – his only Ulster decider – but in truth that was a game that was already lost by that stage.

Regaining fitness became an uphill struggle from that point on and he also made a cameo substitute appearance against Derry in the Ulster Championship last season. After that he enjoyed a run to the semis of the Down Championship with his club Saval.

However, his own high targets left him feeling that if he was unable to perform to the very limits of his ability, then he did not want to know.

McCartan mentioned Hughes booking a stag do, but his wedding is not until October.

Despite all the ambiguity, Hughes has come to terms with his county career ending.

There will be no encore, no final farewell.

That's a shame, but it's the way it ends for the vast majority. Sport can be cruel like that.

Belfast Telegraph

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