Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 2014

We just knew that it was going to be our day, says Monaghan's Darren Hughes

Darren Hughes

It was the first minute of the game when Darren Hughes went off through the heart of the Donegal defence. In his flashy white boots he dummied to pass and then ploughed on past a weak Karl Lacey tackle to arrow over the bar.

The tone was set; Monaghan were going to run at Donegal and they had found a soft spot. After the final, Hughes reflected on the attitude that Monaghan took into the game. He said that shortly after the semi-final win, Malachy O'Rourke addressed his players.

"He mentioned it two weeks ago," Hughes said, "that he didn't want to be in another losing dressing room. And that was it."

From then on it was wall-to-wall positivity.

"We just felt it was our day. We were free from anxiety," revealed the Scotstown man.

When the team came into the ground, Monaghan minors were behind Tyrone in the curtain-raiser. Then everything went the way of the Oriel county.

"We were sitting in the dressing rooms and we heard the roar, we knew it could only be a Monaghan victory," commented Hughes.

"It was unbelievable there today, the support ... I suppose we were looking out at the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick last weekend and we seen the sea of green and white. We said imagine if we could give Monaghan people a scene like that there in Clones.

"We believed that we could win the game and after the final whistle, walking up the steps there, the pitch was flooded with supporters. It's great for them, we gave them a lot of bad days over the years but this is one to relish."

Their belief was helped by a recent challenge match against Mayo. "We knew we were ready for the big teams," he adds, "because we kept with them for 70 minutes."

Key to their win was their manic workrate. Few in the stadium or watching on their television sets believed that Monaghan could maintain their energy levels for 70 minutes but the players knew what they were capable of.

"Wylie and the boys inside just kept turning them over and turning them over. Dermot Malone and Padraig Donaghy, first two starts in Championship football and the two boys were unbelievable. They won break after break. If you can do that, go well in midfield, we knew we had the men that could get around the breaks.

"Donegal were not going well in there so we felt that was an area we could target. Stephen Gollogly set the tone early on with a hit on Mark McHugh. The two of them had to go off but we had a strong bench we could use. That didn't affect us, we knew we had a strong bench."

The moment when he truly believed that Monaghan could win came courtesy of his brother, the immensely-skilful Kieran, when he hit two points within a minute of each other to stretch a three-point lead to five.

"At that point," he explains, "Donegal turn the screw in many matches, about 50 minutes in. Out there, the supporters might not have felt it, but we felt in control all along. We slowed it down when we had to."

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