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Monaghan's record has no relevance: Darren Hughes

By Declan Bogue

Usually, notable sporting statistics are dug up and popularised by nerdy journalists or commentators. However, it was something Eamonn McGee said at the Donegal Press event that brought to our attention the record Monaghan have over Sunday's Ulster final opponents Donegal.

He said that somebody had a friendly word in his ear during the Division Two league final, of which the precise details are that it has been 1983 since Donegal last beat a Monaghan team in Championship football.

Darren Hughes looks sheepish when that is mentioned to him. His blushes prompt the further probe if it was actually him that educated McGee.

"It could have been!" he laughs.

But he also bristles against the suggestion that the Donegal team they defeated in last year's decider was a pale imitation of themselves.

"We went into an Ulster final against them last year and at that stage they were two-time Ulster champions and All-Ireland champions," the 27-year-old Scotstown farmer begins.

"Nobody was to know any different that we were going to beat them and what Mayo were going to do to them a few weeks later.

"It's a great Donegal team who have been in four Ulster finals in a row and have an All-Ireland medal in their back pocket," he adds.

That remark to McGee, and the rash act Rory Kavanagh committed on Hughes to earn himself a red card in the league final, speaks of a rivalry that has become exceptionally keen over the past season.

Hughes reflects on their two league meetings, insisting that because of different reasons, neither has any relevance to this weekend.

"We played them this year in the league over in Letterkenny and we didn't win. It was only the league but a game we prepared well for and went to win and they played us off the pitch that day. It was an eye-opener for us and where we were at that stage in March.

"We got our act together after that and knew what we had to do."

He continues: "We played them in the league final then and I don't think that was a real reflection of them – I think they had one eye on Derry in the first round of the Championship, and had come back from a tough training camp and I wouldn't read too much into the league final as it came into Championship territory."

In 2012, Donegal became known as a 'third-quarter team', a bit like how some Aussie Rules outfits put so much importance on the period immediately following half-time.

They have displayed the same traits in their two Championship outings to date.

"You are conscious of it – you want to tighten the thing up but when you have men at 6ft 2 and 6ft 3 coming at you in droves it is difficult," Hughes cautions.

"Everyone is aware of it and you prepare as best as possible but when you've men coming at you who've prepared meticulously ...

"We were lucky enough in the Ulster final we got the turnovers and tackles in last year and got three points off three Donegal attacks, and would be hoping for the same again."

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