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Personal gong helps Hughes to get over Tyrone

By John Campbell

Darren Hughes will continue to refer to Monaghan's defeat by Tyrone in the All-Ireland quarter-finals as "that sickening defeat."

For Hughes, though, there is some measure of compensation. He has just been confirmed as the winner of the Ulster GAA Writers Association monthly merit award for July, the latest in an unexpected harvest of honours garnered this year.

Hughes captained Ulster to the inter-provincial championship title earlier in the year and two months later he was instrumental in helping Monaghan win the Allianz League Division Two crown.

Rated nonetheless as no-hopers in the Ulster Championship, Monaghan tore the formbook to shreds by conquering Donegal in the final and it was the splendid generalship of Hughes coupled with his dynamic skills that saw his county end their 25-year provincial title famine in spectacular style.

That performance earned him the writers' prize and although disappointed that his side's bid to reach the All-Ireland semi-finals proved abortive, Hughes, who formerly played for UUJ, offers his own candid assessment of Monaghan's heady progress.

"If you had told me in January that we would have played in three finals, won promotion in the league and then clinched the Ulster title I would have taken the hand off you," states the powerfully-built 24-year-old.

"But I have to admit that sickening defeat against Tyrone will take a bit of getting over. We were left totally gutted, there is no other way to describe it."

Hughes, regarded by Ulster team manager Joe Kernan as "pound for pound the best player in the country" is certainly not known for sour grapes and even any reference to 'that tackle' by Sean Cavanagh on Saturday draws a typically honest response from him.

"If I had been in Sean Cavanagh's position I'd have done exactly the same thing myself," insists Hughes.

Hughes was actually one of seven nominees for the writers' award, an indication of the high level of performances offered by players from the province during the course of July.

"I am delighted to receive the honour which I accept on behalf of the team. Without the help of the boys around me, it would not have been possible for me to get this honour," stresses Hughes.

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