Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport GAA

Ulster Championship: McHugh planning misery for Cavan

By John Campbell

When Mark McHugh was initially drafted into the Donegal team he knew that he had quite a lot to live up to.

After all, his father Martin masterminded the county’s only All- Ireland to date in 1992, and is regarded as one of the most cultured players ever to have emerged from Ulster.

And when he stepped down from the Donegal squad, Martin (pictured) turned to management steering Cavan to their last Ulster title in 1997.

Not surprisingly, he is still held in high esteem in the Breffni county which has yet to taste any degree of success since he exited his managerial role.

Now the precocious Mark will be hoping to extend Cavan’s Ulster championship misery when he lines out against Val Andrews’s side in Sunday’s quarter-final at Kingspan Breffni Park.

He has already made a big impact in the championship to date having grabbed the late goal that sealed Donegal’s win over Antrim in the preliminary round.

But the lively half-forward knows that the Cavan defence will be in uncompromising mood on Sunday in front of their own fans.

“Cavan will feel they have a point to prove and the eight newcomers to championship football that they have in their side will, I am sure, be mad keen to prove their worth,” points out Mark.

“That’s why we need to hit the ground running in this game. We simply cannot afford to let Cavan take the initiative.”

It was a mixture of patience and perseverance that ultimately helped Donegal to get over an Antrim side that retreated into a defensive shell, preferring to rely on counter-thrusts to trouble Jim McGuinness’s rearguard.

That made life rather more difficult for the Donegal front men but the younger McHugh believes that his side learned from that experience.

“We knew we had to try and keep possession and remain patient. We managed to take our chances late on and that helped us. Antrim proved very difficult to break down and I have no doubt that it will be much the same story against Cavan,” predicts Mark.

Along with Dermot ‘Brick’ Molloy, he brings an element of youthful exuberance to the Donegal attack alongside the more seasoned Michael Murphy and Colm McFadden, both of whom were outstanding during Donegal’s successful drive into Division One.

Rory Kavanagh, Kevin Cassidy, Karl Lacey and Neil McGee along with goalkeeper Paul Durcan help to flavour the line-up with experience — a quality that manager McGuinness hopes can be employed to good effect on Sunday.

Cavan boss Val Andrews accepts he is taking a big gamble by plunging eight players in for their championship debuts but feels their form in the National League merits this.

However, that voyage against mundane opposition will bear little resemblance to the high intensity, robustly aggressive fare that will be on Sunday’s menu.

Skipper Seanie Johnston, centrethreequarter Michael Ling, centre-half-back John McCutcheon, midfielder Ray Cullivan and goalkeeper James Reilly represent the limited Cavan old guard.

But much will depend on how the new kids on the block perform. Niall Murray, Gearoid McKiernan and Niall McDermott make the quantum leap from the Under 21 sector to the demanding senior arena while James McEnroe, Patrick Carroll, Dane O’Dowd, Fergal Flanagan and David Givney are championship novices.

Donegal may have flattered to deceive in successive Ulster campaigns for many years now but their revived sense of ambition and the scoring finesse of Murphy, McFadden and McHugh should combine to bring them into a provincial semi-final against reigning champions Tyrone.

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph