Belfast Telegraph

Family man Aaron Hughes is having time of his life on the big stage

BY Steven Beacom

The Hughes brothers are having a ball. Aaron is loving playing in his first major tournament and younger sibling Ian is just as happy travelling all over France to cheer on Northern Ireland at the Euro 2016 finals.

If the elder Hughes is given the nod to play against Wales in tomorrow's Euro 2016 last 16 showdown, he will earn the 103rd cap of a fantastic international career which started way back in 1998.

"It's hard to put into words. I'm loving it. Absolutely loving it," said the 36-year-old.

"I never thought I'd get the chance to be at a tournament like this, step on to a pitch at a tournament like this and experience the games, not just being around the team, but being involved as a player and playing.

"It'll all sink in once it's gone, because when you're in it, you prepare and concentrate on all the little things you have to do and be ready for the next game."

Laughing, he added: "I think once I go back home after the tournament finishes, whenever that may be, there'll be a big comedown. I'll be sat like that (slumping in his chair) saying where do we go from here?

"I'm loving it. It's been the best experience."

Brother Ian, an excellent hockey player, would concur.

"He's having a great time, getting to see the games, driving around and experiencing France," said Aaron.

"My brother is here with my cousin Paul and Conor Marlin (IFA coach). The three of them are driving in a camper van, enjoying life, turning up for the games. It's a great way to experience the tournament.

"It's brilliant for the fans. We talk about the players enduring darker days when we couldn't score and so on, but they've done it too. They've travelled all around the world, spent their hard earned money following us at times when it was tough.

"For them, it's just as big an experience and they have helped make it a big experience for us by creating big atmospheres," added Hughes, who revealed his wife and children travelled from Australia to be in France to watch the finals.

Belfast Telegraph