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Top award is a welcome boost for Donegal's Ryan McHugh

By John Campbell

Ryan McHugh's preparations for his confrontation with what he feels is a "bulked up" Armagh side on Saturday have been boosted now that he has just become the latest winner of the Ulster GAA Writers' Association monthly merit award.

The Donegal utility player earned the accolade following his stunning performance in his team's Ulster final defeat of Monaghan last month when he emerged as man of the match by some distance.

His award means that he completes a notable family hat-trick as his father Martin lifted the writers' accolade in November 1995 and brother Mark, who is due to return home from the US later this month, walked off with the trophy in August 2012.

But while clearly delighted to receive the honour, Ryan is strongly focused on Donegal's All-Ireland quarter-final mission against surprise packet Armagh.

"We had a good win over Monaghan in the Ulster final but they were a tight team to break down. Now we are looking forward to meeting Armagh and I must say I am surprised at the manner in which the new boys in the side in particular have bulked up," reveals McHugh.

"They will have taken heart from their qualifier run and we know for sure they are now a very good team.

"It's good to be going into the game with this award under my belt. With my dad and Mark having won it, I might have been considered an outcast had I, too, not won it!"

McHugh's skill, speed and stamina were very much in evidence in the Ulster final and it was a fusion of these attributes that ultimately unlocked the Monaghan defence and which Donegal manager Jim McGuinness now hopes will help dismantle Armagh.

Ironically, Donegal manager McGuinness was also in the running for the writers' July award as was Antrim hurler Conor McCann.

The displays of Armagh ladies football captain Caroline O'Hanlon and Tyrone skipper Gemma Begley in the Ulster championship clash between the counties in July were also highly commended.

McHugh received a Belleek Living Vase, engraved silver cuff links from Omeath jeweller Gareth Mallon, training gear from O'Neill's International Sports and a sports voucher from the Writers' Association. He will also receive two tickets plus overnight accommodation for the writers' banquet in Bundoran on November 1.

The GAA have appointed the referees for this weekend's All-Ireland quarter-finals.

Cavan's Joe McQuillan will take charge of Armagh's joust with Donegal and Marty Duffy will be the man in the middle when Monaghan take on defending All-Ireland champions Dublin.

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