All Ireland Football Championshp: Down's Danny Hughes now grasping the spotlight
Down's All-Ireland football semi-final victory over Kildare marked a defining moment in Danny Hughes career.
The Saval clubman was performing well in the half forward line, but all the time appeared to be living in the shadow of both Benny Coulter and Martin Clarke.
But against Kildare the Ulster Bank accountant came out of his shell and made a massive contribution to a hard earned Down success.
It even had such hard nosed critics as Colm O’Rourke and Joe Brolly in raptures.
“I was happy enough with my own display against Kerry, but I wanted to prove to myself that I could take my game to a higher level and that’s why it was important that I played well enough against Kildare,” he said.
It’s typical of Hughes that in his hour of glory he took time to acknowledge the contribution of two relative newcomers Peter Fitzpatrick and Kalum King.
And despite Down’s championship famine the Saval man’s faith in the team has never wavered.
“I’ve always believed for a long time now that provided we applied ourselves and gave it our total commitment there was no reason we couldn’t one day be in an All-Ireland final,” he added.
“My mother Immelda and father Gerard have always been very supportive and you can well imagine football is something of a religion in our house.”
Danny’s uncle Peter Trainor played with Armagh in the 1977 All-Ireland final while one of Armagh’s finest Peter Loughran was his mum’s second cousin.
Hughes, to his lasting credit, has been playing through the pain barrier for most of the championship season after being diagnosed with a metatarsal injury.
“I know some players with this type of injury are wrapped up in cotton wool,” he added.
“But that’s not the way we operate in our part of the world. You just go out and five it your best shot.”
That’s something Danny has been doing with some success for the greater part of the championship season. During their All-Ireland heroics, number 10 Brian Dooher was a central figure in their three successes, a man who could run and tackle all day and still have time to kick some crucial points when the game was still in the balance.
He mightn’t have been an obvious candidate when the championship began but Danny Hughes has seized the moment.
It’s fair to say that just now he can be mentioned in the same breath as Benny Coulter and Martin Clarke. His form won’t have gone unnoticed by Cork.
Stopping him will be a priority for them.
Failure to do so will almost certainly see Down being crowned champions.