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Darren Hughes holds high hopes of landing club and international double

Five years ago Darren Hughes shared in a memorable Sigerson Cup triumph with UUJ.

But his fellow Monaghan player Conor McManus was not quite so successful two years ago when University College Cork beat the Jordanstown side to the trophy.

Now back at UUJ, undertaking a masters course in marketing, Hughes found his county colleague McManus in the opposite corner on Sunday when Scotstown humbled Clontibret in the Monaghan senior championship final at Clones (2-16 to 0-7).

This week, though, they are allies again in the Ireland International Rules squad for the Test series against Australia with McManus in particular pushing strongly for a starting place in Saturday's first installment at Kingspan Breffni Park, Cavan.

Hughes, one of several high-profile players who will be in the UUJ side this academic year, has now landed an impressive nap hand of success since February.

He captained Ulster to the inter-provincial championship title, shared in Monaghan's promotion to Division Two of the Allianz League, played a major part in the county's first Ulster title triumph in 25 years, landed the Ulster GAA Writers' Association July monthly merit award and captained Scotstown to their first county crown in 20 years.

His litany of achievements has, if anything, served to heighten Hughes' resolve to pursue two further goals before the season draws to a close.

"I would like to see Ireland win the International Rules series and Scotstown claim the Ulster club title," said Hughes. "Maybe that's a tall order but I honestly believe that it's within the bounds of possibility."

Scotstown are due to meet the winners of Sunday's tie between Derry champions Ballinderry and Tyrone title-holders Clonoe in the Ulster club quarter-finals on November 3 with the newly-crowned Monaghan champions having home advantage.

Along with sharpshooter McManus, Hughes is currently immersed in the Irish team's preparations for Saturday's opening joust with Australia.

Two years ago Hughes played an important part in helping Ireland to chisel out a Rules series triumph 'Down Under'. Now both he and McManus are particularly keen to see Ireland repeat that success on their own soil under new boss Paul Earley.

Clontibret's arrival in the Monaghan county final owed much to the ability of McManus to take points from frees and play and he certainly wants to be remembered this year for more than being the victim of that now infamous tackle by Sean Cavanagh in the Tyrone v Monaghan All Ireland quarter-final.

"It was a great feeling to get promotion in the league with Monaghan and an even better feeling to win a first Ulster title in 25 years," said McManus.

"And while I was disappointed that Clontibret did not do themselves justice in the Monaghan final last Sunday, I hope that I can gain a measure of compensation through the International Rules.

"Every player likes to get the chance to represent his country and this is still a major sporting event no matter what some people might think."

Belfast Telegraph


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