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Donegal playmaker Ryan McHugh on doing business with Bernabeu, Pebble Beach and other top venues

 

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Building up: Ryan McHugh can't wait for return to action

Building up: Ryan McHugh can't wait for return to action

�INPHO/Tom O'Hanlon

Building up: Ryan McHugh can't wait for return to action

The shutters may have been closed on GAA grounds all over the island but Donegal's ace playmaker Ryan McHugh nonetheless continues to find himself immersed in the ongoing condition of some of the finest sporting venues on the planet.

While his county awaits a return to competitive action, it is not unusual to find McHugh liaising with Pebble Beach Golf Club one day and the famed Bernabeu Stadium the next.

As business development manager with west Donegal company Ocean Knowledge, which was founded by his Kilcar club colleague Declan Gallagher, McHugh has a key role to play as it continues to expand its reputation on a global scale in terms of providing high-quality organic bio-stimulants and speciality fertilisers for the amenity and sports turf markets.

"It's a bit surreal at times, to tell you the truth," said McHugh. "One minute I'm maybe talking with one of the Kilcar lads about giving him a lift to training and the next I could be answering the phone to someone from Wembley or Adare Manor Golf Club.

"That's the truth but I have learned to take it in my stride. Even when people ring from other parts of Europe and indeed elsewhere in the world they seem to want to talk about sport here in Ireland. It's fascinating to listen to their views, there's never a dull moment here."

The world may be his oyster in a business sense but former Ulster University student McHugh is more than happy to focus on sporting goals he has set for himself closer to home.

Like inter-county players across the island, he is anxious to see a resumption of the Allianz League although with the passage of time he believes this may not be feasible.

Whatever about the immediate future of the league, McHugh is in no doubt as to precisely where Donegal's Championship aspirations lie.

"Obviously we would love to make it a hat-trick of Ulster titles but let's keep our feet on the ground here," he asserted.

"We have been drawn against Tyrone in the quarter-finals next month and I don't think I need to say more than that. Even though we will be at home, we could not have asked for a tougher Championship challenge in my view."

With five points from five games in the league, Donegal could still come into the reckoning for a place in the final should the competition be continued when action resumes but it's the Ulster Championship that is already commanding the attention of Declan Bonner's side.

"Obviously collective training is a no-no just now but like a lot of other players I am trying to follow my own routine in the hope that I won't have too much to do when we finally get back to collective training and playing," said McHugh, whose father Martin won an All-Ireland medal with Donegal in 1992 before going on to oversee Cavan's 1997 Ulster Championship triumph.

Having been introduced to the Donegal squad in 2013, McHugh is now regarded as one of the old hands, a playmaker who invariably helps to bring out the best in those around him.

Three Ulster Championship medals and two All-Star awards testify to his enduring qualities but as he focuses on the immediate future he recognises that the coming months may not unravel as ordained fixtures-wise.

"There is an uncertainty prevailing at the minute in relation to what is going to happen in terms of fixtures against the backdrop of the coronavirus and obviously people's health and welfare has to take priority," insisted McHugh.

"Having said that, the forthcoming Ulster Championship game against Tyrone certainly gives us all something we can look forward to. I think it will be a great contest and I can assure you we won't be looking past this one.

"I believe it has the makings of a cracking tie and you would have to think that the winners will go on to make more progress, although you can take nothing for granted. We have to be ready for this game, there is no doubt about that."

Belfast Telegraph