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Hughes is delighted to claim the family bragging rights

 

By Declan Bogue

For a good spell of Sunday's Ulster Club semi-final against Coleraine Eoghan Rua, Scotstown captain Darren Hughes was convinced he wouldn't be able to show his face to the in-laws.

That's because he has three brothers-in-law - Barry, Paul and Eoghan Daly - who were part of the Coleraine panel.

An even more difficult situation was avoided when Paul Daly was pulled prior to throw-in through injury, as he could have ended up marking the Monaghan stalwart throughout the game.

As it was, Scotstown came from three points behind with five minutes left to clinch a place in the Ulster final against Donegal's Gaoth Dobhair - who dismantled Crossmaglen in the second match of the double-header - the final point coming from the deadly boot of Rory Beggan with a 45 metre free.

"It was always going to be awkward and disappointing for someone after it but, I have to admit, I am glad I came out the right side if it," said Hughes.

"We did ride our luck a bit but we didn't panic, we were confident the clock was on our side.

"Five minutes is a long time in football. I have been on the wrong side in many of those defeats and it was nice to come out the right side.

"The boys worked it well and Rory coming out helped them with the overlap, it made the extra man."

Beggan is very much re-defining the role of the goalkeeper. For large parts of this game, as he did in the quarter-final against Burren, he pushed forward and played as an orthodox outfield player.

Even when Scotstown lost the ball, he did not dash back to mind his goals - which says something about the risks he and team manager Kieran Donnelly are willing to take.

"I see it every night in training, he is comfortable on the ball," said Hughes.

"Some day he will get caught out, but he has got us out of jail on many a day and he is on a roll at the minute. His confidence is sky high, his kick-outs are just spot on every time."

Hughes also declared himself baffled at the debate from some quarters, including Kerry pundits Tomás ÓSé and Pat Spillane, who said there was no question that Dublin captain Stephen Cluxton should have been awarded the 2018 goalkeeper All-Star instead of Beggan.

"I was really surprised at the tone they used. They were saying that it was a robbery. I think it was a good debate between the two of them," said an indignant Hughes.

"Cluxton had a good year but I think on this occasion Rory was better than him.

"They were trying to write one keeper off against the other, and suggesting that one was basically no good.

"I think the commentary was wrong, they are two top-class keepers.

"Rory makes no secret of the fact that he followed Cluxton and models his game, and I think Rory can do stuff now that Cluxton can't.

"There is no doubt that they are two top-class keepers and I just think some of the commentary was unfair on Rory."

This will be Scotstown's second Ulster final in four seasons. In 2015, they lost an extra-time thriller against Crossmaglen Rangers and Hughes believes that will stand them in good stead for the big decider against Gaoth Dobhair.

"We know what to expect in the build-up now but I will never forget the final whistle at the end of normal time that day because the Cross boys knew they had it won," he added.

"They had been there before and they had done it.

"That experience tells, but we have young fellas there and sometimes experience does not matter."

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