Monaghan's Darren Hughes happy to answer Ireland's call
AS the Ireland team arrived from their two-day break in Mandurah to the luxurious five-star Duxton Hotel in the heart of Perth’s business district, their newest recruit was introducing himself to his new team-mates.
Darren Hughes had set his alarm at home for 5am on Sunday morning and got up to watch the First Test of the International Rules series before going back to bed.
But once it became apparent that Pearce Hanley’s injury was going to curtail any further involvement, the phone call was made from Adelaide back to Monaghan.
He left home at 3am on Tuesday morning, armed with two jerseys from O’Neills that had just been ordered at 2.15pm and delivered to Scotstown by 10pm, in time for his departure.
Just an hour before the Irish squad landed in Perth, he’d arrived in the airport off the arduous 24-hour flight.
And with so little time for recovery and acclimatisation, Hughes deliberately avoided sleeping the whole way from Dublin in a bid to arrest jet lag before it properly takes hold.
Having played in the last two series, Hughes was initially part of Joe Kernan’s extended 50-man training panel but had to pull the pin early into the venture.
“I was at a couple of the training sessions, but it was getting too hectic with the club. When we went to the replay with Ballybay [Monaghan SFC semi-final] I just left it. I couldn’t commit.
“I had the conversation with Joe and said I wasn’t in a position to be in contention with the club training on Friday night and the boys being in Dublin the same nights, the club had to come first at that stage of the year.”
And hand on heart, he would have been at the very least hopeful that he wouldn’t be in Perth now, but preparing for an Ulster club final.
As the only club in the province to have beaten Slaughtneil in the last four years, it seemed all set up for another meeting until Kilcar came to Clones and tore the script apart.
“We were probably big favourites on paper but we knew going into it we had our work cut out. We’d a few injuries and fellas away but it was a credit to Kilcar, we had no answer to them on the day.
“We got off to a good start and they didn’t panic. We’d no answer, we were well aware of their strengths but we just couldn’t handle them.”
The First Test swung one way and the other, with the Australians taking command in the midfield area that he’ll be sent out to try and make an impact on.
“[Nat] Fyfe’s goal was a big turning point in the third quarter to give them a bit of a comfort zone, but the lads did well to come back into it and I don’t think 10 points is that big a deficit with the scoring system in this game.
“I haven’t got in for anything tactical meetings so far but I’d say we’ll be looking at keeping it a bit tighter around the middle third, they got through there a bit easy maybe.
“We need to help the boys up front. Conor [McManus] and Michael [Murphy] were doing most of the scoring, they need a helping hand.”