GAA Football

Old stager Danny Hughes hoping to extend Saval's Down SFC interest

Former Down ace Danny Hughes resumed his playing career with Saval

FORMER Down ace Danny Hughes says he is “not getting away from anybody these days but still getting away with it” as he bids to keep Saval in the Senior Football Championship against Longstone on Thursday night.

The 37-year-old resumed his playing career last season after spending two years managing Newry Shamrocks and admits he has a “bipolar relationship” with Gaelic football.

“I came back and played last season in Division One and I thought I held my own despite my age,” said Hughes, who featured in the 2010 All-Ireland final with Down.

“I actually feel really, really good. I train every single day. The biggest challenge for me is trying to keep my cool because I wouldn’t be the easiest player to play with. I’d still be very ambitious. But it’s hard to reconcile the ambition of other people.

“It’s a bit of a bipolar relationship I have with football.

“At times it’s great and other times it’s absolutely horrible. You don’t get that competition – pitting yourself against someone else – in any other sphere of life. You only get it on the football field. Management is a step down from that. I wouldn’t even say management is a soft landing.

“But I feel as fit and as strong as a lot of other people. I’m obviously not at the level I was at. The speed’s not there but I still feel I can hold my own. I can get away with it. I don’t know if I can get away from anybody.”

Saval, who sit in mid-table in Division Two, made their way through the back door after succumbing to Clonduff in their championship opener while Longstone lost to Loughinisland.

Both Longstone and Saval are in the last-chance saloon at Pairc Esler on Thursday night (6.30pm) with veteran Mark Poland – a former county team-mate of Hughes’s – still “pulling the strings” for ‘Stone alongside his younger brother Conor and full-forward Joe Ireland.

County player Daniel McCarthy is available again after missing their opening defeat to Clonduff while Pat Havern and Declan Rice remain key players for Saval.

“A priority for us this year has been the league because we’ve been going so poorly,” Hughes admitted.

“In our first championship match against Clonduff we had a couple of goal chances and if we had eradicated the mistakes we might have been a bit closer.

“But Clonduff were the better team and better players, it’s simple as that.”

Hughes added: “We’ve beaten Longstone in the league and we gave them a good run in Longstone. Can we win the game? Yes, we can but we’ve just been playing so poorly it’s hard to know.”

Father-of-two girls, Hughes, who won a GAA Allstar in 2010, stepped away from the inter-county scene four years later due to a series of injuries that curtailed his playing time.

He’s dabbled in coaching since and enjoyed his two-year managerial stint with Newry Shamrocks.

“I managed Newry Shamrocks for two seasons. In the first season they won the third division and in the second year they got relegated on scoring difference. We were on 17 points with three other teams. It was disappointing but it was something I wanted to try.”

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