Ryan McHugh putting friendship to the side for 70 minutes as Donegal prepare for Monaghan match
DONEGAL’S darting dervish Ryan McHugh will be meeting up with an old friend as Tir Chonaill lock horns with resurgent Monaghan in Ballyshannon on Sunday.
The Kilcar star and his clubmate Paddy McBrearty shared a house with Kieran Hughes of Monaghan as students in Belfast a few years ago.
But while McHugh is still close to the powerful Hughes, that friendship will be put on hold as Donegal go in search of two badly needed points in a ground that McHugh has never lost in. “Yeah Paddy McBrearty and I once shared a house with Kieran Hughes and he is a great athlete and a great footballer,” he said. “He is a good friend of mine and is a great lad. “Both he and his brother Darren have been major figures for Monaghan for quite a few years now.
“I would still be in touch with him on a regular basis but that will have to be suspended for a while on Sunday as we badly need points and Monaghan are on a real roll.” Some believed that when
Monaghan boss Malachy O’Rourke left after guiding the side to two Ulster titles and within an ace of reaching an All-Ireland final in 2018, that the team were on the wane.
But the arrival of Séamus ‘Banty’ McEnaney and the acquisition of Conor Laverty has galvanised the Farney boys, who have already beaten Tyrone and Mayo. However, for Donegal, who have created lots of goalscoring chances but failed to convert them, this is a real “four-pointer”.
“Monaghan are on course for a League final slot and we will need to win to avoid relegation,” McHugh said. “We are creating a lot of chances. You make your own luck, but you have to go and take your chances.
“The good thing about the NFL is that you have a number of chances to come good and it is Monaghan this week and hopefully we can create the chances and take them. “They played us a few years ago in Ballyshannon and we were winning well at half-time but they came back for a draw towards the end and I had to come off with an ankle injury.
“Monaghan are a very gritty side and very hard to put away and they always give us a great battle down through the League and Championship and it will be no different on Sunday. He added: “Malachy O’Rourke and Ryan Porter did a phenomenal job with Monaghan but Banty and his backroom team have really put new life into them.
“They have a new lease of life – they are putting up big scores and they are winning matches and they have put themselves into a great position.
This is really going to be a massive match for us. “We will try and counter them but we have to concentrate on our own performance and get a display that puts you in a position where you can win matches, which is something we really need to do. “We need to continue to create chances and to take them this time.”
However, McHugh is well aware of the threat posed by the Farney men.
“Look, they have several players who have two Ulster titles and have been around for quite a while. “They have threats coming all over the place and they are starting to get scores from all over the place.
“Conor Laverty was and is a very skilful and very intelligent player and if he can take that and give it to Monaghan it is going to be something huge for them. Donegal are gradually getting stronger with the return of Hugh McFadden, Caolan McGonagle and Daire O’Baoill, but they will all be needed against a rampant Monaghan side.
“We have a fairly good record in Ballyshannon and I don’t think I have lost a match there and if we lose we are in very deep trouble,” McHugh said.
So, where will the main threats come from Monaghan? “They have serious footballers all over the pitch,” McHugh said. “Conor McCarthy is in scorching form, Conor McManus, the Hughes brothers, Jack McCarron and Shane Carey also.
“They have so many top players who are also very experienced and this year they are getting scores from deep. Conor Boyle is getting up the pitch to score and Kieran Duffy got a goal. “They are a top side and it will be a huge battle and hopefully we will come out on the right side.”