‘You’d imagine it’s a write-off for the season’: Darren Hughes unsure what Farney future holds after injury

Monaghan stalwart suffered fractured tibia and MCL rupture at St Tiernach’s Park

Darren Hughes was stretchered off and taken to hospital with a leg injury. Pic Philip Walsh
Darren Hughes was stretchered off and taken to hospital during Monaghan's Ulster Championship defeat to Cavan last month. Picture by Philip Walsh

DARREN Hughes hasn’t made any definitive decision on his Monaghan future – but admits this campaign is “a write off” after the injury that forced him off during the Farney’s Ulster Championship defeat to Cavan last month.

The Scotstown stalwart was stretchered off 15 minutes into the second half of a hot and heavy clash with Monaghan’s neighbours, and was taken straight to Cavan general hospital amid initial fears he had broken a leg.

It turns out Hughes suffered a slight fracture of his tibia and a rupture of the medial collateral ligament (MCL), and another scan in early July will provide a clearer timeframe as he continues along the road to recovery.

“I’m not too bad, a bit more mobile than I was three weeks ago,” he said.

“Here it could’ve been worse and it could’ve been better I suppose... I just have to give it a couple of months to see where it’s at. I’ll let the healing process run its course and hope for the best after that.”

To compound matters on a difficult day, Cavan came on strong in the dying moments to seal a memorable victory in Clones, with Hughes following the remainder of the action from the back of an ambulance.

“One of the girls give me her phone to tune into the radio, so I was listening to it on Northern Sound,” he smiles.

“I don’t remember much about it to be honest... there was roars of elation at one stage, then deflation five minutes after.”

The nature of the injury meant Hughes didn’t have to undergo surgery and, although his movement remains limited, the 37-year-old has attended every Monaghan training session since.

Hughes – in his 18th season at county level - sustained an MCL injury weeks before the start of the 2017 Championship, miraculously returning in time for the Farney’s Ulster semi-final defeat to Down having missed their earlier win over Fermanagh.

However, the compressed nature of the current Championship structure makes any prospect of a return remote.

“I’ve been at every session, I haven’t left. I’ll probably be the first man there and the last man leaving.

“I’ll be down in the gym, whatever bit of rehab I can do to keep muscles right, but beyond that there’s nothing really beneficial I can do... it’s just to get out of the house nearly.

“Look, you always hope. I generally have been quick at healing before but, unlike in 2017, you just don’t have the time to work with now. Maybe my birth cert won’t help me either, but you’re guaranteed football up to the end of June - that’s out of the question - so realistically you’d have to think there’s not much chance.

“I’ll not have boots on before July, so you’d imagine it’s a write-off for the season.”

The past week has seen Cavan’s Paddy Lynch and Down forward Barry O’Hagan suffer season-ending ACL injuries and, rather than dwelling on his own misfortune, Hughes considers himself lucky to have escaped major injury for so much of his career.

“Funny, I’d be looking at it from a different perspective.

“I haven’t made any definitive decisions on anything, but I always counted myself in bonus territory. I see boys breaking ankles and doing cruciates in the past week who are in their prime... I’d find that harder than me, at 37, getting an injury that could potentially be long-term.

“I always knew I was lucky enough with injuries along the way. If you were in your prime and you were going to miss out on a Championship season, it would frustrate you more than the position I’m in.

“It’s not ideal, but it’s the risk you run I suppose... that’s the cards I was dealt. I’m still busy enough - I haven’t had much time for Netflix or anything like that, put it that way.

“There’s a couple of wee ones running about when they get home from school here, so I don’t be too idle. I’m not sitting about feeling sorry for myself, which is as well because nobody else is. You just get up and get on with it.”