GAA Football

Mattie McGleenan expects Darren Hughes to play

Mattie McGleenan managed Darren Hughes (left) to two Monaghan titles with Scotstown, and expects to see him at midfield for Monaghan this weekend. Picture by Seamus Loughran
By Cahair O'Kane

MATTIE McGleenan expects Darren Hughes to line out in midfield for Monaghan in their Ulster quarter-final meeting with Cavan this weekend.

McGleenan managed Hughes while in charge of Scotstown, whom he guided to two straight Monaghan titles and an Ulster final that they lost narrowly to Crossmaglen after extra-time.

The Irish News understands that while Hughes has returned to training, he has only been able to work on straight line running and is unlikely to feature.

Speaking at Cavan’s pre-match press event last Friday, though, McGleenan says he is preparing to come up against his former general, who missed Monaghan’s preliminary round win over Fermanagh with the knee injury he sustained on club duty.

“Is Darren Hughes a smokescreen? I don’t think probably Darren Hughes’s injury is as bad as everybody has made out. I expect Darren Hughes to play next week,” he said.

The history of this fixture suggests that there will be little to separate the two sides. There have been just two goals scored in their last four Championship meetings and their League encounter earlier in the year was a 0-7 apiece draw in Inniskeen.

They both played their League football in the top flight this spring, with different degrees of success. Cavan failed to stay up in their first attempt back in Division One, but a strong finish to the campaign has boosted their confidence.

Monaghan’s displays, though, prompted many to elevate them into a ‘big three’ with Tyrone and Donegal in the race for the Ulster title.

The one county that could claim to have been discounted by such discussion is Cavan, and McGleenan feels that his side is among that group.

“I would totally disagree because I think there’s a big four. Monaghan could’ve finished in the National League final, but if you’re going be competitive in the summer time, I believe you have to be either at the top of Division Two or in Division One.

“The problem in Ulster right now is that you have two or three teams playing Division One football and you have the rest playing in Division Two and Three and there definitely seems to be a difference now.

“At the end of the day, it all boils down to championship. If you go through the rest of the country, nearly everyone can pick out the provincial winners whereas this province is the only one where you still have a debate as to the winners will be.

“They are talking about the big three - Donegal, Monaghan and Tyrone - but I would suggest we are not a million miles off.

“The work that Terry [Hyland] did to get these boys up to Division One was no freak and it took time.

“It is a three or four-year process now to build a team.

“The bottom line is that if you can get one win the confidence from that is worth 10 per cent more than anything you do at training; the impact is has around your parish, your community, your county is massive and that is going to be a huge thing going into this game because if we can get a result against Monaghan, it will mean a huge injection of confidence going forward over the next couple of years.”

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GAA Football