GAA Football

Last year's Ulster Championship win will mean nothing when Donegal face Tyrone says Hugh McFadden

Donegal were Ulster Championship and Division Two winners in 2019. Pic Philip Walsh.
Andy Watters

ON A balmy June night in Cavan town last year, Donegal cut the Tyrone defence to shreds on their way to an Ulster Championship semi-final win that was more convincing than the 1-16 to 0-15 scoreline suggests.

Hugh McFadden chipped in with a point that night and he got another as Donegal defended their title with a tour de force against Cavan in the final. But that was then and the Killybegs clubman knows that all nine Ulster counties start from zero when this year’s Anglo-Celt race starts again in late October.

Tyrone recovered from that loss at Kingspan Breffni and went further than Donegal last year (to the semi-final after Declan Bonner’s side exited in the Super 8s) and McFadden has been on the receiving end from the Red Hands often enough to realise that last year’s result means nothing in 2020.

“It (last year) won’t have any impact at all,” he said.

“Tyrone were very comprehensive winners against us in 2017 and 2018 so this year’s game will be won on its own merits. Tyrone and Donegal is always a great rivalry and there have been some great games. We know that to get anything out of the game we are going to have to be at our ultimate best.”

This year’s instalment was originally scheduled for MacCumhaill Park in Ballybofey but that could change because of social distancing regulations. McFadden would prefer to play the game on home soil but he says there’ll be “no complaints” from the Donegal players if it is moved to a neutral venue.

“It’s going to be titanic,” he predicted.

“It’s a strange situation for the modern-day inter-county footballer for the first round of the Championship to be a knockout but given the nature of Covid in 2020 nobody is too worried as long we play the games.

“Obviously we would be very, very proud if we could play the game in MacCumhaill Park as we were drawn to do but there will be no complaints from the Donegal footballers wherever we have to play as long as we get an Ulster Championship game. Myself and all the rest of the boys can’t wait to get out and represent Donegal again.

“We’re going to have to be at our best every single day to win the Championship but we’re just concentrating on the Tyrone game and, whatever happens after that, we’ll worry about it then.”

Club football returned in Donegal last weekend with the first instalment of a new regional league format that provides a series of local derbies. Killybegs opened their campaign with a 3-9 to 0-9 loss against neighbours Kilcar.

The senior championship begins in a couple of weeks’ with 16 teams in a league format. Each team gets four games – two at home and two away – and the top eight teams will go through to the quarter-finals on a basis of first versus eighth, second versus seventh and so on.

“It’s an exciting time for club football,” said McFadden.

“In Killybegs our numbers at training have never been as high due to the hunger of people to play football but also due to the people living back in rural Ireland because they are working remotely from home, colleges not returning back and people not being able to go off on holidays.

“There have been plenty of negatives connected to the Covid but one of the positives is a very vibrant club scene.

“At the moment a lot of our 20-year-olds are based in Dublin and working for companies in Dublin so if this working remotely can be continued, the more people around home the better.”

McFadden was part of Donegal's fundraiser in aid of Olivia Mulhern last weekend. To donate to the ‘Donegal 4 team Livie’ go to this link: https://www.gofundme.com/f/teamdonegal4teamlivie

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GAA Football