Stalwart Darren Hughes ready to the answer Monaghan call once more
HE’S one of the longest-serving county players in Ireland – but Darren Hughes is ready and raring to go as preparations click into gear for the start of Monaghan’s 2022 campaign.
Hughes, who turns 35 in February, was first brought into the Farney panel by Seamus McEnaney way back in 2006. Almost 16 years on, both men are continuing to put their shoulder to the wheel for the county cause.
McEnaney has already added some spice to the pre-season shenanigans by bringing former Tipperary All-Ireland winning boss Liam Sheedy on board as performance coach, joining a management team that also includes Kerry’s Donie Buckley.
And Hughes, who helped Scotstown to a seventh county title in nine years last month, has no plans to follow fellow Farney stalwart Dermot Malone into inter-county retirement any time soon.
“Dermot stepped away because of injuries but I’ll be back. No bother there,” said Hughes.
“I’ve been asked that question many times in the past three months, and probably every year this last couple of years as well. It seems to be a bigger concern to a lot of other people than it is to me, I’ve never thought about quitting so it’s always an easy answer.
“The body’s holding up well, obviously one injury would maybe have an effect on that decision, but lucky enough I’m getting away alright on that side of things. As long as I feel I can have a positive impact on the field, I’ll keep going.
“The time is near up, but it’s not up yet.”
Monaghan’s 2022 campaign begins under the lights of Owenbeg on Friday, January 7 for a Dr McKenna Cup opener against Derry, with Fermanagh also in Section C.
Then once the pre-season competition is done and dusted, attention turns to Division One of the National League and a January 30 date with All-Ireland champions and Ulster rivals Tyrone in Omagh.
It will mark six months since the Red Hands edged a narrow provincial final clash between the pair and, even though Tyrone went on to land the big one, Hughes insists he has long since moved on from that one-point defeat – and what transpired afterwards.
“That comes with age,” he smiles, “10 years ago I might’ve cried for a week or you mightn’t have seen me, but you suck it up and you get on with it.
“Every year, more often than not, ends in disappointment, no matter what you win or do. There were a lot of highs this year and a lot of lows, you’ll probably look back when you’re finished and think about the lows more than the highs sometimes.
“Obviously it was disappointing but it doesn’t annoy me too bad now. You dust yourself down and you go again. There’s no point in dwelling on it.
“The fact Tyrone went on to win the All-Ireland didn’t really annoy me because I said it shortly afterwards, and a few people laughed at me. I don’t know if I was saying it probably hoping they wouldn’t win it, but I wasn’t surprised to see them do it.
“If we’d beat them that day, we’d have been expecting to go the whole way. Those boys can perform when they have to, and fair dues to them.”