Mark McHugh out of squad for McKenna Cup

Mark McHugh out of squad for McKenna Cup

Former Donegal All-Star Mark McHugh will not play any part in Donegal’s Dr McKenna Cup campaign.

This has been confirmed this week by Donegal manager Rory Gallagher. However, hopes are high that the Kilcar clubman, who played a key role in Jim McGuinness’s All-Ireland championship winning system in 2012, may return for the forthcoming Allianz League and the championship.

The Democrat has learned that he has been put on a special training programme by the Donegal management team but is currently working on his own outside the squad.

Confirming that McHugh would not be making any appearances in the Dr McKenna Cup, Rory Gallagher said: “Mark is not in the panel at present.

“He is working away on his own individual performance under our supervision,” said the Donegal boss, who would make no further comment on the matter and gave no indication of a timeframe for a return for the versatile utility player who is equally at home in the attack or defence.

McHugh had been named in the Dr McKenna Cup squad announced by Gallagher at the beginning of last month. However, he was not in the panel for last Sunday’s opening day win over Down.

This will be the second time that the Kilcar man has departed the squad since the All-Ireland success of 2012.

He spent the summer of 2014 in New York after opting out of the squad, then managed by Jim McGuinness at the end of that year's Allianz League campaign, three weeks before Donegal’s first round Ulster Championship opener with Derry.

His last appearance in 2014 was when used from the bench in the Division Two League final against Monaghan.

He had missed much of the earlier part of the 2014 league with pelvic and hamstring injuries and at the time he said he needed a break from the game.

A key figure in the McGuinness system in a very demanding sweeping role in defence, he had also suffered a number of heavy hits in the previous two years, both against Mayo in the All-Ireland final of 2012 and Monaghan in the 2013 Ulster final.

He returned from playing with the Donegal club in New York at the end of the summer of 2014 and was recalled to the squad by Rory Gallagher on his appointment as manager following the departure of Jim McGuinness.

Despite a number of injuries in 2015, he played in most of Donegal’s games last season, either starting or coming off the bench.

In 2015, Donegal played 17 competitive games between Dr McKenna Cup, Allianz League and championship and Mark played in 15 of them.

Donegal play St. Mary’s, Belfast, in their second game in the Dr. McKenna Cup this Sunday in O’Donnell Park, Letterkenny.

See Page 63 for full preview.