For Ryan McHugh Saturday evening’s All-Ireland Qualifier clash with Galway is all about getting back on track for Donegal.
The young Kilcar man was one of Donegal’s best performers in last Sunday week’s defeat by Monaghan in the Ulster final.
He held Darren Hughes, one of the Monaghan danger men, scoreless while he also took the fight to the Farney men in the second half at every opportunity with his marauding runs up both wings. He was hauled down for one of Donegal’s points and was desperately unlucky not to hit Rory Beggan’s net in the first half. His ninth minute low exocet came back off Beggan’s right hand post.
But as difficult and all as that 0-11 to 0-10 defeat to the Farney men was to take for Ryan it is a matter of leaving it behind and getting the show back on the road this weekend against Galway.
“It wasn’t easy. The first couple of days after the game were hard to get over,” says Ryan, scorer of the two goals in Donegal’s sensational All-Ireland semi-final victory over Dublin last year.
“But we are lucky enough with the Qualifier system the way it is now that you get a second chance.
“We are going to have to pick ourselves up and we are lucky in that we have got an extra week this time which is a good help to get ready for Galway.
“It is a matter of now going up to Croke Park and producing a performance that we know we are capable of producing and hopefully that is good enough to get over Galway.
“Losing an Ulster title isn’t easy. It is hard to get over. But we are a tight group and we are all best friends.
“We are going to get over the disappointment. Rory (Gallagher) and his backroom team are going to have us well prepared and hopefully we can go up to Croke Park and put things right and hopefully get into an All-Ireland quarter-final.”
Following last Sunday week’s Ulster final defeat Donegal have set themselves new goals and now have a second All-Ireland title, in three years, in their sights.
“All-Ireland ambitions, we probably do have them but we are definitely not looking past Galway. They are not going to be easy. They have a lot of good players with a great manager in Kevin Walsh,” insists the younger of the two McHugh brothers, in the team.
Ryan McHugh has only played Galway once in his short career in the Donegal colours. That was last year in a Division Two Allianz League game in Pearse Stadium, Salthill.
But he has played against the Tribesmen on numerous occasions in underage challenge games and had a number of Galway players as teammates at Sligo IT over the last couple of seasons.
“I know a few the lads that are on the panel that I played with last year for the college (Sligo IT). They are all good lads and great footballers and our best players on the Sligo IT team for the last few years were from Galway and Mayo.
“Galway always produce good footballers with great talent and loads of skill and we are going to have to face that on Saturday.
“But we are relishing the challenge and looking forward to getting back into action and hopefully we can put right the things we didn’t do right against Monaghan.
“Every man in the team is just looking forward to getting back up on the horse again and getting back to Croke Park.
“We cannot leave anything on the pitch; we are going to have to give it our best shot and hope it is good enough and hopefully come 7.45 or so on Saturday night, we are looking ahead to an All-Ireland quarter-final.”