Joe Brolly and Pat Spillane can talk up Donegal all they like. Pundits can install Donegal as firm favourites for Saturday evening’s tussle with Tyrone and fancy them all they want. But for Mark McHugh and the rest of the Donegal squad, the only man they are listening to is manager Jim McGuinness.
McGuinness is the manager. He makes the decisions. He has designed the system. He is the man that comes up with the game plans. It’s what Jim says counts and no one else.
“Pat Spillane and Joe Brolly on the Sunday Game have changed their tune from last year and are talking about us in glowing terms. To be honest I don’t know what they are basing it on or where they are getting all their information from. All I do know is some of that information is well off the mark,” said the versatile McHugh, who is in his third Ulster campaign.
“Spillane and Brolly and others can talk us up all they like, but we are not listening and paying much heed to what they are saying. The only man we are listening to is Jim McGuinness.
“It is what Jim says that really matters and nobody else. Hopefully, he has us on the right track for Saturday and that is what it is all about and we have every confidence in Jim and that he will have us in the right frame of mind and in perfect shape and ready for Tyrone.
“We have trained hard since the Derry game as we knew we would have to do. Everybody is coming into form and in good shape. And I suppose the big plus is that we have a clean bill of health and everybody is fit and well and are rarin’ to go.
“Preparations have gone well in the last two weeks. We have two hard weeks behind us and there has been a buzz among the squad and ever since the Derry game the focus really has been on Saturday evening’s game and being ready for Tyrone.
“It is now a matter of keeping our focus and preparing properly over the next few days and hope everybody is fit for the challenge ahead.”
Others might be talking about Donegal in glowing terms and installing Donegal as the favourites for Saturday evening’s showdown with the Red Hands, but that is not how the versatile Kilcar man sees the Tyrone challenge. He has the height of respect for Saturday’s opponents and sees the Red Hands as tough opponents and that they are going to be tough nut to crack.
In fact McHugh cannot fathom where the Donegal as favourites tag has come from.
“Tyrone only lost the one game so far this year; the Division Two final against Kildare and they are a good team. No disrespect to Cavan or Derry, we have not been tested yet and have not faced a team as good as Tyrone.
“Derry will be disappointed with their performance against us. In fairness to them they had a good few injuries going into the game which probably had an effect on their performance. But Tyrone are going to be a different kettle of fish altogether.
“It is going to be a tough match and the outcome will probably come down to the team that makes the least amount of mistakes and takes the bigger percentage of their scoring opportunities.
“I don’t know how people are making us favourites. Tyrone have only lost the one match this year against Kildare. They had good league form and beat most teams in the league well and with the exception of Kildare they were much better than all the rest of the teams in Division Two.
“They also beat Armagh in the first round and did it in the Athletic Grounds and Armagh were in Division one and are not a bad team.
“We played them (Tyrone) last year and they played us off the park in the first half and we were lucky to be still in the game at half-time and then we got the goals in the second half. But there was only three points in it at the finish.
“So we know what to expect and as far as I’m concerned it is a 50/50 game and I know it is a cliche but it will all come down to who makes the least amount of mistakes and who makes the most of their scoring chances.
“We have worked hard, put in the preparation and we are probably a better team than last year and we are going in as champions, but that will not count unless we perform.
“The one thing we know for sure is that we are going to have to get off to a better start than we did last year and play much better than we did in the first half because if we don’t we could be in trouble.
“We are expecting and preparing for a real battle and hopefully at the final whistle we can come through and are on the right side of the result and looking forward to an Ulster final and Down.”