“It’s all to play for” - McHugh

“It’s all to play for” - McHugh
Even though he is still one of the junior members of the Donegal squad, Mark McHugh has a wealth of big games in the Donegal colours.

Even though he is still one of the junior members of the Donegal squad, Mark McHugh has a wealth of big games in the Donegal colours.

They don’t come much bigger than Tyrone but McHugh feels it is a game that has been building for some months.

“The first 15 minutes will be so intense. It will probably be the most intense game we have ever played in our lives. Ballybofey being so tight and with the surroundings and 17,500 people at it. I’m going to hopefully enjoy it. It’s going to be massive. Hopefully it will be a good game and we can come out on top.

“It was great to beat them last year but since the start of the draw this year, they have been focussed on us as well. And you know that day up in Omagh (in the league), you could see the intensity building up there before the championship.

“It’s all to play for,” says Mark.

The Kilcar man has been troubled by a hamstring injury in the build-up to the game but hopes that will be okay.

“It’s not too bad. I had a niggle and got a scan. It showed that there was a wee tear there alright, but I’ve got over that now and had a game for the club so hopefully I’ll be injury free now for the game.

“Thankfully, everybody will stay fit. If we have a clean bill of health, if we get that we’ll have a good chance.”

Asked if he ever gets nervous in the build-up to big games, McHugh says that he normally takes the games in his stride.

“I wouldn’t get overly nervous before matches. It is something, thankfully. This team has been achieving for the last few years and we’ve had a lot of big games. We are sort of used to the nerves and used to the pressure that comes with these big championship games.

“You were obviously going to be nervous before the All-Ireland final last year, but you’re playing in Ballybofey where you have played many big games right up through.

“I would deal with nerves reasonably well. I would get a good night’s sleep and wake up ready for the game.”

McHugh got his breakthrough at county level in 2010, coming on as a substitute against Down in the championship. “I never played county minor for Donegal - dropped out at 17 because of leaving cert and then had broken collar bone.”

That was probably his biggest game at the Ballybofey venue as he admits Kilcar have not had any big days at the county venue recently.

“I played U-21 championship games there but probably my biggest game in Ballybofey was my senior debut there against Down three years ago. I came on as a sub. It was big enough that day but it will be greater this time.”

On Sunday it will be different for Mark as younger brother, Ryan, has joined the Donegal squad this year and looks set for a long innings in the county jersey.

For Mark, it is great to have him involved, especially on journeys to and from training.

“It’s great for me going up and down from Sligo to training. It has been good company; he’s really doing well for himself; he’s really focussed and bought into what Jim has asked. He’s improving with every training session and hopefully there could be game time there for him.”

The McHugh brothers didn’t have much time to think about the big day next week as they were busy with exams last week at Sligo IT, Ryan doing Business and Mark Accountancy.