Hugh McFadden’s appearances in the Ulster Championship so far have been confined to replacement roles.
He was sprung from the bench twice last summer by Rory Gallagher in the provincial championship against Armagh in the quarter fina in the Athletic Grounds, and Derry, in the Ulster semi-final in Clones.
He replaced Patrick McBrearty, in the second half in Armagh, for his provincial debut as Donegal coasted to a 2-11 to 0-8 victory over the Orchard County.
And he replaced Martin McElhinney, also in the second half, in the narrow 1-9 to 0-10 semi-final victory over the Oak Leaf County.
He did not feature in the Ulster final defeat to Monaghan, but by the time, Donegal hit Croke Park and their All-Ireland fourth round qualifier he was in the starting team, in the number 12 shirt. Donegal defeated Galway 3-12 to 0-11.
And he was on the starting team for the return to GAA Headquarters and the eight point All-Ireland quarter-final defeat to Mayo.
“You can train all you want but until you’re actually in the middle of it you’ll not learn what you’re good at or what you have to improve on,” said the young Killybegs man, who is in the frame to start Sunday’s MacCumhaill Park shootout with Fermanagh.
“Even from the start of last year the learning was massive. I’ve just tried to follow that on this season.
“Being around training, too, and watching the experienced lads, you just learn and pick up so much. It’s about moving forward and improving. I feel I’ve done that for the last three years.
“Even in training you can’t afford to slack off for a moment. You’ll not be long hearing about it if you do! It’s things like decision making and even the speed of the game. It’s just on another level.”
A product of Killybegs underage and having coming up through Donegal minor and U-21 teams, the 22-year-old has served his time.
And with Neil Gallagher struggling to regain his fitness, McFadden, who stands at 6’2’’ in his stocking feet, and with the lungs of a tiger, looks a ready made replacement for the big Glenswilly man.
“Neil is a very smart player. He’s very intelligent. He does the simple things so well. He’s a massive fielder of the ball. When the game badly needs it, he is there plucking one out of the air. He’s aggressive and he’s someone that will have a wee word with you after training and that can only make you better.”
If he does get the nod from Rory Gallagher for his first Ulster start this weekend one thing’s for sure, he will leave everything on the pitch.
“In the championship you have to leave everything you have out there. There is no point regretting things afterwards. You have to put all your energy into it.”
Given his youth his energy and wholehearted commitment Hugh is most definitely in the frame to make Sunday’s starting 15.