Mark McHugh ready to answer the call

Mark McHugh ready to answer the call
Tom Comack @dgldemocrat

Mark McHugh was an All- Ireland winner and an All-Star in 2012 and a key figure in Jim McGuinness’s famous All-Ireland winning system.

But after a summer out in New York in 2014 and season (2015) regaining fitness and shaking off a number of niggly injuries, Mark is back.

He had a number of outings off the bench in the latter stages of the Allianz League and was a second half replacement against Fermanagh, in the first round in Ballybofey, and Monaghan in the drawn semi-final.

The former Young Footballer of the Year nominee was pressed into action early against Monaghan, in the replayed semi-final, when Anthony Thompson was shown a black card just before half-time. He slotted into the half-back line and reverted to the role he patented back in 2012.

And it looked like he had never been away as he turned in one of his finest performances since 2012 as he swept across the half-back line and even strode forward to kick a stunning point.

“Unfortunately circumstances led to me coming on with Tony (Thompson) getting the black card,” said Mark at last Monday’s Ulster final press briefing in County House, Lifford.

“But just the same as all the boys that don't get a starting jersey, we are there and ready to come on at any time.

“We're all prepared and we all know our own roles in the team and thankfully when I came on, I was able to do it to the best that I could. We got the result and that's all that matters.

”It was probably similar enough (to 2012), but it changes from time to time, and who knows what will happen this weekend. When Donegal are winning, you maybe take the more defensive people on.

“We'll all be ready for the prospect of coming on. It's really a 26-man game now anyway because with the black card and with the amount of time added on, it's nearly five or six minutes every game now.

“There's always five or six subs nearly coming on, so you have to be ready for that, whoever is called upon.”

What about the point?

“A lot of boys were asking me if I meant it and Frank (McGlynn) reckons it was a kick pass,” said Mark jokingly.

“No listen, it just kind of opened up in front of me and it surprised me that it went over the bar.

“From corner-back to corner-forward, everybody can kick points in that team, it they're in that position.

“Boys are really driving forward from defence. Tony (Thompson) hit a great one in the first half, and Karl (Lacey) scored one in the first game.

“I was just thinking there that I haven't won an Ulster title since 2012. I was involved in the last two that we were beaten by Monaghan.

“They weren't good days, and coming home on buses those days, it hurt and that's still very much there.

“There's nothing more special than winning an Ulster title, although maybe it will be extra special if we beat Tyrone.

“I haven't even won an Ulster title with Ryan by my side yet. If it happened this weekend it would be great, but we're just focussing on the game plan and trying to carry it out.

“If we're needed and hopefully we might be, we'll just do what we have to do.”