History an important factor for James McHugh

History an important factor for James McHugh
Gerry McLaughlin sport@donegaldemocrat.com @dgldemocrat

Mention history, tradition and a lot of years to some modern GAA managers/mentors and they tend to be somewhat terse.

The past is irrelevant, can do nothing about it now, we are just concentrating on getting the much clichéd “performance” so talk of what is gone is a puerile irrelevance.

So it is refreshing to meet a mentor who is not wary of the past, but firmly embraces and cherishes the proud history and pedigree of his club.

In his prime James McHugh was a talented, hardy, two- footed bag of tricks that won an All-Ireland, an All-Star and a few Ulster titles with Donegal.

These days he and elder brother Martin are bringing on the next generation of Kilcar footballers to a first county final since their last victory in 1993.

“There is a great sense of history here and a county final appearance was something that we were always craving.

“We always loved the county final, it was always special and in my time we had six or seven of them and it has brought great colour to the area and especially for the children.

“The majority of this Kilcar team were not even born when we last won the title in 1993”.

James won three county finals and also lost three as he rapidly lists them off at the press morning in the Villa Rose Hotel.

1982, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1989 and 1993 were our finals and you don’t forget them.

“They are always a special day and we beat Killybegs in the 1993 final and that was a big one for us as Killybegs had beaten us in 1988 and we felt that we left that one behind us.

“Then we won the All-Ireland final in 1992 and there were six or seven of those county players involved in the 1993 county final.

“At that time we felt we were capable of winning more titles and we had a good enough run in the Ulster Club Championship also.

“The South West was very competitive in those years as you had Kilcar, Glen, Killybegs and Ardara, who, on any given year could win a county title and you had Four Masters and Aodh Ruadh and there was great local rivalry”.

That 1993 victory over Killybegs was a “tough match” for James, but Kilcar had loads of experience and county confidence going into battle.

“They were going for three-in-a-row that time and they won five county titles but we only beat them by two points”.

So does this storied recent past have any impact on the younger McHughs McBreartys and Co as they face Glenswilly on Sunday.

An emphatic James has no doubts.

“History will always be important in our club.

“We were brought up on Kilcar winning three Under 21 titles on the trot in the early 1970 in 1972, ‘73 and ‘74.

“Today these lads are creating more history by getting to the final”.

As a parent, an uncle and most importantly as a Kilcar clubman, these are indeed proud days for the eloquent James.

“They have come through a number of underage finals, but a county senior final is right up there with an All-Ireland final.

“It is as big an occasion as you can get and Michael Hegarty is probably the only one of this squad to have even been at a county final in which Kilcar was involved.

“Hopefully they will acquit themselves well”.

But they certainly have, following their unenviable location in the Group of Death.

Kilcar drew with St Eunan’s in the first match and then had a really crucial victory over St Michael’s in Towney in a do or die result.

“On that day things worked out well for us and they played very well.

“We beat Killybegs, Termon and Naomh Conaill in the semi-final and that was a great occasion for us.

“The last two semi-finals were similar in ways as last year, Naomh Conaill got goals against us and this year we got goals against them.

“Goals make a massive difference and it was a very good game”.

Kilcar play an attractive brand of fast attacking football and that is very much “part of our history also”.

“That is the way we like to play and it is what we have been reared on and it is great to be able play like that.

“This is a very young group of players and it is good to see football being played like that”.

Opponents Glenswilly hold no mystery for Kilcar having beaten McHugh’s men in 2011 and again in 2013.

“We know all about them and this is their fifth county final for a lot of their players.

“That says a lot about them as a club and of course they have Michael Murphy and Neil Gallagher.

“But they also have Gary McFadden, Ciaran Bonner, the Kellys and a number of other very good players.

“This team was also in an Ulster final in 2013 but Michael Murphy is coming back to his best and it will be a great contest.

“Glenswilly can also adapt to many styles of football and Joe Gibbons is playing the best football of his career.

“At the start of last year, they had five or six players on the county squad so that is an indication of their talent”.

So where will the match be won and lost?

Both teams have some very good marksmen but James is wary that a “county final can take on a life of its own”.

“It is a very important occasion for a community and especially for older people who remembered what is used to be like and are not able to go to the match.

“We have too many people overseas like many rural clubs so events like these become a massive occasion of identity.

“It is your mini All-Ireland”.

And that is from an ex-Kilcar and Donegal great, who, like his elder brother Martin, will never forget where he is from.

Bavin is on full alert for the arrival of Dr Maguire!

PHOTO: Glenswilly's chairman Peter McConnell and James McHugh wish each other good luck ahead of the Senior County final at the Press Day.