For Donegal’s Carl McHugh, leading Motherwell out for Sunday’s Betfred Cup final against Celtic at Hampden Park will be a moment to savour.
He has played in plenty of big games before - he featured for Bradford City in the Capital One Cup Final at Wembley in 2013 y - but Sunday’s game will be extra special.
In his first season as captain, McHugh has been part of a Motherwell team that has climbed into the top six and to their first final in six years.
The Lettermacaward man believes their appearance in this weekend’s cup final is just rewards for all their hard work this campaign.
“I think everyone deserves it because the last few seasons have been tough,” he told ‘The Herald’
“This season we have given the fans a team they can relate to. We might not win every week but we work really hard and leave everything out there. We are an honest group of players and we work for each other and it’s a privilege to play with them and I think the supporters respect that.”
Motherwell are firm outsiders against all-conquering Celtic, but McHugh said he and his team-mates hold no fears.
“It’s the way we approach games without any fear,” he said.
“We won at Aberdeen last Saturday [2-0] and we beat Rangers at Hampden [2-0 in the semi-final] because we weren’t frightened of them. You can’t worry about the outcome, you just worry about what you can control and, when we’ve done that well this season, we’ve got results.”
McHugh joined Motherwell after a successful time with Plymouth Argyle but his time in the SPL didn’t get off to the most memorable start. He suffered a career-threatening head injury on his debut against Kilmarnock. As part of his recovery, he spent four months back home in Donegal.
“That was a very difficult time for me,” he said.
“I never thought that back then that it would be possible to play in a final. It was a worrying time and there were periods where I feared I might not be able to play again.
“When you move to a new club, as I’d just done, you want to show everyone that you can do a job and that you’re a good signing and that whole spell was very frustrating.
“The injury came during my first league game so your chance to impress the manager and your team-mates and the supporters was taken away from me. That was tough but Mark McGhee [the Motherwell manager at the time] and the club were brilliant. I wasn’t rushed back. They sent me back home, gave me the time to get better and, thankfully, I did. Touch wood, there haven’t been any setbacks since then.”