DONEGAL V CAVAN: Championship is a completely different ball game - Hugh McFadden

DONEGAL V CAVAN: Championship is a completely different ball game - Hugh McFadden

Big Hugh McFadden does not buy into the theory that Donegal gave Cavan a footballing lesson when the sides last met in the NFL last year.

In the run up to Sunday’s big showdown, Breffni boss Mattie McGleenan has made much of the way Donegal dismantled Cavan, who were relegated from Division One last year.

Fast forward a year, and the roles are reversed with Cavan back in Division One and Donegal most unlucky to be in Division Two.

“It was just a day that some things went right for us and did not go right for them but I would not call it a footballing lesson.

“I think we only won by four or five points in the end and they got Killian Clarke sent off early on and that had a massive impact on that game so I would not go so far as to agree with Mattie on that one.”

So where will the threat come from Cavan and there are a number of prongs, according to the whole-hearted Killybegs man (pictured).

“Gearoid McKiernan, Dara McVeety (if he plays), Cian Mackey and Ciaran Brady are all quality players and they seem to be playing some nice football at times.

“They can kick scores from all over the field and I am sure they are going to work hard.”

He added: “We were unfortunate enough to be on U-21 teams that lost back-to-back matches to Cavan.

“They had a lot of good players and they won four Ulster titles on the trot, so they have loads of quality.”

Hugh has bitter-sweet memories of Donegal losing to a last minute goal from Liam Buchanan in the 2014 decider.

“Liam is still involved so there are a few sore memories but that will have no great bearing on the game on Sunday.”

When asked if he was looking forward to a midfield battle with Gearoid McKiernan he looked over at team boss Declan Bonner and joked:

“I don’t know yet, do I?

“I will batter away anyway.”

Personally McFadden has come off a very successful League campaign but he is much more concerned about the things “that did not go so well.”

“I suppose I did ok against a lot of other good players from around the middle from other counties.

“But unfortunately when you are relegated, you have to look at the things that the team and I could have done better.”

When told that Donegal were a bit unlucky in that League campaign, given the Kerry “double bounce” and Kevin McLoughlin’s “steps” for Mayo before he had that killer equaliser.

“You could argue that case, but ultimately when you put yourself in the position to be put down by fine margins you are probably doing something wrong in the first place.

“We are not going to hide away.

“The league tables don’t lie and unfortunately a few decisions did not go our way.

“But we are not going to rue those decisions as the championship is a totally different ball game.”

He added: “We are not going to sit around worrying about the NFL now.

“The championship is the only game in town and people are not going to be sitting around talking about the League next September or October.

“The standard of the NFL is very entertaining and then we had club matches so there has been good continuity.”

And he said the “club only” for April made little real practical difference in his own case.

“This label of club only for April has made no difference to me at all.

“The only difference this year is that the county has been in the Preliminary Round for the first time since 2015.

“In 2016 Killybegs played St Michael’s in the first round of the championship in the first week in May and we had eight league games played by then and the county was not out until the end of May.

“Last year the county was not out until the end of May either against Antrim.

“The only difference for us is that we were out on May 13 so you could not physically play that amount of games for your club or you would put yourself at severe risk of injury.

“We played five games in three weeks, Friday, Sunday, Sunday, Sunday, Sunday so that was plenty of football which, combined with county football, put you in good enough shape.”

So how does Hugh deal with the “pull” between club and county?

“Not for me.

“I just play when I play and if Cathal Ellis (physio) tells me I am not going to play that is it.

“Anyone that knows me, if I am playing for Killybegs or Donegal I just go hammer and tongs at it and that is how it is and I am lucky that I am still quite young and the injuries have not been too severe.”

And that is why Hugh McFadden is an outstanding role model for young players and why he has been the best club player in the county for the past two years.

But Hugh has bigger ambitions yet to be realized with Donegal and the serious business starts on Sunday.