2012 All-Ireland winner Mark McHugh previews Donegal’s Ulster final clash with Cavan, recalls memories his father managing their rival county, and the impacts of Stephen Rochford and Karl Lacey to the coaching ticket.
BY SHANE STAPLETON
Mark McHugh believes that no stone has been left unturned as Donegal chase Ulster glory and aim to bridge the gap with Dublin.
The Tir Conaill men are hot favourites in Sunday’s provincial final clash with Cavan at the Athletics Ground, where a win would secure a first ever three-in-a-row.
The 2012 All-Ireland winner and All Star, who is currently a coach with the Fermanagh minors, has been impressed with what he has seen from Declan Bonner’s men.
They eked out an opening-round win over Tyrone, before dismissing Armagh with ease in the Ulster semi-final.
“Over this last two, three or four years, Donegal have been labelled a one- or a two-man team,” says McHugh.
“If you take out Michael Murphy or Ryan McHugh and keep them quiet, you’ll go a long way to winning a game.
“I was at the (Super 8s) game in Mayo last year and they had a lot of emphasis on that with Lee Keegan on Murphy and Paddy Durcan on Ryan, and they both had quiet enough days.
“Donegal would look to them as leaders and, when they are not going well, it was hard for the other ones to roll in behind them.
“But that’s not the way it is this year, with Jamie Brennan and Michael Langan and Peadar Mogan and other players, which is huge credit to the players and the management.
“Take the Tyrone game this year where Murphy and Ryan were both well-marshalled.
“It’s not that they didn’t have big games, they both played well but they probably set themselves a very high standards. But you had other lads stepping up.”
The Kilcar man believes nothing is left to chance, and speaks highly of the impacts of both Stephen Rochford and Karl Lacey — among others — on Bonner’s coaching ticket.
“If you watched The Last Dance (documentary on Netflix) and you watched how Dennis Rodman studied Michael Jordan’s rebounds and the way he shot, and he knew the way it would rebound and be in that position.
“I would imagine teams are doing that right now — they’re studying kickouts, how will the ball break, and it doesn’t just happen that you’re in the right place at the right time.
“I would say there is no stone left unturned in the Donegal setup just now. It’s very positive.”
The Breffni County come into the final in great form after coming back from well behind to beat both Monaghan and Down, with a win over Antrim in between.
“Cavan were eight points down against Down and seven against Monaghan, so they’ve been labelled as comeback kings,” says McHugh.
“So you have to give them every plaudit but, if I was the opposition, I’d be wondering how I let them back in it.
“Monaghan would be very disappointed with the goal chances early in the second half to put them away, and you have to at that level.
“Cavan fought, dug in, and you have to give them credit.”
Click play on the video at the top of the page to see the full interview, McHugh talking about his dad Martin managing Cavan, and much more.
Leinster SFC final
Dublin v Meath, Croke Park, 7pm – RTÉ
Ulster SFC final
Cavan v Donegal, Athletic Grounds, 4pm – RTÉ/BBC
Munster SFC final
Cork v Tipperary, Pairc Ui Chaoimh, 1.30pm – RTÉ
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