Where to face the Dubs, being coached by Rochford and the return of star forward

RYAN MCHUGH HAS become accustomed to pitting himself and his Donegal team-mates against Dublin in the environs of Croke Park but the prospect of doing so on neutral ground in championship combat appeals to the Kilcar man.

Ryan McHugh in Philadelphia on the 2018 PWC All-Stars tour.

Source: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE

The issue of the venues for Dublin’s games in the Super 8s continues to spark debate. As it stands the All-Ireland champions will have two matches at the venue again in 2019, just like they did this summer, unless a motion is brought to Congress next spring to try to change that schedule.

Dublin defeated Donegal by 2-15 to 0-16 in July in Croke Park but staging a game of that status in a venue like Clones ‘would be a special occasion’ in McHugh’s view.

“It’s maybe something they can look at anyway. Every other team is doing it, so why can’t Dublin?

“Listen, as a player, don’t get me wrong, you want to be playing in Croke Park every opportunity you can. But to topple the Dubs, I suppose maybe you might have a better chance if you played them in Clones or somewhere.

“I’m afraid I’m not fit to make decisions like that. But, definitely, if Donegal and Dublin were to play in the morning we’d have a better chance of putting it up to them in Clones rather than Croke Park. 

“A packed house in Clones would be a special occasion. I think the Dubs are phenomenal players and have phenomenal supporters as well. 

Ryan McHugh in action against Dublin’s Eoin Murchan.

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

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“I remember playing them in the League in Ballybofey in 2017 I think it was and the buzz around the town was phenomenal. I would say if you talked to everyone who was at Omagh last year when the Dubs came down for the Super 8s match, the buzz about was phenomenal. 

“The Dubs create an atmosphere. They create that buzz and it’s great for the town and great for the area.”

McHugh will be part of a Donegal squad bolstered next season by the addition of ex-Mayo boss Stephen Rochford to their coaching ranks.

“Stephen’s CV is hugely impressive with Mayo and with Corofin and as a player as well he has won plenty, so looking forward to it. I was chatting with him a couple of weeks ago actually, he’s hugely enthusiastic about it.

“I think it is good times in Donegal, we’ve got Karl Lacey back as well and there are a couple of other additions to the backroom team, so it’s great.

“You have to admire Declan for that, he’s willing to take people in. I think sometimes a manager’s best trait is realising where they are maybe a wee bit weak and taking people in to strengthen that and I think Declan has done that and really strengthened his backroom team.

“There are good footballers in Donegal, young exciting footballers coming through so it is a matter of trying to nourish them now and take them through the ranks.”

Donegal’s cause will also be aided in 2019 by the availability of Patrick McBrearty, their star forward who was struck down with a cruciate injury in the Ulster final.

Patrick McBrearty and Ryan McHugh celebrating Donegal’s Ulster final triumph in July.

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“Paddy is doing good. He is working and living in Dublin now so I don’t see as much of him as I used to, but as far as I’m aware he’s doing good. He’s doing his rehab.

“He was unlucky this year, he was having a phenomenal year. When you are in the middle of it you try to convince yourself that you are fit to go on and we have a squad built, but looking back now I think it was a huge moment in the year because Paddy was playing so well. He was winning games on his own for us at times and keeping us in games.

“Paddy is a serious individual, he’ll do the rehab to the letter of the law and hopefully be back for Donegal better than ever. Unfortunately Ciaran Gillespie from Gaoth Dobhair has done it as well, hopefully he can get himself back in the reckoning for championship as well.”

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