DONEGAL’S MARK MCHUGH has highlighted this year’s quarter-final victory against Kerry as being the moment where the side started to believe they could win the All-Ireland.
Speaking on RTE’s Championship Matters programme last night, McHugh said:
“Beating Kerry, one of the big three, really installed the belief we could win the All-Ireland,” describing the win as a “massive confidence boost” for Donegal.
McHugh also revisited the much-discussed incident in the game’s immediate aftermath, in which he gave his father an emotional embrace.
McHugh simply explained that “emotions got the better of me”.
He said that himself and his father had visited his grandfather’s grave earlier in the week, recalling how McHugh senior told his son “how proud [my grandfather] would be”.
Moreover, in relation to the moments after the final whistle had been blown, he added:
“Keeping the supporters off the field definitely helped us. You could console the Mayo players, and it keeps the whole thing safe as well – one or two people can get squashed.”
McHugh also paid tribute to Donegal manager Jim McGuinness, emphasising the significance of his role in their success:
“Our very first meeting with Jim, a few of us knew him from the U21s, but it showed the more experienced boys what he was about.
“The whole team bought into it… There was talk of a five-year plan [which he completed] in two years.”
And speaking on the same show, Mayo’s Andy Moran said he was still bitterly disappointed with the outcome of Sunday’s encounter, describing the last few days as “tough” and suggesting that the side’s poor start to the game ultimately cost them dearly.
Nonetheless, he remained optimistic about the future of the Mayo side.
“The oldest guy who played for us was Alan Dillon, who is 29,” he said
“We’re at the start of a new cycle and hopefully, we can be the new Donegal next year.”