Hard, but fair, Ulster showdown is what everyone expects, says Hughes

If there’s any bad blood going into Clones on Sunday, it surrounds Stephen Gollogly’s tackle on Mark McHugh in last year’s Ulster final.

There was also Rory Gallagher’s claim of Monaghan working in cahoots with Mayo against Donegal, but he has since departed as selector.

Yet while McHugh has also left the set-up that incident won’t be too far from many memories, not least the players’. Or Jim McGuinness’s.

A week after the game, he said: “I’m not happy that we have a player with a busted eardrum, [who] sustained major concussion and has a five-centimetre tear in his quad muscle. Mark had to spend two nights in hospital and had to take the week off work.”

Darren Hughes didn’t regard it the same way.

“Anybody who saw it saw that Stephen Gollogly went for the ball and got the ball and it was a bit overhyped in the sense with Mark McHugh’s injury because he played against Mayo two weeks later so it obviously wasn’t that bad.

“Anyone that knows Stephen knows he plays hard and fair and in the heat of the moment in an Ulster final in the first five minutes he was going for the ball and got it and happened to be a collision.

“If he was going to do a man he wouldn’t have to go off himself and miss out. He only played five minutes of an Ulster final so that wouldn’t have been his intention.

“There was nothing in it. It was a tough tackle and that’s what you want to see it was just an unfortunate collision.”

Out of hand, Hughes dismisses the suggestion Monaghan may have beaten a pale shadow of Donegal last year.

Despite beating Laois a week later, McGuinness’s side were mercilessly dumped out of the championship by Mayo in their All-Ireland quarter-final.

But Hughes said: “We went into an Ulster final against them last year and at that stage they were two-time Ulster champions and All-Ireland champions and nobody was to know any different that we were going to beat them and Mayo were going to do to them a few weeks later.

“It’s a great Donegal team who have been in four Ulster finals in a row and have an All-Ireland medal in their back pocket.

“They are back again in their fourth Ulster final in a row and are there to avenge last year’s defeat.”

Hughes agrees Monaghan and Donegal have created a new primary Ulster rivalry. He anticipated Donegal would reach a fourth consecutive Ulster final this year.

“I think it was always going to be Donegal. Coming through that side of the draw, they put the front foot forward from the start of the year and have all their main players back and Karl Lacey fighting fit again. So it was evident from the league that Donegal were back and like they were two years ago and the side of the draw they were on — it seemed the weaker side as such — so I never saw them having any problems.”


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