McHugh says Donegal deserve opener at home

Mark McHugh says Donegal ‘deserved’ the right to make the first defence of their Ulster and All-Ireland titles on home soil.

Fixture chiefs have confirmed that Donegal’s MacCumhaill Park base in Ballybofey will host their Ulster championship opener with Tyrone on May 26.

A question mark had hung over the fixture for months due to capacity concerns at the venue with Clones mooted as an obvious alternative.

In the end, however, Donegal were able to make enough improvements to increase capacity at the venue by almost 6,000 to 18,000.

The repeat of last year’s provincial semi-final is expected to be a sell out with the winner progressing to the last four as likely favourites for the title.

“We are delighted, it’s a big lift to us,” said McHugh of the venue confirmation. “It is something we have been pushing for since we first heard the draw.

“We felt we deserved the game to be in Ballybofey, us being All-Ireland champions, so we are delighted.

“Championship training starts next Tuesday and we’ll be fully focused on it and everything we do from now will be concentrating on Tyrone.”

Tyrone favoured a switch to the more spacious and neutral Clones, where the sides met last summer.

“I think we half expected it maybe to go to Clones alright,” continued half-forward McHugh. “The majority of people seemed to think Ballybofey was too small. But I think Ballybofey will hold 18,000 now so there will be a great atmosphere on the day.

“The last number of years we have been away from home in the preliminary round. So it is good to get back to Ballybofey. For the local people of Donegal, it will bring a bit of a boost to the economy. There is going to be a lot of hype building up to it.”


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