GAA Digest: Fearless Dongeal are back in the All-Ireland finals


Mark McHugh is ready to follow in his father’s famous footsteps and bring the Sam Maguire back to Donegal – once he recovers from Sunday’s famous semi-final win over Cork.

Donegal will meet Mayo or champions Dublin in the All-Ireland decider after an inspired and deserved 0-16 to 1-11 win over the Rebels last weekend.

McHugh was one of the stars of the show as Donegal returned to the All-Ireland final for the first time since his dad Martin and current team boss Jim McGuinness tasted ultimate glory in 1992.

And the delighted youngster could barely walk or talk as he spoke to the media in the Donegal dressingroom after the win over Cork.

McHugh stated, “I had a job to do today and I was thinking about how I could play best for the team, but it was very tiring.

“I went down with cramp in my two calves. I couldn’t even walk, but otherwise I am just delighted. I could not play my normal role today, but it all worked out well for us and we will just have to up it again for Dublin, or whoever it is.

“We have come through a tough section. We focused on Kerry and then on Cork and although we gave the Donegal supporters a bit of a scare out there towards the end, we got through.

“And we had a bit of luck when they hit the crossbar, but we didn’t get much luck in the draw so we will take that bit of luck alright.”

Looking ahead to the final, McHugh added, “We now have a chance to make the people of Donegal feel as good as they did back in 1992 and that is an extra incentive.

“Our focus is now totally on the final and we will know our opponents fairly shortly. We now know we are up there with the best and whoever it is, Dublin or Mayo, we are going to out there and give it one hell of a shot.”

Donegal boss McGuinness paid tribute to the huge support that followed his team to Croke Park – including world famous singer Daniel O’Donnell.

“When we stared out on the journey in the middle of May up in Breffni Park, it was a long way to the All-Ireland final, and to be there now is fantastic really for this group of players,” said McGuinness.

“Last year, we tried to put a framework in place that we could help the boys to achieve things in the game and we tried to build that over the winter. I think the supporters understand that and they understand what we’re trying to do.”

“The boys have a great relationship with the supporters as well, and the kids and everything else.

“It’s a great shot in the arm for Donegal football to be honest with you. We just hope now that the synergy that it creates, there will be a Michael Murphy, or a Colm McFadden, or a Rory Kavanagh in the offing in a few years’ time as a result of it.

“A huge challenge regardless who we play, but at the same time we would hope that with all the work we’ve put in and the amount of games we’ve played this year that we can see the thing out now, but I suppose that’s for another day.”

Defender Karl Lacey can’t wait to get to the All-Ireland final stage as football fever grips Donegal.
Lacey said, “Getting to an All-Ireland final is what dreams are made of and we’re now one step away from repeating what we did in ’92.

“We know we have things to work on. Dublin or Mayo are waiting in the wings and whoever comes through will present us with a tough test.

“Getting to the final will be a big deal in Donegal. Our supporters have been great all year and they now have another massive day to look forward to.

“A couple of the Cork players came up to me afterwards and told me to make the most of being involved in an All-Ireland final, as they don’t come around too often.”

As the county comes back down to earth after Sunday’s win, Lacey believes manager McGuinness is just the man to keep the team focused.

The center-back added, “This week Jim McGuinness will get us all re-focused again and away from all the hype. We’ll be back in Croker again in four weeks with the intention of giving it everything.

“Jim knows what he is doing. Last year we took a lot of criticism for being so defensive, but it was Jim’s first year and that was the template he used to get us back to being competitive again.”

Cork Panic

Cork's season is over after what football team boss Conor Counihan described as a “panic attack” at Croke Park last Sunday.

The Munster champions lost the All-Ireland semifinal by just two points to Donegal, but the manner of the win was always more emphatic than the scoreline.

Counihan admitted to RTE, “It was tit-for-tat up to halftime. Second half, I think Donegal took a bit of control there, got a few scores. We probably panicked a little and gave a few turnovers and things like that.

“But, look, to be fair to Donegal they were a better team on the day. There’s no disputing that.

“Things like that happen on particular days. I can’t fault my fellas. They’ve given us everything over a good number of years. This is the other side of it, and we have to take that on the chin.”