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'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.”
Cork may now be heading for a transitional period after making too many wrong calls last Sunday.
Counihan added, “I felt we were taking the wrong options, and if you get excited you tend to take the wrong options.
“To keep the game alive you have to keep your head, and maybe at times we didn’t pick great options.
“Look, I think used the ball better when they got it to be fair to them, and I think that was the key issue.”
Dublin have received a major boost ahead of Sunday’s All-Ireland football semifinal against Mayo with confirmation that star forward Alan Brogan will be fit for the big game.
Brogan has been receiving intense treatment on the injury that kept him out of the quarterfinal win over Laois but manager Pat Gilroy expects him to be fit for Sunday.
Gilroy said, “He’s done a lot of work so far, a lot of running and he is looking in good shape for the Mayo game.
“We thought he would be okay for Laois, but it has taken more time that we expected, it’s only the middle of last week that he started playing internal games.
“I would be fairly confident he would play but other lads have been performing well also. So we will see.”
Gilroy insists Dublin have worked hard in training to rectify the faults so evident in their lackadaisical win over Laois.
He added, “We have done some things different and there has been a lot of work since the last game. We went to Kerry for a few days and we have also had some very competitive internal games.”
Mayo report no injury worries ahead of the big game.
Galway star Joe Canning insists his team will concentrate on their own strengths when they look to beat Kilkenny in the All-Ireland hurling final on Sunday, September 8.
Canning, who starred in the Leinster final win over the Cats, said, “They have so many players that they didn’t even bring off the subs’ bench that you can’t try and take them out of the game. You have to do your own thing and, hopefully, that will work.
“We’ll have our tactics and they’ll have theirs and I don’t think it’s going to change much from any other game. Obviously, they’ll want to implement theirs on us, and likewise with ours on them. It’s whatever team gets the breaks then and the bit of luck that will win.
“But this thing about trying to counteract Kilkenny, I don’t believe in it. We have to concentrate on ourselves. Bring our style of play to the game and hopefully that will be good enough.”
KILKENNY’S Michael Rice is certain to miss the All-Ireland SHC final against Galway because of a hand injury picked up in the semifinal win over Tipperary . . .
EAMON Fitzmaurice has been confirmed as the new manager of the Kerry footballers on a three-year deal. Daragh O Se will succeed him as under-21 boss . . .
WESTMEATH referee Barry Kelly will take charge of the All Ireland hurling final between Galway and Kilkenny . . .
MEATH staged a typical late comeback to beat Mayo by 2-10 to 1-11 in the All-Ireland minor semifinal at Croke Park last Sunday . . .
LIAM Bradley has quit as Antrim football manager and could now succeed John Brennan as boss of his native Derry . . .
DUBLIN officials are confident that Anthony Daly will remain in charge of their senior hurling team in 2013 . . .
MAURICE Horan wants to stay on as manager of the Limerick footballers.
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