AFTER spending his first four seasons in the Donegal dressing room at MacCumhaill Park, All Star wing-back Ryan McHugh will line against his team-mates for the first time next month.
A final year Business student in Jordanstown, McHugh (22) and his Kilcar team-mate Patrick McBrearty are part of the UUJ squad who have been drawn in the same group as Donegal in the McKenna Cup.
“I’m looking forward to playing against the lads. It will be something different and it will be far from easy,” said McHugh, who picked up the Donegal Player of the Year for 2016 last Saturday night.
Donegal play hosts to University of Ulster, Jordanstown, on Sunday, January 8, with Cavan, also at home, the following Sunday with the final game away to Tyrone in Omagh on Wednesday, January 18.
Donegal under 21 manager Declan Bonner is set to take control of the team for the pre-season competition, as 16 members of the senior panel will be unavailable.
Bonner will be able to use his under 21 panel as they gear up for the Ulster Under 21 Championship in March.
McHugh is one such player who is unavailable due to his college commitments, and it will be a strange occurrence for him to take on his home county.
“I go to war with these boys every other day but I’ll put that to the back of my mind in early January. We’re back training together with Donegal and already there’s a fair bit of banter. Whether I’m playing for Donegal, Kilcar or Jordanstown I always try to give my best and that will be the case when I take the pitch against Donegal. It’s the same with the Cavan and Tyrone boys on the Jordanstown team. We have a job to do and we have to be professional,” he said.
The UUJ team is managed by Ryan’s father Martin McHugh and they warmed up for the Sigerson Cup with a win over DCU, after extra time, to win the Ryan Cup.
That competition saw the introduction of new ‘mark’ rule which will be officially introduced to Gaelic football on January 1.
“In fairness, that rule wasn’t really made with players like me in mind but in all seriousness I don’t think that it’s needed. The game is in a good place at the moment and I honestly don’t think that they should be tampering with the rules,” he said.
The Donegal team will play Sligo at Colaiste Ailigh on Sunday at 1.30pm in a 13-a-side game. Entry is €8, and all proceeds go to Colaiste Ailigh.
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