'We couldn't let the season slide away' - Darren Hughes ready to take down Kildare

Midfielder believes Donegal are back to their best as Monaghan look to join their Ulster conquerors in the last eight.

Hughes: no time to dwell on Ulster final defeat.
Hughes: no time to dwell on Ulster final defeat.
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

MONAGHAN HAVE DRAWN a line under their Ulster final “failure” to focus on bouncing back against Kildare.

Two weeks on from their defeat against Donegal, the Farney men face a make-or-break Round 4B qualifier in Croke Park on Saturday.

A win would set their summer back on track and line up a shot at All-Ireland champions Dublin in the quarter-finals.

“Our Ulster Championship is gone and it was difficult last week to recover and get over the disappointment,” midfielder Darren Hughes said.

“We knew we just had to get ready for Kildare and couldn’t let the season slide away in a couple of weeks.”

The success of recent seasons means that the provincial title is no longer the be-all and end-all for Monaghan.

Instead, Malachy O’Rourke’s men can aspire to a realistic challenge in the All-Ireland series.

“Initially we set out targets — promotion was one and progression was another,” Hughes explained.

“When you go into the Ulster campaign, we couldn’t look by Tyrone because it was a massive game for us. We had never beaten them in the Championship and it was a big hurdle for us to get over.

“With the Armagh game going to a replay, we were well served going into the final.

Darren Hughes with Odhran Mac Niallais Odhran Mac Niallais beats Hughes to the ball in the Ulster final. Source: Presseye/Russell Pritchard/INPHO

“The game [against Donegal] was lost. We don’t see it as a setback, we are into the All-Ireland series now so we just have to progress from here. We lost out in a quarter-final last year but we can’t look by Kildare on Saturday.”

The counties met in a Round 4 qualifier four seasons ago when, coming off the back of an Ulster final defeat against Tyrone, Monaghan had just six days to prepare.

Kildare won by four points in Croke Park and carried their back-door momentum all the way through to the All-Ireland semi-finals where they were eventually beaten by Down.

Having an extra week to recover and prepare this time around will be of definite benefit, Hughes said.

“We have had experience of losing Ulster finals and having to get back in the saddle.

“But in this scenario we have had two weeks to prepare and in previous years we only had six days.

It was difficult. Never mind your disappointment but physically, you don’t be ready for a game in six days.

“We have had time, we have assessed what went wrong in the final, and we are preparing well for Kildare next weekend.”

Darren Hughes with James Kavanagh Hughes lined out at half-back against Kildare four years ago. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

When the players and management sat down to discuss the defeat against Donegal, a lot of the mistakes and systems failures that cost them were very evident.

“We kind of knew ourselves where it went wrong. It was a disappointing performance all round.

In fairness Donegal were very good on the day, but things that we talked about and tried to implement, we didn’t do it.

Hughes added: “We went off the gameplan in a sense and that was the disappointing factor in not performing to our full capabilities on the day.

Gavin Cooney
Reports From Qatar

Get Gavin's exclusive writing and analysis from the 2022 Fifa World Cup

Become a Member

“You know what you are getting when you play Donegal. At times we kicked the ball when we shouldn’t have been kicking it, or carrying it into tackles.

“You have to give credit to Donegal, they put the pressure on us in certain areas and we had to expect that from them. We talked about it but we didn’t work around it on the day.”

Jim McGuinness celebrates with players McGuinness led the Donegal celebrations after the Ulster final in Clones. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

After losing their crown to Monaghan in 2013, Donegal’s win was marked with unbridled celebrations and manager Jim McGuinness hailed it as their best win yet.

The tenacious performance put the rest of the country on notice and set tongues wagging at the thought of a possible culture clash against the Dubs in the semi-finals.

Hughes and Monaghan will hope to have their say in matters before then but there’s no doubt in his mind — Donegal are back to their best.

Yes, they are a determined force this year.

“Last year we beat them and in our eyes we beat them fair and square, but they are a different team this year.

“I suppose they put their front foot forward from the start of year and that was evident in their league campaign.

“We know not to read too much into their league final out here because they had one eye on Derry in the Championship. We didn’t get carried away with that victory and think last week was going to be easy by any stretch of the imagination.

“But last week they brought a serious system and a serious intensity to it. Ultimately, we didn’t match it on the day.”

Armagh continue silent treatment as Dyas pulled from Croke Park interviews

John Gardiner – Daly’s future, Wexford’s exit while Limerick and Tipperary march on

About the author:

Niall Kelly

Read next: