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Dublin: -2°C Sunday 11 April 2021

Ryan McHugh: 'We know we have the players and the game system to claw back'

The Man of the Match was in jubilant form after helping to guide his side to victory yesterday.

Donegal's Ryan McHugh celebrates after scoring his side's first goal.
Donegal's Ryan McHugh celebrates after scoring his side's first goal.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

MAN OF THE Match Ryan McHugh says his team never lost faith despite suffering a bad start to their All-Ireland semi-final against Dublin yesterday.

Jim McGuinness’ side at one stage found themselves 0-9 to 0-4 down early on, but they recovered in spectacular fashion thereafter, ultimately winning 3-14 to 0-17.

But were Donegal worried at any stage that the game was getting away from them?

“We weren’t really, to be honest with you,” McHugh says. “Jim had stored great belief in us, not just from today or yesterday but from the first day we met.

“We know we have the players and the game system to claw back. Thankfully we showed that today, we got a wee bit of a rub of the green and thankfully got over the line.”

Dublin were strong favourites going into the game, having shown imperious form prior to the encounter, but McHugh says his side paid little attention to the pre-match hype.

“Dublin were raging hot favourites and rightly so, to be fair, they are an unbelievable team and have been unbelievable All-Ireland champions.

“Listen, it’s not that hard to block out. You just listen to Jim, the manager, and the backroom team, they know best.

“When your friends and family are on about stuff you just laugh at them and walk on, and just do what you’re told to do. Thankfully we’ve done that today and got the victory.”

McHugh himself was key to Donegal’s victory, registering 2-2 on the day. What are his abiding memories of getting that all-important first goal?

“Listen I just ran, I seen the ball breaking and shouted ‘Colm’, maybe he should have went himself he probably would produced a better finish but thankfully he gave it me.

“Rory O’Carroll was in behind Cluxton, he could have got his foot to it. But you need luck in Gaelic Football and luckily we got that.”

Donegal now go on to meet Kerry in the All-Ireland final, after the Kingdom beat Mayo in Saturday’s semi-final — a game which McHugh watched along with the rest of his teammates.

“We did surely, we sat down and watched it and it was a very good match.

“Kerry are a very good side, they’ve got very good footballers but listen we’ll get back to the drawing board on Tuesday night and we’ll try to do it to the best of our ability. If it’s not good enough, it’s not good enough but hopefully it will be.

“Kerry have been there and done that, they’re an unbelievable side with some unbelievable players.

“It’s very tough for us to beat them but hopefully we can and Jim can set up a game plan and hopefully we can produce it and get over the line.”

One person who’ll miss out on the final is Ryan’s brother Mark, who announced his shock departure from the Donegal panel earlier this year, but the man of the moment insists his older sibling has no regrets about the decision.

“He’s one of Donegal’s biggest supporters, he was up at the game today. He’s made his decision, he’s happy with it and he’s accepted it.”

Yesterday’s triumph was accentuated by the Donegal minor team’s victory over Dublin earlier in the day, which McHugh suggests gave the senior side a boost ahead of their clash.

“Yeah, Jim actually said before the game, ‘the minors had won by one point, lads, and we can go on and do it’.

“Thankfully we did and we said during the week that it gave us a big lift before the Ulster final that the minors won and it was the same again today.

17 brilliant images that sum up an incredible All-Ireland semi-final>

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