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'He's been going through a lot and you have to accept the decision he has made'

Ryan McHugh on Odhran MacNiallais’s decision not to play with Donegal this season.

Ryan McHugh pictured at AIB’s launch of the 2019 All Ireland senior football championship.
Ryan McHugh pictured at AIB’s launch of the 2019 All Ireland senior football championship.
Image: Ramsey Cardy/SPORTSFILE

RYAN MCHUGH SAYS he understands Odhran MacNiallais’s decision not to link up with the Donegal panel this summer. 

MacNiallais helped Declan Bonner’s side lift the Ulster title in 2018 but following Gaoth Dobhair’s run to the All-Ireland club semi-final earlier this year he announced his decision to take some time off from football. 

The 26-year-old’s close friend Micheál Roarty was one of four men who died in a Donegal road accident in January, a tragedy which deeply affected MacNiallais.

“I’m personally extremely close with Odhran as loads of boys in the Donegal set-up are,” said McHugh. “You have to respect his decision.

“From a Donegal point of view we’d love to have Odhran playing for Donegal all the time but you have to respect his decision as a team-mate and as a friend.

“As you touched on, there was a huge tragedy in Falcarragh and Gweedore. Unless you were really involved in it you wouldn’t have realised how much of a tragedy it was. 

“And Odhran was extremely close to Micheál Roarty, they were best friends, so he’s been going through a lot and you have to accept the decision he has made. Hopefully in the near future we’ll have him back.”

It’s the second time in three seasons Donegal have to plan without the services of the 2014 All-Star nominee. 

Odhran MacNiallais Odhran MacNiallais during a 2016 league game for Donegal. Source: Presseye/Lorcan Doherty/INPHO

On a bright note, Paddy McBrearty has made a successful comeback from the torn ACL he suffered last season. As club-mates, McHugh witnessed McBrearty’s return to form with Kilcar in recent weeks.

“He’s doing great since he got back playing. He’s played four matches for the club and back flying. He kicked 11 points one day. 

“He’s trying to get that wee bit of match sharpness back for himself. Paddy’s an extremely disciplined person and he does everything to the letter of the law.

“He’s done his rehab extremely well and he’s back and scoring well. Hopefully, he can get back to as good as he was for Donegal in the championship. 

“He’s a top, top player. I think before he picked up the injury last year in the Ulster Final he was, if not the best, then in the top three forwards in Ireland the way he was playing at the time. 

“Unfortunately he picked up an injury and, when you look back on the year last year, at the time you’re trying to say to yourself that it’s not that big of a deal and you try to stay on the positive side. 

“But looking back on the year as a whole I think it was a huge turning point in Donegal’s year when Paddy picked up that injury. He was playing so well and probably leading the attack and leading it extremely well for us. 

“Kicking six, seven, eight points a game which is huge. Looking back now, it was definitely a huge turning point in Donegal’s year.” 

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Kevin O'Brien

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