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Ryan McHugh admits he had a word with brother Mark over his criticism of Armagh before Ulster final


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Speaking on radio last week, the older McHugh, an All-Ireland winner from 2012, suggested while the Orchard have “good players, they think they’re a lot better than they are”.

Younger brother Ryan revealed he was aware of the comments before the game – which Donegal won on penalties – but insists he moved on quickly.

“I saw it, don’t get me wrong, and I did get on to him,” McHugh said as he was named PwC GAA/GPA Player of the Month for April in football.

“But it’s every man for himself – I’m my own man, Mark is his own man, Dad [Martin] is his own man in our family. He’s getting into the media now, but I’ve had it my whole career with my father as well, so it’s nothing to do with me – I didn’t say anything. Mark is a grown man and he’s well fit to fight his own way.”

In the famously reticent world of the GAA, it was a notable comment. But McHugh cast doubt on whether his brother’s words would have been used in the Armagh dressing room.

“Personally, we wouldn’t use all of that kind of stuff. Everybody is entitled to their own opinion, but when games are so tight, if you ask six people who is going to win, three will say one team, three the other. Personally, we don’t use it. If Armagh use it, I haven’t a clue.”

McHugh, a former Young Footballer of the Year and double All-Star, is getting back to his best form with Donegal after sitting out the 2023 season to let a number of injuries, including a persistent groin problem, settle.

However, he admitted he wasn’t sure whether his body would stand up to Jim McGuinness’s famously rigorous training on his return late last year. And he revealed that if he broke down again he would likely have walked away.

“I didn’t [know if he could do the training], there is no point lying. I said to myself I would [give it] everything I had. I did a lot of work with my groin and got my body back to the shape it had to be in.

“I am going to be 30 this year and if I can’t go anymore, I will give it everything. And if I have to step away, I would step away. Thankfully, touch wood again, it didn’t work out like that and the body has held up and I’ve gone from strength to strength.

“I have a lot of work done with physios and S&C coaches and thankfully, the body is in a good place at the moment and hopefully I can keep it going.”

Last weekend, McGuinness led Donegal back to the summit in Ulster. The second coming is living up to its billing thus far. And having played for him during his first term, McHugh reckons nothing has changed as they move into the All-Ireland series.

“Whenever someone asks me what is Jim McGuinness’s best quality or what separates Jim McGuinness from the rest, it is that one word – drive – every single night. I have been fortunate enough as a player to be involved in an All-Ireland final [2014], unfortunately we did not win it, but I had that experience coming up to an All-Ireland final and I can honestly say that Jim McGuinness is the exact same the night before an All-Ireland final as he is the first night you meet him in December or whenever it is.

“He is on it every single night and he does not let you or anyone else not be on it. I know that sounds easy to do, but I have helped out with underage teams in Kilcar and . . . I think it is only when you get into coaching you realise how difficult that is. You can have bad days at work, you can have bad days when you fall out with your wife or partner, you can just not be on it but Jim has a great technique when it comes to sport, he is on it every single night.

“I met him, I am not sure when it was, I met him at that time to sit down with him and go through the plans ahead. I got married at the start of December so I had a meeting with him to ask for a week off at that time, but once you sat down and met with him that day you knew nothing had changed with Jim.”

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