By Niall Gartland
THE tip-top conditioning of the Monaghan players under their new coach Peter Donnelly hasn’t escaped the attention of former Donegal star Mark McHugh.
McHugh has noticed that the players look leaner than before, and he thinks that’s a telling factor in their rich vein of form at present.
The Farney County have had an excellent start to the league campaign with two victories and a draw after four matches, and a victory over Donegal this weekend would see them in the mix for a place in the league final.
McHugh commented: “I think Monaghan look a lot leaner this year, and that means they’re fitter, faster and can move better. It’s what I’ve picked up just from watching them.
“They started training early and they’re flying at the moment. I’ve spoken to a lot of Tyrone people and aren’t happy that Peter Donnelly’s left. He’s come in and brought a lot of expertise.”
Added into the mix is Kilcoo star Conor Laverty, and manager Seamus McAnaney, a man who bleeds Monaghan football. McHugh isn’t surprised that Monaghan are going so well at present.
“Conor Laverty’s been a phenomenal player fro Down and Kilcoo. He’s cute as a fox, a very likeable character and he’ll get the very best out of his players. Banty brings that motivational side to things as well.”
McHugh also weighed in with his thoughts on Tyrone It won’t have escaped the notice of Donegal supporters that Cathal McShane will likely be missing from their Ulster Championship Preliminary Round encounter in May after dislocating his ankle against Galway on Sunday.
“Tyrone are struggling a bit at the minute. Mattie Donnelly is out and he’s a huge loss to them. We’ll see what happens with Cathal McShane but it looks very bad. A lot of things went wrong for them against Galway but they’re a championship team and always come good.
“Everyone’s looking forward to that match in Ballybofey. Donegal have a good record there and it’ll be packed to the rafters.
“Donegal are capable of beating them, they’ve a lot of players coming into their prime at the moment, but there’s always the capacity for a shock.
“I really hope Oisin Gallen is back for that match, I’m really excited about him but unfortunately he’s missing the league through injury.”
McHugh, who spoke for a full hour to journalist Frank Craig for a new Gaelic Life podcast, also looked back on his own childhood and playing career, and noted that his famous father Martin McHugh was a tough taskmaster. He said that didn’t do him any harm and says it’s a shame that in his view children are wrapped in cotton wool these days
“You’d have to play a very good match for him to give you a compliment. It was very rare that you got one, and if you did you knew you were doing something right. I think it probably helped me.
“Kids nowadays are given evrything they want and told they’re great. I’m not saying that’s wrong but you have to experience defeat and if you do something wrong and you have to improve.
“I’m involved in my club and the kids are a bit mollycoddled, I know it’s not about winning and losing at that age but I don’t think it’s good if everyone gets medals.
“It’s a problem I suppose in our society, some schools don’t allow playground football because of health and safety. In my day you’d come in with cut knees and fractured bone and I think it made us as competitive as we are, so it’s sad to see that gone from some schools.”