Wed, Mar
1 New Articles

Mayo’s eyes on the big prize not league glory, says Martin McHugh


THE SPOILS OF VICTORY Donegal All-Ireland winner Martin McHugh is pictured at the launch of the GAA Dynasties exhibition at the GAA Museum in Croke Park. Pic: Sportsfile


Mike Finnerty

SUNDAY’S National League match is ‘massive’ for both Mayo and Donegal but a defeat next weekend won’t affect Stephen Rochford’s long-term priority, according to Martin McHugh.
The former Donegal All-Ireland winner believes that his native county ‘needs to put down a marker’ next weekend after two championship defeats in a row against the Connacht champions. However, McHugh is adamant that Mayo remain All-Ireland title contenders, regardless of what happens over the nexxt few months.
“It’s a massive game for both teams, for different reasons,” the RTÉ and BBC GAA pundit told The Mayo News.
“Donegal need to win because they need to start matching up to Mayo. They need to show that they can beat Mayo and put down a marker because, of course, the teams could end up meeting again in an All-Ireland semi-final later in the year.
“And Donegal won’t want to go into that game with another beating from Mayo on their record.
“From a Mayo perspective, they need to win because they need to put league points on the board,” continued McHugh.
“Funnily enough though, if I was in the Mayo camp I wouldn’t worry too much about losing matches at this time of the year.
“It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for this particular group of Mayo players if they were relegated.
“They’ve been in Division 1 an awful long time, and that’s obviously where the top teams want to be, but Mayo’s priority now is the All-Ireland.
“It’s different for teams like Roscommon and Down, they need to stay in Division 1 for their development.
“Mayo want an All-Ireland, nothing less.”
McHugh has been a long-time admirer of Mayo and thinks they remain ‘very close’ to winning that elusive All-Ireland senior championship.
The current Ulster University of Jordanstown manager believes that ‘hunger’ won’t be an issue for Mayo’s experienced squad, and also thinks the championship draw can work in their favour.
“I definitely think Mayo have as good a chance of winning an All-Ireland in 2016 as they did last year or the year before,” declared McHugh.
“They haven’t been able to beat Dublin and Kerry in the one championship before. This year, the way the draw has panned out, if they keep winning games they won’t have to beat both of them.
“It will be the Connacht winners against the Ulster winners in an All-Ireland semi-final. That gives Mayo a massive chance and makes this a huge year for them.
“I believe the hunger is still there among the Mayo players.”
McHugh has watched Donegal in the flesh in each of their first two league matches as they made short work of both Down and Cork.
His sons Ryan and Mark (who returned to the Donegal panel earlier this month) are both key men in Rory Gallagher’s squad while his nephew, Eoin, has also been showing up well up front.
“Donegal have started the league very well but I wouldn’t be reading too much into it just yet,” offers McHugh.
“Being honest, Down don’t look like they’re ready for Division 1 football and, on the evidence of what Cork produced in Ballyshannon, I think they’re targetting certain games.
“They definitely targeted the Mayo game, there will be other home games they’ll look to win, but I don’t think Cork are too pushed about making a league semi-final or final this year.”
Donegal haven’t beaten Mayo in a competitive fixture since the 2012 All-Ireland Final (they have racked up three defeats and a draw since), but they are well-fancied to consign the Westerners to a third straight league defeat of the season on Sunday.
Martin McHugh isn’t so sure.
“This game is going to tell us an awful lot more about where Donegal are at, and especially about where the young fellas are at.
“It’s a great way to have Mayo coming to Ballybofey, needing two points and bringing that sort of hunger and intensity.
“It should make for a really good game.”

Latest Sport

Westport win Connacht Junior Cup

RUGBY There was a dramatic finish to Sunday’s Connacht Junior Cup Final as the Bulls stunned Creggs.

Read more ...

Mayo draw up battle-plans

FOOTBALL Qualification for the National League Final means that Mayo will have three games to plan for over the next three weeks.

Read more ...

3 players who caught our eye

FOOTBALL Mike Finnerty picks out three players who made an impression for Mayo in Donegal last Sunday.

Read more ...

Mayo’s upward curve continues

FOOTBALL Billy Joe Padden assesses the merits of Mayo’s performance last weekend and talks about the importance of leadership in this group.

Read more ...

A mother’s day to remember

FOOTBALL Our resident Mayo fan Anne Marie Flynn was in Ballybofey last Sunday and enjoyed the trip — as well as the result.

Read more ...