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Donegal's Ryan McHugh pictured at AIB’s launch of the 2019 All Ireland Senior Football Championship. 
Donegal's Ryan McHugh pictured at AIB’s launch of the 2019 All Ireland Senior Football Championship. 

McHugh expecting another tough battle from rivals Fermanagh


By John Harrington

Donegal’s Ryan McHugh is expecting a match with a lot of bite when the reigning Ulster football champions play Fermanagh in Sunday’s provincial quarter-final.

There’s always been a keen rivalry between the two counties because they share a border, but recent meetings have given it more heat than ever.

“It's going to be a huge match, it's well documented every match in Ulster is extremely competitive,” said McHugh.

“Our match is going to be no different. There's a lot of bite between Fermanagh and Donegal the last number of years between the Ulster final last year, us winning that and Fermanagh beating us in the league this year.

“Then you've Rory (Gallagher) managing them who managed Donegal as well so there's a wee bit of rivalry between the teams and you've the border as well.

“We're really looking forward to it and we feel we're going to have to put in our best performance to get over the line so it's up to us to produce it.”

Last year’s Ulster Final win over Fermanagh was the high-water mark of Donegal’s season.

They went into the All-Ireland quarter-final series with high hopes but failed to progress after defeats to Dublin and Tyrone.

Donegal manager Declan Bonner has since brought in former Mayo manager Stephen Rochford as a coach in an effort to raise his team’s standard to an even higher level.

The Donegal management team, from left, manager Declan Bonner, assistant manager Paul McGonigle, coach Gary Boyle and selector Stephen Rochford before the Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup Round 1 match between Donegal and QUB at MacCumhaill Park in Ballybofey, Donegal. 
The Donegal management team, from left, manager Declan Bonner, assistant manager Paul McGonigle, coach Gary Boyle and selector Stephen Rochford before the Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup Round 1 match between Donegal and QUB at MacCumhaill Park in Ballybofey, Donegal. 

Time will tell whether Rochford’s appointment will have the desired effect, but McHugh at least believes the Mayo-man has had a positive impact on the group.

“He's been a breath of fresh air to be honest,” said McHugh. “In Donegal we're used to Ulster voices and Ulster coaches the last number of years.

“Somebody from outside the province to come in. It's a new voice. He's expressing his ideas, his beliefs and views on Gaelic football onto us and it's been great.

“He's a top coach and a top man so he's been great. His CV speaks for itself - the All-Ireland club, bringing Mayo as close as any team has ever got to Dublin. His CV speaks for itself.

“He's coaching the team and he's a top coach. New drills, new opinions, new views and beliefs. Just to come in and change things up. The boys are really taking on board what he's saying and they're becoming better players for it.”

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