College football as high a level as any, says McHugh

Na Fianna man and Dublin under-21 forward Conor McHugh has praised the standard of Sigerson Cup football, saying it’s the “next best thing to inter-county.”

In a year when DCU failed to regain the Sigerson crown, however, it was a dramatic win over the Dubs in Parnell Park that was a real highlight for McHugh and his teammates.

DCU reached the O’Byrne Cup semi-final by defeating Jim Gavin’s men in what was a huge win for the college and for all of the team members.

“It was great to beat Dublin in Parnell Park and advance in the O’Byrne Cup. What was especially pleasing was the way the lads battled to come back in the second half. Everyone wants to beat the All-Ireland champions.”

McHugh believes big wins over big opposition are important in improving team chemistry. The All-Ireland minor medal holder said the win “brought us closer together as a team.”

The young dual player has played many different levels of football, from club senior to inter-county under-21. He was part of a Na Fianna under-21 team that won the Dublin title in 2013 and has featured in hurling and football minor All-Ireland finals in Croke Park. He sees the quality of the Sigerson Cup, however, as the next best thing to inter-county football.

“The standard of Sigerson Cup is a very high standard. It’s definitely the second highest standard of football in the country after inter-county. I think playing against and with such quality footballers has helped to improve me as a player.”

GAA chiefs have come in for some criticism from DCU manager Niall Moyna, who believes too much strain is being put on young players’ bodies. McHugh thinks that fair managers, who understand players’ physical exertions and are good communicators, can ease the pressure on young athletes.

“It’s very tough to juggle all the different teams you play for. I found myself playing for up to four different teams at the start of the year between club under-21 football and hurling, Dublin under-21 football and then of course Sigerson.

“It’s a lot of work and it’s important to be always communicating with your different managers. Factoring in college work and exams made it even tougher, but Niall was very good during the year and he always preached about how our first priority is our education and football always comes after.

“If I needed to miss training to study for an exam or finish an assignment there was never any trouble, so it was good in that way.”

The future looks bright for DCU’s young star, and after being knocked out this year by UCD, he would love to add a Sigerson medal to his growing collection in 2015.

“It’s definitely something that myself and the lads would love to win. It’s a massive competition and it would be amazing to lift the cup. My focus for now is elsewhere, but when next year’s Sigerson comes around, I’ll be raring to go.”

Kevin Taylor

Image Credit: Sportsfile

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