The day is almost upon them; the biggest – so far – in their history.
Red Hughs stand an hour away from an appearance at Croke Park as Seosamh Mac Ceallabhuí takes his men to Ballinamore in County Leitrim for an All-Ireland Junior Club semi-final.
Easkey from Sligo provide the opposition as Red Hughs look to go boldly where they’ve never been before.
Already with Donegal and Ulster Junior titles on the sideboard at Monellan, Red Hughs have lifted the bar of ambition again – and have a place at headquarters firmly in the gaze now.
In December, they had to navigate a tricky quarter-final against Dunedin Connollys from Edinburgh, but the came through 3-11 to 1-15.
As if to outline Red Hughs’ grit, Shane Gallagher defied a broken jaw – and the accompanying wires – to come off the bench and score the winning goal.
“I talked to him about it before the game and ‘no regrets’ was the last thing he said to me,” Mac Ceallabhuí has said about Gallagher’s contribution.
After the quarter-final at O’Donnell Park, Stephen McMenamin – a member of the Donegal senior squad and one of Red Hughs’ leading lights – rose to speak.
The rallying call was clear: ‘We’re never, ever going to be in this position again. We’re one hour away from walking out at Croke Park.’
It has been a magical journey so far for Red Hughs.
“The main fear was it was going to end,” captain Gerard Melaugh mentioned.
“You can start talking about it now. We’re one game away.”
The moments have been memorable, too. Take Johnny Carlin’s epic winner against Limavady in the Ulster final, having been sprang from the bench just moments earlier.
‘Heart attack stuff’ was how Mac Ceallabhuí described that one.
Carlin had his own difficult injury troubles during the course of the year, but remains a vital cog for Red Hughs.
The memories will last for an eternity – and they mean everything.
But the meanings stretch beyond football, too.
Melaugh hoisted the Junior A Championship title in October – and dedicated it to the memory of his two-year-old son, Caolan, who died in June 20187 and to whom he had made a promise.
Melaugh, that October evening, said: “I’ve been in dark places. These boys have picked me up and shown support to me all year.”
Melaugh hit the nail on the head in Letterkenny when he added: “It was honesty and work rate all year. This was the first year we deserved a Championship.”
Last year has turned into this – and onwards they go.
Now, as well as hope they have expectation and excitement.
The journey might not be finished yet.Tags: