MICHAEL MCHUGH WILL GET the same buzz from togging out at Triagh-A-Locha this afternoon as he always did.
The 44-year-old Swilly Rovers striker will be part of the panel that takes on Fanad United in the Ulster Senior League.
The old urges don’t just a player who has been immersed in the game since his teenage years.
Jason Gibson has a largely youthful panel at Swilly Park these days, but McHugh’s experience remains as vital as ever within the Ramelton side.
Picture caption: Michael McHugh in action for Swilly against Bonagee United last season. Picture courtesy of Stephen Doherty
“I didn’t intend to play for the last couple of seasons, but needs must and all of that,” says McHugh.
“I’ve just been playing a bit of a cameo role and helping out when I’m needed.
“I’ve had to start in a couple of the games, but I can’t see myself playing too much to be honest.
“I always enjoy playing and I still get the same buzz out of it. That buzz is still the same as it always was.”
Swilly were beaten 6-1 by Bonagee United last Sunday in the FAI Intermediate Cup having shipped six against Letterkenny Rovers in the League Cup the previous weekend, while Derry City also hit them for four in the League Cup.
“It’s hard to keep the heads up with a couple of bad results, but they have to learn to dig in,” says McHugh, who hopes to guide them into the light.
“They will learn over time to stick together and they’ll come good
“Sometimes teams need that wee bit of experience on the pitch as well as off it. It definitely helps to have it on the pitch.
“We’re a very young squad at the minute so even wee simple things, it’s good to be there to help out those young fellas.”
McHugh was 18 when he was snapped up by Bradford City in 1989.
Spotted by Eddie Davis – who passed away last month – while he was playing for Swilly Rovers against Culdaff FC in the USL, McHugh was recruited for duty at Valley Parade.
Terry Yorath and John Docherty had spells in charge of Bradford, but it was former Ireland international Frank Stapleton who gave McHugh his head in the first team.
“I have a lot of fond memories of my time at Bradford City,” McHugh says.
“I still keep in contact and I was over there again recently.”
A spell at Scarborough followed before McHugh returned to Ireland and had stints at Omagh Town, Derry City, Coleraine and Newy.
“I went back to Swilly when I was 35 and I said that I’d give them one season – and here I am,” he says.
The spine still tingles with mention of a game against Fanad and the veteran hitman would love nothing more than to get one up on Swilly’s old adversaries from the peninsula.
“Swilly v Fanad has always been a big game,” he says.
“Arthur Lynch is down managing Fanad now and if his team has half of his passion and principals then by God they’ll be hard to break down. It’ll be a good battle anyway.”
Having gone into senior football direct from the USL himself, McHugh is a strong advocate for the retention of intermediate football in the county despite its recent ill health meaning there are now only six participating sides.
“Older players always say that the standard was better when they were young,” he says.
“There are still a lot of good players on the go in Donegal and the Ulster Senior League is perfect for them. You have to have intermediate football to help the game in the county. Going from a junior league up to Finn Harps wouldn’t be ideal so you need that in-between league to help players development.”
FOUR LANTERNS ULSTER SENIOR LEAGUE FIXTURS, 2pm
Fanad United v Swilly Rovers; Letterkenny Rovers v Bonagee United; Derry City Reserves v Cockhill Celtic