Hughes happy to be back with Armagh

By Shaun Casey

ARMAGH net-minder Blaine Hughes says he’s “loving” being back in the county set-up having taken a year out last season.

Hughes made his inter-county debut back in 2017 and played 11 times that season as Armagh reached the All-Ireland quarter-finals.

His debut came against Longford in round three of the Division Three league, which Armagh won 3-11 to 3-9. Hughes started all but one of Armagh’s championship games between 2017 and 2021, the first game he missed being the Ulster semi-final against Monaghan of 2021.

That was an unbroken run of 19 consecutive championship games between the sticks for the Carrickcruppen shot stopper. Hughes decided to step away for 12 months in 2023 as Ethan Rafferty established himself as the number one choice, but the Camlough man is back on the scene and took his opportunity with both hands following Rafferty’s injury.

“I’m loving it now, I love being back there,” said Hughes after helping the Orchard County to promotion back to Division One.

“Halfway through the league last year I was itching to get back. Once this year came the first thing I wanted do was get on the phone to Kieran (McGeeney) to hopefully come back. Thank God, he took me back.”

Hughes has been in superb form throughout this season and last Saturday night against the Breffni County, he kept his seventh clean sheet in a row, including the McKenna Cup semi-final against Derry.

The highlight of Hughes’ season so far has undoubtedly been his fine penalty save from Oisín Gallen late on against Donegal when the sides finished all square.

The fact that Armagh haven’t conceded any goals in the entire league campaign has been huge in their unbeaten run and last Saturday’s comfortable 15-point win confirmed promotion to the top-flight and a shot at the Division Two league title against Donegal.

“We’re delighted to get promoted,” added Hughes. “That’s what our main goal was at the start of the year, to get up and back into Division One where we should be. So, we’re delighted to get across the line. It’s where we should be and where we wanted to get to.

“When you’ve come through a Division One campaign, the amount of energy you have coming into a championship campaign is massive. We want to play the best to be the best.

“Everything is coming fast so now it’s just a matter of keeping all the lads injury free, and to keep pushing on and get as many wins as we can to keep the momentum going.”

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