McHugh isn’t expecting a game for the purists

By Shaun Casey

MARK McHugh isn’t expecting a classic when Donegal and Galway lock horns on Sunday, with a spot in the All-Ireland final up for grabs. It could be cagey, it could be slow, and it might not be a game for the purists.

Donegal are hoping to reach the showpiece for the first time since 2014, when they lost to Kerry, while Galway were last there in 2022 and they suffered the same feat as the Tir Chonaill men.

It’s a huge chance for both sides to get their hands on the Sam Maguire, and getting through to the final is all that will matter in both changing rooms.

“Honestly, and this is not a cliche, it’s a 50-50 game,” said McHugh. “I think both teams have a lot of strengths, Galway are more of a physical team while Donegal’s biggest strength is their running game.

“Can Galway curtail Donegal’s running game? Can Donegal deal with the physicality of the Galway men? It’s going to make for a very, very intriguing match. From a game point of view, I think it’ll be very cagey.

“Galway in the last few years have been very defensive, especially early on in games. We saw it against Monaghan, we saw it against Sligo and against Dublin so I wouldn’t expect anything different from them from a tactical point of view.

“They’re going to keep it tight; they’re going to be defensive; they’re going to try to work on turnovers. Donegal will have to learn from the Louth game, a few times they tried to take on that extra pass or extra touch and they went into contact and got turned over.

“They’ll try not to do that or give energy to Galway. It’ll be cagey, it’ll be slow for the first 20, 25 minutes and liven up a wee bit before half-time and then the second half, it’ll hopefully take a life of its own and things will open up.”

McHugh, a member of Donegal’s 2012 All-Ireland winning team who is coaching Galway club Moycullen this year, believes the Tribesmen will struggle should they fall behind.

“I feel Galway will need to be ahead,” added McHugh. “With their injuries and what we saw against Dublin, I feel Galway will need to be ahead after 55 or 60 minutes for them to be in the chance.

“Donegal are so well-conditioned; they have no injuries. They have a very strong bench that they can rely on. I think Donegal will probably finish the stronger, it depends where Galway are at around that 60, 65-minute mark.

“Can Donegal deal with the real strength of Shane Walsh, Damien Comer, Cillian McDade, Matthew Tierney?

“Then on the other side, can Galway deal with Peadar Mogan, Ryan McHugh, Eoghan Ban (Gallagher), Oisin Gallen, Paddy McBrearty, Ciaran Thompson?

“Who’s going to nullify them is probably the best way I can analyse this game. It’s going to be intriguing from a tactical point of view. Will it be a game for the purest?

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