Darren Hughes: I still have great incentive to take Monaghan to Ulster Championship glory

Long-serving Monaghan ace Darren Hughes has no doubts about what keeps him in top gear, despite having already celebrated his 34th birthday.

The biggest driver for me is the fact that most of the guys on the team now don’t have an Ulster Championship medal. We as a team want to do it for these players, because they are all quality footballers,” said Hughes.

As his side prepares to face Derry in today’s second Ulster Senior Championship Semi-Final, Hughes is aware that Monaghan will be pitted against a side that has just been given a new lease of life and will have a huge appetite for a ​end to what is a 24-year Ulster title famine.

Hughes has bagged Ulster Medals in 2013 and 2015 during Malachy O’Rourke’s tenure as manager.

They were beaten by one point by Tyrone in the Ulster Finals last year and are now determined to hit a new high.

“I think our entire forward line of Jack McCarron, Gary Mohan and Conor McManus is quite capable of scoring. They are capable of winning their own ball and they are very adept at making space for each other,” says Hughes, whose brother Kieran is also a key member of the team.

When beating Down in their Championship opener, Monaghan boasted no fewer than 11 scorers.

“I think this shows the ability of players to take scores from all angles and distances,” says Hughes. “It is worth pointing out that we have gained renewed confidence by retaining our place in Division One of the League.

“That win over Dublin in our last League game gave us all a great boost and we carried this mentality into the Championship against Down. The challenge for us now will be to further improve our performance against Derry.”

Andrew Woods, Michael Bannigan, Niall Kearns, Conor McCarthy and of course Gary Mohan are among the newer players on Monaghan’s side and the experience they have gained so far this year could serve them well now.

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