Scotstown’s Hughes brothers ready at long last to ice an Ulster title

After eight Monaghan wins in 11 years, Scotstown look for some provincial closure

The Hughes brothers, Darren and Kieran, have good reason to remember their last Ulster club meeting with Derry champions Glen two years ago in the provincial quarter-final. Firstly, it ended in a nine-point hammering and, secondly, the pair of them were sent off – Kieran just after half time and Darren shortly before the end.

After a season that has incrementally got better and better for Monaghan’s Scotstown, they find themselves with a return date against the same opposition, now defending provincial champions. There’s a further twist as Glen’s manager Malachy O’Rourke led Monaghan to two Ulster titles, which the brothers helped to win.

Both the finalists had narrow wins at the weekend. Glen needed a last-gasp point to beat Glenties whereas Scotstown had to go to extra time to defeat Tyrone champions Trillick.

“We were taught a good lesson by them (Glen) a couple of years ago in the Ulster club. There’s a lot to take on board for the next two weeks,” according to Darren.


Kieran is more specific. “I’d have nothing but pure respect for Mal and those boys. I let myself down personally two years ago against them, harsh enough call I thought at the time, but that’s in the past now.”

It has been a memorable season for Scotstown: an 11th successive county final and an eighth title. There has been a perception that for such a litany of county championships the impact on Ulster has been underwhelming but the club have lost two provincial finals only after extra time, against Crossmaglen in 2015 when the sort of kick Rory Beggan has been landing this year nearly won the match in normal time and Gweedore three years later by a single point.

This season started poorly with involvement in relegation play-offs while their intercounty contingent was away and they didn’t look obvious championship contenders in the early stages.

Having emerged from the county with a win over Inniskeen, Scotstown’s Ulster campaign has been close to epic. Former All-Ireland winners Kilcoo were beaten at the death when Beggan landed a long-range free in injury-time. Darren acknowledged that such a win stood to the team when they forced Trillick to extra time with the last play of the hour, a point kicked by new All Star Conor McCarthy off his weaker right foot.

“Ah, it does. We have been in enough tight games with those players over the years and there’s a core of county boys there who have had a number of games that have went to the wire. There was no panic in us, knowing that we had one more play. We just had to get the ball in hand and after that, it was up to us. We had nobody to blame but ourselves. We would be disappointed with the first half and the game could have been over at one stage when we were three points up but we missed God knows how many chances (13 wides).”

Reflecting on two years ago is painful for Kieran. “These boys we are playing the next day, they left scars on us in 2021. We have different management now and we have lads who have grew up a wee bit and started to manage football games better.”

They also have Jack McCarron, the county forward who joined them this year. Darren sings his praises. “He doesn’t get the credit he deserves for his work rate. But he’s a phenomenal footballer. What he brings to us on the inside line, he sets the tone.”

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times