Ryan McHugh: Donegal All-Star excited by appointment of Stephen Rochford

Former Mayo manager Stephen Rochford
Stephen Rochford led Mayo to back-to-back All Ireland finals in 2016 and 2017

Donegal's Ryan McHugh has hailed the addition of Stephen Rochford to Declan Bonner's backroom staff as "an exciting appointment" by the Ulster champions.

Rochford, who stepped down as Mayo manager in August after three years in charge, has agreed to replace Karl Lacey in the Donegal coaching team.

The former All-Ireland club winning manager with Corofin led Mayo to two All-Ireland final defeats by Dublin.

"From a Donegal point of view, it's exciting times," said McHugh.

"Karl Lacey is a huge loss to Donegal, he was extremely good last year and I think Karl is one of Donegal's best ever players to play the game and to train under him was exciting so he's going to be a huge loss but from Donegal's point of view Stephen Rochford is an exciting appointment.

"You'll learn more as the year goes on but I'm extremely excited for 2019 and working with Stephen."

Lacey quit the Donegal set-up after a successful year working as a coach and a selector under Bonner after they steered the county to their first Ulster championship title since 2014.

The 2012 Footballer of the Year cited work and family commitments for his decision to walk away from the panel but the appointment of Rochford will ensure that supporters will have high expectations of the team again this year.

Donegal were relegated to Division Two of the Football League this year when they were held to a last-gasp draw by Mayo in their final round-robin match but they recovered from that set-back to win the Ulster title and reach the All-Ireland Super 8s series where they suffered defeats by Dublin and Tyrone.

Donegal's Ryan McHugh
Ryan McHugh was the only Donegal player to be included on the PWC All-Stars team of the year

Building on Ulster success

"The big injury we had this year was Paddy [McBrearty], which was a huge loss to us because he was playing extremely well so it was huge loss to us but that's football," added McHugh.

"You're going to get injuries and it's about how you react and I thought we actually reacted alright.

"We came up against Dublin, which is always going to be tough, and I thought we did alright but I suppose the Tyrone match was the huge disappointment for us when we were in a winning position and we didn't see it out was extremely disappointing but to fair to Tyrone on they day they were deserving winners."

Six Ulster players won football All-Stars at last week's awards ceremony but McHugh was the only member of the Donegal panel to be recognised and the 24-year-old half-forward is already setting his sights on building on his success again next year.

"I don't think when you're involved in football and hurling you never stop thinking about it," added the Kilcar native.

"First and foremost we'll want to get out of Division Two, we were disappointed to be relegated last year but it is what it is and we're in Division Two this year so we'll be looking to kick-start the League well and get out of Division Two and take it from there.

"We've a tough draw away to Fermanagh in the Championship but we'll take it game by game and see where we can get."

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