Bradford City defender McHugh a small-town hero with a big future (From Bradford Telegraph and Argus)
Get involved: send your pictures, video, news and views by texting TANEWS to 80360, or email
Bradford City defender Carl McHugh a small-town hero with a big future
To call Lettermacaward a two-horse town would be exaggerating the number of horses.
Leitir Mhic an Bhaird, in its full tongue-twisting Gaelic glory, is a miniscule dot in County Donegal, Ireland. According to Wikipedia there is a convenience shop, a petrol station and three pubs.
It happens to be home to Carl McHugh, the 19-year-old defender who recently signed a one-year deal with City.
“There’s also a chapel and a Gaelic football pitch but that’s about it,” he laughed. “It’s right out in the sticks, more like a country home but that’s where I’ve grown up.
“It’s that small, it’s the kind of community where everybody knows everyone else. So they are all looking for me to do well.
“We’ve had a few Gaelic footballers from there but nobody anyone else has heard of.
“Football-wise, Seamus Coleman, who plays for Everton, lives half an hour away and Shay Given’s an hour in the other direction. ‘Packie Bonner is also nearby and my dad once fitted floors for him!”
So it was a massive step when McHugh, at 16, landed in England to take up a scholarship with Reading.
“It was a big thing moving away from home. I come from a family of two brothers, two sisters and it’s always a madhouse.
“Suddenly I was moving into digs and sat on my own in a quiet room. You’re thrown in the deep end, more or less, but you have to grow up fast.
“It got easier once I settled in and matured and also got better on the pitch.”
McHugh has represented the Republic of Ireland age-group sides from under-15 to 19 and credits his three years at the Madejski Stadium for his progress. Phil Parkinson’s close connection with the club – he is regarded as one of their best ever players – ensured that he was on his radar.
McHugh added: “It was a brilliant education at Reading. Even though it didn’t work out there, I wouldn’t say a bad word about the club.
“After I got released they were still really good in helping me out and finding me somewhere.
Unfortunately, I got an injury at the wrong time last year and then they got promoted, but things happen for a reason.”
Fittingly, McHugh got his chance to impress Parkinson on home soil in City’s pre-season week in Ireland. He made an impression in the friendly at Wexford Youths and did enough with the intensive training to convince the manager he was worth a contract.
“The facilities where we were staying were brilliant and you got to know the players better being with them all the time. It made it a lot easier.
“I had the hamstring injury so had to be patient but I played the game over here against Leeds and was over the moon when everything got sorted.”
Parkinson sees a tough, confident player in McHugh and being left-footed is a big asset. The City chief was not scared to throw him in at Watford a week ago.
The dramatic win in the Capital One Cup made it a night the youngster will not forget in a long while.
“It was a brilliant place to make your debut at a Championship club and to beat them as well was unbelievable. Winning it like that with two goals at the end made it even more special.
“It’s whetted my appetite for more. I was chomping to get my chance and now I’ve had it, I’ll be pushing and training hard to get out there again.
“There is strength and depth in the squad and you need competition if the club are going to be where they are looking for this season. You need players to be pushing each other all the time to get in the team.”
McHugh’s dual role as a left back and centre half offers an extra option as cover. But he is not sure which is his best position.
“I don’t really know. It was weird at Reading because I used to play left back in the youth team and centre half in the reserves.
“But it’s exciting just to be part of this club. It’s a big season and you see the quality that we’ve got here, so hopefully we can achieve what we want to.”
You can be sure the locals of a tiny corner of Ireland will be cheering their boy every step of the way.