Ryan McHugh: Donegal star 'flying fit' for Ulster SFC opener against Antrim

Ryan McHugh sustained an ankle injury late in Donegal's penultimate league game against Monaghan in late March
Ryan McHugh is arguably the current Donegal team's most influential player
Ulster SFC first round: Donegal v Antrim
Venue: MacCumhaill Park, Ballybofey Date: Sunday, 21 May Throw-in: 16:00 BST Coverage: Full deferred on BBC TWO NI at 19:00; live commentary on Radio Ulster 1341 MW and BBC Sport website

Donegal's Ryan McHugh says he is "flying again" after recovering from injury for Sunday's Ulster SFC opener against Antrim at Ballybofey.

McHugh suffered an ankle tendon tear in Donegal's penultimate Football League match in late March but recently returned to action for his club Kilcar.

"I played in the club championship and got through it fine so I'm 100%," the 2016 All-Star told BBC Sport NI.

The roving McHugh was probably Donegal's best league performer.

Rory Gallagher's side comfortably retained their Division One status but a narrow closing defeat by Mayo meant that they missed out on a place in the league decider.

With Antrim suffering relegation back to Division Four, Donegal will be overwhelming favourites at MacCumhaill Park but McHugh insists that the home team will not be underestimating the Saffrons, who claimed a shock Ulster Championship win at Ballybofey eight years ago.

"We'll certainly not be looking past Antrim. We'll not be getting ahead of ourselves," added the Kilcar man.

Jason McGee (right) battles with Kerry's David Moran in the Division One league game in February
Jason McGee (right) was among the Donegal new boys who impressed during this year's league

New blood invigorates Donegal

After the retirements of experienced campaigners such as Eamon McGee, Neil Gallagher, Colm McFadden, Rory Kavanagh, Christy Toye plus the decisions of Odhran MacNiallais, Leo McLoone and Anthony Thompson to opt out in 2017, many expected a season of transition and struggle for Donegal.

However, instead Donegal appeared to be invigorated by the arrival of young talents such as Jason McGee, Michael Langan, Ciaran Gillespie, Eoghan Ban Gallagher and Jamie Brennan during the league campaign.

The youngsters had all achieved underage successes with the county and McHugh says their "winning mentality" has boosted the squad.

"They have won at under-21s and minors with Donegal and they are just great young lads who know what it takes to win.

"There were a lot of changes in the squad but the lads who have come in have been a complete breath of fresh air.

"They are extremely talented lads but they also work hard. They have done everything that has been asked of them and are really stepping up for Donegal."

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