Photo by L McNally
He knows that when he takes the field on Sunday
in Breffni Park his extended family members will
be there in the crowd supporting him and supporting
the rest of the Down players.
There is no premium that can be placed as far
as the Down scoring sensation is concerned, on
having that kind of support.
And he wants as many Down supporters as possible
to come out on Sunday and make the long trek to
the heartland of Cavan football.
"We know it will be tough on Sunday. And we know
that there is a long journey involved. But the
support of the Down fans in Casement was magnificent.
They never lost faith in us as a team and if they
come out in numbers, as they always do, it will
help the entire Down football family."
It was those family values and the fundamentals
of family life instilled into the Down corner
forward that helped him focus on developing his
He has a commitment, total and absolute, to family
and friends and community and team. It means a
lot to Daniel Hughes.
Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that
it means everything to the Down corner forward.
One of the basic formulas of life is that that
the more you work at things, the more energy you
channel into your objectives, the more things
eventually slot into place.
The 22-year-old accountancy student has had to
work hard at being able to place himself in a
position to achieve his goal.
But he always knew what his objectives were. As
a little toddler growing up in and around the
town land of Saval outside Newry Daniel Hughes
made his mark on his community.
He was a well-known figure. Football even then
was an all-consuming passion. Clutching his father's
hand he knew the answers to questions that were
of crucial importance in a football mad community.
"Who do you support? Who are you going to play
for?" The answers were always the same. The team
was always the same from the little three-year
But there were times when he went through Primary
School and then the Abbey CBS in Newry when it
needed all the reserves of resolve that resonated
through every fibre of Daniel Hughes' body.
"As a youngster I was very small. I was tiny in
fact. It didn't matter too much when I was at
Primary school but the more I went up through
the ranks at the Abbey the difference in physique
made a huge difference.
"You were playing against lads that had the strength
of big men. Of course you felt it when you were
always the smallest player, the one that the opposition
thought they could knock about.
"It was worse when it got to the Minors. I knew
that before I even went out on the pitch for a
trial run out that I wasn't going to count.
"It wasn't a matter of skill or application. It
was just that I looked so frail."
A stint of just ten minutes in a single trial
game was the sum total of the involvement by Hughes
with the Down Minors.
That team, back boned by Benny Coulter and Mickey
Walsh went on to contest and win Ulster as well
as All Ireland honours.
As that squad evolved into a Croke Park unit all
the Saval player could do was watch and wonder
at what might have been. It was, he admits, "depressing
But it was the encouragement that came from his
parents, Gerard and Imelda and his brothers, Jonny
and Gareth that helped him going.
And additional advice from his Uncle, Peter Trainor,
full forward in the Armagh team that won Ulster
honours back in 1977, also played a considerable
part in keeping the young Saval player firmly
focussed on the bigger football frame.
"They helped me believe that I would eventually
get my chance.
"Not making the Minors did hurt. Looking back
however it just made me stronger. It could have
made or broken me.
"I am not saying I am anywhere near making it
but I can say that those setbacks never came close
to breaking me."
Between 19 and 20 a late surge in growth helped
the corner put on the extra inches and muscle
to be a challenger for a county place.
Again however there were other sets back that
had to be overcome before the resilience of Daniel
Hughes was rewarded.
A leg injury 18 months ago in the Down Intermediate
Football final ruled him out of football for three
Again however the ability to take positives from
a negative underlined the character that is central
"In many ways it was the best thing that happened
to me. It let me work away on the weights in the
gym and build up my body strength."
It was that kind of single-minded determination,
linked to his blistering pace and instinctive
finishing which made Paddy O'Rourke draft Hughes
into the Down squad at the start of last season.
The experience of being part of the Down set-up
has not restricted the way in which Hughes' plays
his free flowing game.
"The manager and the coaches, as well as the senior
players, give us every encouragement to express
"They want us to play attractive and attack minded
There are certain styles of play and there are
certain kinds of player that can be immediately
classified as being of a certain heritage.
When Daniel Hughes responds to a question about
how nervous he might be about facing Cavan in
the first round replay of the Ulster Championship,
his response sums up the special pedigree that
comes with package that is Down football.
It was that pedigree that helped Hughes set Casement
Park alight with a performance that was electrifying
as it was elegant in the construction and collection
of four magnificent points from play in the drawn
It is neither arrogant nor dismissive or remotely
disrespectful to the opposition that will be provided
by Cavan on Sunday afternoon.
"Why should I be nervous? I am playing for Down.
We have been coached and prepared for this game
over many weeks and months.
"We know what we are capable of doing as a team.
"The one thing I have learned in my short time
with Down is that you always respect the opposition.
"But you make sure that they are nervous about
Winning football games is as much about the values
of positive mental attitude as physical power.
And in Daniel Hughes Down has a player that brings
a value-added dimension to the product of championship
It is a quality that can never be quantified in
either height inches or weight poundage, but only
through heart size.