SSE Airtricity U15 League reaches semi-final stage
McHugh's Harps side have enjoyed a dominant campaign in the inaugural season of the National Under-15 League despite losing their first game of the season to local rivals Sligo Rovers.
Harps remained unbeaten for the rest of the season, recording eight wins with one draw to finish top of Group One with 25 points, four ahead of rivals Rovers.
Harps continued their impressive form in the quarter-final stage when they recorded a dominant 5-0 win over Bohemians to set up a difficult semi-final tie against Athlone Town. Athlone have enjoyed an impressive campaign as well, finishing second in Group Two to set up a quarter-final tie against Waterford, in which they recorded a 1-0 victory.
The legendary Harps striker McHugh retired last year after more than 13 years with the Donegal outfit over two spells but took up the post as Under-15 manager. The 37-year old is delighted with the progress the side have made in their first season and has been impressed with the standard of the league.
McHugh said: "We've had a great season and everything past this point is bonus terrerity now. We lost our first game of the season and looking back on that, there's nothing like a good defeat to bring a team back down to earth.
"That was the best thing to happen to us. We've really gone on since then and the players have found new levels each week. I've gone on record about the Under-15 League before, it's the best thing to happen to these players. The standard has got better and better, and for the best players to be playing against each other each week is exactly what's needed.
"I would have been a bit dubious when the Under-13 league was first being mentioned but now I've seen the progress which the Under-15 league has brought about, I'm all for the next step and its only going to make the standard of football better up and down the country.
"I've been surprised by how much I've enjoyed the coaching to be honest. I took it on because after playing so many years in the league, I needed something to fill the void. It's been a great experience and hopefully we can keep it going tomorrow. Athlone will be a difficult side for us to play against, they've done really well so the players need to keep reaching new standards."
SSE Airtricity National Under-15 League Semi-Finals
18/11 - Finn Harps v Athlone Town, Bonagee, 5pm
19/11 - St. Patrick's Athletic v Bray Wanderers, 2pm