Donegal will be 111 inhabitants short on Sunday, when the family and friends of local lad Carl McHugh will decamp to Wembley to cheer on the Bradford City defender as he looks to help cause a major shock in the Capital One Cup Final.
The 20-year-old Irishman will top a remarkable turnaround in his fortunes when he turns out for the npower League 2 club against Premier League Swansea City just nine months after being in danger of ending up on the football scrapheap following his release from his his first club Reading.
And the Donegal McHugh fan club will be as delighted as any Bradford supporter if McHugh can celebrate his return from the brink by keeping quiet the likes of Swansea’s star striker Michu to earn himself a winners medal.
“It was a really tough time for me when Reading let me go,” McHugh told football-league.co.uk. “Fortunately I had good people around me, family and friends, who kept me motivated and I kept hoping I’d get a chance somewhere.
“Thankfully Bradford gave me that chance and it’s worked out really well, although I never thought I might be playing at Wembley just a few months after signing for the club – in that sense it’s crazy how things have gone.
“Now I’ve got 111 people coming over from home to watch me play at Wembley and it’s going to be a great occasion for all of them, and hopefully for Bradford City too – I’m just grateful I didn’t have to pay for 111 tickets.”
Sunday will not be the first Wembley occasion for McHugh, who as a trainee with Reading was at the national stadium as a spectator on the day that the Royals went down 4-1 to Swansea in the Championship Play-Off Final.
Now he has the chance claim a sliver of revenge on the Swans as he looks to play his part in what would truly be a fairy tale victory for the Bantams.
He has already proved that he can cope with Premier League strikers having been part of the Bradford team that in successive rounds knocked out Wigan Athletic, Arsenal and Aston Villa, memorably scoring one of the goals against Villa in the 3-1 win at Valley Parade in the first leg of the semi-final.
Sunday will see McHugh face up to Spaniard Michu, who has lit up the Premier League with his clever play and goals this season and who has certainly impressed the young Bradford defender himself.
“Michu’s done brilliantly and scored lots of goals,” said the Republic of Ireland Under-21 international. “I’ve watched him on Match of the Day and he’s a really good player, but he’s not the only one that Swansea have got and with the brand of football they play they’ve got dangerous players all over the pitch.
“Playing against those top players is a massive test, both personally and as a team. You have to learn very quickly – if you switch off for a second they’ll punish you, so we’ll have to be totally focused for 90 minutes at Wembley.
“But it’s going to be an occasion to be enjoyed and we’ll certainly aim to do that. It’s massive for any team to get to a major Cup final, but it’s even bigger if you’re a League 2 team. The whole of our club deserves this big day, though.
“We’ve had our bits of luck on the way to the final and we’ll need that again against Swansea – it’s going to take them having a bit of an off day and us being right at the top of our game for us to win. But it’s Wembley, it’s a one-off game, a big cup final, and you never know what might happen.”