July – always a high profile month in GAA circles. Action is lively right across the board in male and female football, hurling and camogie, at all levels, so it was not unnatural that there was a list of names up for debate when it came to choosing our Monthly Merit Award winner for last month.

After much consideration there was one player who came up trumps and ticked all necessary boxes. That player is Monaghan Senior Football doyen DARREN HUGHES.

“That’s quite a surprise,” said the Scotstown man (26) who was a major cog in the Farney fellows victory over Ulster and All-Ireland champions Donegal in the provincial final, at Clones.

“I’m sure there were many others worthy of the award, many of the Monaghan players included. However, I’m very thankful and pleased that I am the winner of the Merit Award. Our victory in the Ulster final was, of course, blighted a little by losing to Tyrone, in the All-Ireland quarter-finals last weekend, but this award is a big bonus, after that defeat”.

John Martin, Chairman of the Ulster GAA Writers Association presents the July Monthlky Award to Darren Hughes, Monaghan.   Pic: Peadar McMahon

Darren Hughes with his Belleek Vase, part of his prize as the Monthly winner.
Pic: Peadar McMahon

Darren with members of the UGAAWA - John Campbell, John Martin, John Graham, Philip Fitzpatrick and Gerry McLoughlin.
Pic: Peadar McMahon

Darren is congratulated by tow of the Monaghan embers of the UGAAWA - John Graham and Philip Fitzpatrick.
Pic: Peadar McMahon

“Winning the Ulster Championship means we have something to show for the season and, of course, we also gained promotion in the National Leagues so 2013 has been a good year. Our Ulster final victory is only beginning to sink in now as, after the win, we were immediately preparing for the All-Ireland quarter-final and had no time for celebrations.”

It is the second time that Darren won our monthly award. He was also the winner for February last year after a number of great performances with both Ulster, which he captained to victory, and Monaghan.

From his spot at No.7 in the Ulster final, last month, he stormed forward to send his team a point up in the opening minutes. It was a platform that the Oriel men climbed on to with gusto and, with their model defender showing excellent leadership, they closed a yawning gap of 25 years in the title race.

At a reception in Paudge Quinn’s Corner, Darren Hughes received his award of an engraved Belleek Living Vase, engraved silver cuff links from Omeath jeweller Garrett Mallon, training gear from O’Neill’s International Sports and a sports voucher from the UGAAWA. He will also receive two tickets and overnight accommodation for the UGAAWA banquet next November.