2012 All-Ireland champions Donegal face their stiffest challenge yet on Friday-week, November 23rd - when the Sam Maguire winners cross the sporting codes for a game with a difference!
"The Battle of the Hills" sees the Donegal squad take on a Finn Harps select in what is sure to be a game of two halves - with one half seeing the teams play soccer and the other seeing them play Gaelic football. Proceeds from the game will be divided between the Donegal Senior Team Training Fund and the Kevin McHugh Testimonial Year.
Keeping law and order on the game will be two well-known local referees, soccer official Stephen Toner and GAA referee Kieran McShea.
The game is part of the testimonial year of Finn Harps captain Kevin McHugh. The Killea man has scored a total of 161 goals in all competitions for Finn Harps in 334 appearances. He has scored 142 League goals and is second only to the great Brendan Bradley (241) when it comes to finding the net for Harps. In total, McHugh has scored 155 League goals in total - including 13 during his spell at Derry City - putting him in ninth position in the all-time League of Ireland list and is just seven goals away from a place in the top five.
Kevin is delighted that Jim McGuinness's All-Ireland winners have agreed to the game - and is looking forward to the challenge of pitting his wits against the Donegal stars, including his colleague in the Donegal County Council, Neil Gallagher.
“I suppose it’s not a bad time to be playing in my first Gaelic football match – against the All-Ireland champions,” quipped McHugh.
“The Donegal boys had an unreal year. The joy they brought to the county was something else and you had to admire the level of preparation and professionalism they had.
“I’m delighted that the boys from the Donegal team have got in behind this occasion. It should be a great night and it’ll be a bit of craic for sure. Hopefully a big crowd will turn out because it’s a novel event.
“I’m very grateful to Finn Harps FC for granting me a testimonial this year. I have spent my most enjoyable years in football at Harps and had some absolutely wonderful nights playing with the club.
“I’ve played with some fantastic players too over the years. The club have been very generous in giving me a testimonial.”
Donegal captain Michael Murphy will, for one half only, try his hand with the ball at his feet rather than in his hands - and the All-Star full-forward is looking forward to the occasion.
"People like to see things like this, out of the norm events that can really take off. With us Gaelic footballers trying to play soccer and the soccer players trying to play Gaelic football, it'll be quite the novelty," Murphy said.
Murphy has recognised McHugh's contribution to sport in Donegal since making his debut for Harps in 1998.
The Donegal skipper said: "It's a fantastic occasion for Kevin.
"I got to know him during the summer and met him on a couple of golf courses here and there.
"Kevin has been a fantastic servant to Finn Harps down the years and a fantastic servant to soccer in Donegal, too. Whenever you've heard about Finn Harps over the last ten years and more, Kevin McHugh's is always the name you associate with them. You just can't underestimate what Kevin has been achieving and his record as a goalscorer is phenomenal.
"He's a fantastic sportsman and it's fitting that we as All-Ireland champions can help him out in his testimonial year."
And Murphy believes that some of his team-mates could surprise the Harps men on the night: "Eamon McGee has been quite prolific with Gweedore Celtic there and big Neil Gallagher has quite a record with Kilmacrennan Celtic too!"
Donegal goalkeepers Paul Durcan and Michael Boyle both spent some time on the books at Finn Park, while forward Patrick McBrearty and defender Frank McGlynn have turned out for Harps underage teams in the past.
A limited edition souvenir Testimonial Programme has also been produced to mark the occassion. The 32 Page programme will be on sale at the game, priced at only €3 and is packed with content, including an exclusive in-depth interview with Kevin McHugh, contributions from former managers and team-mates and loads of images from Kevin's Harps career.
Tickets for the game go on sale this Friday, November 16th: Adult terrace tickets - €10; Children's terrace tickets - €5. A list of outlets and ticketing arrangements will be confirmed later in the week, while the squad lists will also be finalised in the coming days.
Please see www.finnharps.com for further details