When Paddy Wallace suffered the misfortune of breaking his ankle in the game against Swansea, the supposition was that his place in the Ireland squad would go to the likes of Jereremy Staunton or
When Paddy Wallace suffered the misfortune of breaking his ankle playing for Ulster in the game against Swansea, the supposition was that his place in the Ireland squad would go to the likes of Munster’s Jeremy Staunton or Leinster Gordon D’Arcy with D’Arcy’s Leinster teammate Brian O/Meara also thought to be in the frame.
So there was some surprise when the Irish management named Mark McHugh as cover for the trip to Siberia.
The news of his elevation came a little over 24 hours after he had destroyed Leinster’s three year unbeaten home record with an injury time drop-goal in Donnybrook, a feat he had also carried out against Borders in Selkirk in the opening game of this year’s Celtic League.
But least anyone think that the twenty four old came from nowhere to national prominence it should be recalled that he has been capped at several internationals levels in the past.
He plays his club rugby with St Mary’s College and was out-half on the side that wrested the title from Munster club clutches for the first time, when they beat Lansdowne in May 2000. That year, McHugh was the leading points scorer (145pts) and scored a record 24 points in the game against Shannon.
He first won representative honours for Leinster at Youth (U18) level in 1996 and – as a member of Drogheda RFC – was a replacement on the International Youth side that season. The following year he captained the Irish Youth side in their wins against Wales (Anglesea Road) and Scotland (Stirling RFC) – with current international Shane Horgan alongside him.
In April 1999 he partnered Peter Stringer for the Ireland Under 21s in their victory over Italy at Ravenhill and later that year was on the U21 trip to Argentina.
Since then he has also won international caps at Student level.
A member of Leinster’s Heineken Cup squad for the 1998/99 season, he has since transferred his allegience to the western province, a change that impacted directly on his old province, Leinster, on Friday night last (13th Sept).
Whatever happens in Siberia on Saturday we’ll be hearing a lot about Mark McHugh during the coming season.