Hughes nets dream debut
A CERTAIN beer company don't do dream debuts, but if they did, they couldn't have scripted it better for teenager Mark Hughes, a man with a famous namesake who is the newest hero for the Bohemians faithful.
The 19-year-old striker came off the bench to make his league debut for Bohs 12 minutes from time in last night's league game at home to Drogheda United, and with the game deep into injury-time, Bohs were still tied at 0-0 by the league's bottom side.
But with the last touch of the game, Hughes got himself on the end of a cross from Paul Keegan and chested the ball past United keeper Steve Williams and over the line, giving Bohs a much-needed win that allows the champions to keep pace with league leaders Cork City and set up a mouth-watering top-two clash in Turner's Cross next Friday night.
And former Tolka Rovers man Hughes didn't even have a chance to celebrate his success and hero status last night -- he was in bed early and then at his desk in DCU today for an exam as part of his business degree.
"You always dream about what it would be like to score your first goal in senior football, but to score the winner, in such a big game was just amazing," said Hughes.
"The goal was really only my second touch in the game; I was just in the right place at the right time and got the goal. And it was such an important goal as well, with Cork winning again last night we needed the three points to stop them getting a lead in the table and we've set ourselves up nicely for the game in Cork next week.
"It's been a busy few days for me, I played and scored against Wexford in the League Cup on Tuesday, I made my league debut and scored the winner last night and I had an exam in DCU this morning," added Hughes.
The goal was a vital one for Bohs, as failure to win last night would have seen the Gypsies slip five points behind leaders Cork City ahead of the meeting of the two sides in Cork next weekend, and for so long Bohs fans thought it just wasn't going to be their night.
The home side had most of the possession, though home keeper Brian Murphy did have to pull off a superb save to deny United forward Shane Barrett on 19 minutes -- but Drogheda, with defenders Alan McNally and Conor Kenna in superb form, kept Bohs at bay.
Injury and suspension deprived Bohs of five senior players, which forced boss Pat Fenlon to include three youngsters on the subs bench, and though Ryan McAvoy and Hughes came off the bench for their league debuts, the night belonged to Hughes.
Four minutes into injury-time, Bohs were awarded a free-kick when Gavin Whelan fouled Jason Byrne. Paul Keegan knew it was the last throw of the dice, he fired the free-kick into the box and, luckily for the home side, Hughes connected and got the ball over the line with his chest.
"I don't think Drogheda deserved a point, we controlled the match, but we had to be patient," said Fenlon.
"We were nervous last night and that was to be expected after losing two games, but results like last night can change things around. We got a massive boost from that win. And seeing a young player like Mark score gives everyone a lift, it's great to see a young lad come on and score the winner on his debut.
"We have some young boys coming through and that's the way the club will go now, we don't have the money to go out and buy players, we have to try and produce them. We have a good network of scouts and we have to do that as we can't afford big wages any more.
"I actually heard about Mark from a Shamrock Rovers fan. The manager of Mark's team at Tolka Rovers is a Rovers supporter, he said Mark was decent, we had Mark and his twin brother at the club last year and now Mark has come through -- he's a goalscorer and a finisher," added Fenlon.
For Drogheda, there was the agony of being denied a point and the chance to extend their unbeaten run to three games, but United boss Alan Mathews had to admit that Drogheda had played a part in their own downfall: they finished the game with 10 men due to a straight red card for Paul Crowley for a challenge on Jason Byrne, and then set up the winning goal for Bohs by conceding a pointless free-kick with just seconds left on the clock.
"We conceded a needless free-kick and didn't defend it. With the work we put in, we deserved something out of the game but the game is never over until it's over," said Mathews.