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Huge for McHugh

27 May 2016

CARL McHugh has already enjoyed plenty of footballing success, but the Irishman would consider a play-off final victory with Argyle as the the best moment of his career to date.

The 23-year-old and the rest of the Pilgrims are nearing the end of their preparations for the Sky Bet League 2 play-off final against AFC Wimbledon, after enjoying some well-earned time off before getting back into the swing of things on the training field.

"I think it's been brilliant," said Carl. "We had a few days off after the Portsmouth game to recharge the batteries, go home and see our families, which I think was very important.

"It has been a very long season and we haven't had many opportunities to do that, but since we've been back the training's been brilliant. Especially this week, it's been top notch - really intense, and that's the level we want to bring to the game on Monday.

"It was only a few days but it was nice to get home and see the family, see my grandparents, that sort of thing. But I was looking forward to coming back again, seeing the boys after what we had done the previous weekend, so it was coming back and getting back at it."

Carl will be making his third trip to Wembley, having gained invaluable experience from being a part of Bradford City's run to the League Cup final three years ago, before going back to win the League 2 play-off final against Northampton Town.

"What we learned from that was the second game, when we played in the play-off final," said McHugh. "The players obviously had the experience of playing at Wembley, whereas Northampton may've been a bit overawed with the occasion.

"We were ruthlessly efficient, and the game was won after 26 minutes - we were 3-0 up. That's what you want to relay to the players: how important it is just to play the game, and not get too overawed by the occasion."



Whilst Carl clearly takes pride in those moments at the Home of Football, he now has his sights set on what he believes will be an even greater achievement. After playing an integral part in making Argyle a promotion contender over the last two seasons, going through the highs and lows and developing his own talent, McHugh would place a win on Monday at the top of his footballing accolades.

"I think it'll be the biggest achievement of my career so far, for me personally," said Carl.

"Having played a big part over the two years I've been here, playing a lot of games and after the disappointment we had last season in the play-offs, and this season, not getting automatically promoted, and with the group of lads in there, I'd love to be successful with them. To be successful with this group would mean a massive amount to me.

"I think I've improved, definitely. With playing the games and training I think I've improved as a player, and obviously this season I've played a different position, which has added more to my game. I think I've developed as a player and a person since I've been here."

To achieve that, Argyle will have to overcome an AFC Wimbledon side with their own aspirations, motivations and match-winners - all aspects that the Greens are well aware of.

"We've got a massive respect for them - they beat us here on our home patch just a month or two ago," said McHugh. "It's a massive achievement, what they've done this year.

"They've kind of come on a really strong run towards the end of the season and fully deserve to be in the position that they are. They've got some really good players and threats, so we know it's going to be a really tough game. But if we're right and play to our potential on the day, I think we're fairly confident.

"It's been laid into us all week: you win the game and you enjoy it after you win the game. It's about winning a game of football. The whole season comes down to this."



One confirmed advantage for Argyle will be placed around the perimeter of the pitch, with the Green Army expected to outnumber the opposition's support by around two to one. Carl believes that you only need to look back as far as the semi-final against Portsmouth to see what kind of influence the fans can have.

"If you were here for the [Portsmouth] game you could see it was clearly evident," said McHugh. "From probably the 65th or 70th minute onwards, the lift that the fans gave the team. It gave us that belief, and even though we missed a few chances we kept going, and there was that belief in the stadium that we were going to get the winner.

"The supporters have been brilliant all season, and when you hear those figures going to Wembley; it's unbelievable for a League 2 final."


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