Dundalk FC Announce McHugh Loan Signing
Dundalk FC have on Monday signed Carl McHugh on loan from English Championship club Reading, in a deal which will see the 18-year-old defender remain at Oriel Park until the end of the current season. McHugh, who can play at centre-half or left-back, follows in the footsteps of Michael Hector, who returned to The Royals last month due to injury, and Dundalk manager Ian Foster has expressed his “delight” at capturing the Republic of Ireland U19 international.
The youngster (born: 5 February 1993), from Lettermacaward in County Donegal, has been at Reading since 2009 when he joined the club’s academy on a three-year scholarship, and this summer he was rewarded with a one-year professional contract. He previously played for Dungloe Town and has captained Ireland at U16 and U17 level, while he was part of the U19 squad that qualified for the upcoming UEFA European U19 Championship finals. He is currently on standby for the finals squad which was announced last Tuesday for the tournament which will take place in Bucharest, Romania from 20 July to 1 August.
McHugh, who has played with Stephen McDonnell in the Irish setup, was at the Saint Patrick’s Athletic game on Sunday after meeting up with his new teammates earlier in the day. And, after putting pen to paper at Oriel Park on Monday morning, he will make his debut for the club in the A-Championship on Tuesday night when Dundalk Reserves host Sligo Rovers. Having returned to pre-season training last week, it will be his second piece of action in the space of four days having played the second half with Reading against Eastleigh in a friendly on Saturday afternoon.
Ticks the boxes
“I know, having seen Carl, that he is very competitive,” Foster told dundalkfc.com. “He can play left-side centre-half and left-back. He plays on the front foot, he can handle the ball, he is a very intelligent young individual and we’re delighted that Reading have allowed him to come here. He is on standby for the U19 tournament, and we know that we have got ourselves a decent young player here. That’s what we are trying to do, to bring young players in to help their development. We hope that we help them and that they help us. That’s what we are trying to do and Carl ticks all the boxes with regards to how we play and how we train. He has a wonderful attitude and he is desperate to progress, and he knows that this move will help his career.”
Foster recently completed his UEFA Pro-Licence course alongside Reading boss Brian McDermott, and he is hopeful that the clubs have now struck a relationship which will see more young players gain experience in the League of Ireland. “I would like to think we are trying to,” he said. “I know the manager, Brian McDermott, very well. He has been really, really accommodating, as have the football club. I would like to thank Brian for his time and his patience, allowing these youngsters to come here. In fairness to Brian, he probably knows this league as well as anybody over in England. He has done his homework in this league for years and years and years, and you can see that from the players that he has brought to Reading as Chief Scout and as manager as well. We’re delighted that Carl has come to join us and hopefully he can make a huge impact on us between now and the end of the season.”
McHugh increases Foster’s squad to 18, now eight of which are 20 or under, with another four 23 or under, but the manager is pleased with the blend of experience and inexperience within the squad. “We have got a lot of experience through the centre of the pitch with Peter Cherrie, Colin Hawkins, Dean Bennett and Jason Byrne when those boys are on the pitch,” Ian said. “And then what we try to do is surround those players with young, hungry talents. We have got experience mixed with inexperience, but that inexperience is full of potential. The likes of Mark Quigley, Ross Gaynor, Simon Madden, Greg Bolger and Stephen Maher – they have all got huge experience now in the League of Ireland. The younger lads that have come into the team have never let anybody down, your Stephen McDonnells, Nathan Murphys, Mark Griffins, all the teenagers that have come in.
“It is something that we are trying to do,” he added. “We take the time to try to develop young players. You need your experienced ones in there but as we all know the experienced ones don’t come cheap, so we try to get that right blend in and hopefully that’s what we’re doing.” When McHugh returns to Reading in November, he will be unable to go on loan to another English club until 1 January unless it is below National Conference level, something which Foster admits made the negotiations more difficult. “It was a difficult decision because there was an opportunity for Carl to go to Holland on a season-long loan,” he said. “But Brian has worked really hard for us in getting him here, and we really, really appreciate that. Carl has done his homework as well. He knows what we’re trying to achieve here with young players and he wants to be part of it.”
All deals are subject to FAI clearance.