ATK Mohun Bagan midfielder Carl McHugh was overwhelmed with the reception received from the club’s fans in Kolkata after they clinched the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) title.

McHugh, having previously won the Hero ISL title with ATK FC during the Hero ISL 2019-20 season, won his second Hero ISL title with ATK Mohun Bagan in March. The Mariners beat Bengaluru FC in a nerve-wracking penalty shootout to be crowned Hero ISL winners.

Upon landing at the airport in Kolkata, ATK Mohun Bagan were greeted with a massive cheer from their passionate supporters. Thousands of fans turned up on the streets of Kolkata to celebrate the wins. Many supporters even surrounded the team bus on the way to their hotel. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee later visited the Mohun Bagan tent and felicitated the players and head coach Juan Ferrando, while announcing an incentive of Rs 50 lakh for their win.

McHugh described the scenes in Kolkata as ‘completely crazy’ and knew what winning the Hero ISL meant to the club’s supporters.

“It’s massive this win, it means everything to the club. You look around at the supporters, the local players and even the owners here, they’ve taken so much from this. The scenes when we arrived back at the airport, they were completely crazy,” the Irishman was quoted as saying in an interview by Donegallive.

He added: “We’d a brilliant night of celebrating after the final in Goa. But the homecoming, it went to another level. It took us hours to get through the airport alone.

“But seeing how much happiness it brought to so many people on the streets, it hit home just what it means to them."

ATK Mohun Bagan finished third in the league standings. On their way to the Hero ISL final, they got the better of Odisha FC in a one-legged knockout fixture and then beat Hyderabad FC on penalties after both sides played out a goalless draw over two semi-final legs.

They won their last two league fixtures against Kerala Blasters FC and the Kolkata Derby against East Bengal, but prior to that, the Mariners had only recorded two wins across nine matches. McHugh was pleased with the way his side ended the season despite these results.

“It came together nicely for us in the end,” McHugh revealed. “We’d a bad run coming into the play-offs. We were 1-0 down against Kerala (Blasters FC) - a game we needed to win to even make the play-offs but we pulled it around.

“It was such a great end to the season. It was a really tough campaign but we got our reward in the end,” he added.

McHugh has now spent four seasons in India, having played 66 matches in the Hero ISL. The midfielder earlier plied his trade for Motherwell FC before his move to India. One of the most experienced players in India, McHugh believes the perception of the league has changed for foreign players.

“When the league started you'd have players of a certain age profile, mid to late thirties, coming over,” revealed McHugh.

He added: “But you’ve players now coming from the big leagues in Europe in their late twenties to early thirties.

“Lads that have been in La Liga or top tiers in other countries, they are looking at the (Hero) ISL now as a real option. It will continue to go from strength to strength. I’m certainly enjoying my experience here.”