Hugo Duggan inducted into Athletics Hall of Fame
By Harry Walsh
HUGO Duggan became the first Donegal athlete to win a National title when he claimed long jump gold more than fifty years ago. The Milford man went on to become one of Ireland’s best ever sprinters and long jumpers.
In 1967 Hugo recorded the second longest jump by an Irish man and still holds the Ulster and Donegal record for long jump at 24 foot, two and a half centimetres.
Hugo, who won a total of seven national senior long jump titles and a world masters in Melbourne in 1987, was inducted into the Donegal Athletics Hall Of Fame at the annual County Board dinner at the Finn Valley Centre on Saturday evening last.
Born in October 1946, he joined Cranford AC in 1964 and as a member of the FCA he won a series of Defence Forces Championships, four-in-a-row long jump titles from 1966-69 and a 100m crown in ’66 – a double which also saw him secure the General Richard Mulcahy trophy for best overall athlete that year.
Duggan won the National Senior Long Jump titles seven times, in ’67 with Cranford; in 1970, ’71, ’72, ’74 with Clonliffe; in 1980 with Lifford and in 1984 for Finn Valley AC.
He was a senior silver medallist in 1969, 1973, 1976 and 1988 in the long jump and in 1969 he was the bronze medallist in the triple jump. He also finished second in the long jump at the inaugural Indoor Championships in 1988.
A regular international competitor, Hugo won 16 full Irish vests and his list of achievements also include World, Australian, British and European medals.
Speakng to the Donegal News this week, Hugo recalled his three years in Dublin – in a bid to maximise his athletics talent – training with Finn Valley before starting a night’s work and, more recently representing Ulster in fly-fishing events. A talented sportsman, Hugo also played soccer.
“I didn’t do too bad I suppose,” he laughed.
Married to Brid, the couple have eight children Stephen (Germany), Alan (Australia), Maria Duffy (Letterkenny), James (Waterford), Hugo jnr (Downings), Joanne Gallagher (MIlford), Karol (New Mills) and Breege Mulhern (Gortahork) and 19 grandchildren.
Hugo spent most of his working life as a driver with the Milford Bakery. For a long time he used to drive from Milford to Ballyshannon and back before his route took him to Dublin, Belfast and back.
“It was in the middle of The Troubles and there were no mobile phones and my family didn’t hear from me until I got back home again in the morning,” he said.
A life-long friend of Paddy Marley, Irish athletics manager at the Barcelona Olympics, the pair were active within their own school sports as well as participating in the Cranford Sports.
“When Cranford AC was formed in 1961 Paddy and myself got involved. We were the only club in Donegal at that time but we were lucky in that Oakleaf Club in Derry were very good to us and were only too happy to explain how things worked,” he said.
Hugo won his first Irish vest in 1967 but only after Cyril O’Regan from Waterford pulled out.
“I won the Long Jump trial but it was Cyril – who later became a good friend – was selected and I was named as first sub as we didn’t have anyone fighting our corner at national level in those days,” he said.
It was a Europa Cup match and would be the first of 16 full international bests won by Hugo.
“The long jump is a very technical event but I was lucky that the Guard in Milford at that time was John Kilmartin who was Connacht high and long jump champion. On his day off he used to take me to Rathmullan beach and dif a pit for me to jump into. I learned more about the sport from him than probably anyone else,” he said.
Together with Paddy Marley and the McDaid brothers, Danny and Frankie, Hugo went to Dublin at the end of 1967 and joined Clonliffe Harriers.
“The first day I arrived at the track there were three or four sprinters and jumpers but we had no-one to train us. I was living in Raheny and was friendly with a lad who was a member of the local Shamrocks club so I did my training with them,” he said.
It was around that time that Hugo set the Donegal and Ulster record – jumping 24ft 2.5 centimetres (7.39metres) at the 1967 Emyvale Open Sports.
“Down through the years I tried to concentrate on the 100m, 200m and long jump. On occasion I also did the triple jump and high jump but I was not as good at them,” he said.
The sport of athletics bought Hugo to all corners of the globe down through the years, while it has also led to many friendships.
“When I joined Finn Valley I was driving during the night so I would stop off en route and train with them two nights a week before having a cup of tea in Patsy’s house (Patsy McGonagle) and heading on my way,” he said.
At that stage, Hugo was a ‘veteran’ but he continued to more than hold his own at senior level, winning vital National League points along the way for Finn Valley.
“It kept me going and I was in good form. After winning the World Masters title in Australia (1987) I took part in the first ever National Indoor Championships the following Spring where I finished second.
“I won the first ever outdoor title in 1967 and twenty one years later, I was winning silver at the first ever National Indoor Championships which, even if I say so myself, wasn’t bad going,” he smiled.
At that same time, Hugo formed Milford AC as a juvenlie only club in 1987.
“I trained kids there for twenty years or so before stepping back in 2007,” he explained.
During that time Hugo also played his part in setting up the Park Development in Milford – a unique paertship between the local soccer, GAA and athletic clubs.
“A lot of people said it couldn’t be done but here we are all those years later and they’re all getting on great,” he said.
Today, he’s kept busy working for the local Angling Club who have bought a premises and are currently in the process of trying to get it paid for.
“At the end of the day the club will always be there for the community. We’re just custodians who are passing through,” he said.