25 October 2009

Sammy Hughes

The 1949/50 season was full of landmarks for the Irish League. It saw Crusader’s debut in senior football, and Belfast Celtic depart; it brought football back to the Oval for the first time since it had been destroyed in 1941; and it found Sammy Hughes marking his arrival on the big stage...

Name: Samuel Hughes
Born: Ballymena
Died: 28 April 2011 (age 85)
Height: 5.09½ ft
Weight: 11.00 st
Position: Centre-Forward

Representative Honours: Ireland: Junior Caps; Irish FA Representative (1953); Irish League: 8 Caps / 5 Goals (1950-1954); Intermediate League representative.
Club Honours: (with Larne) Steel & Sons Cup Runner-Up 1947/48; (with Glentoran) Irish League Champion 1950/51, 1952/53; Irish Cup Winner 1950/51, Runner-Up 1951/52, 1953/54, 1955/56; Gold Cup Winner 1951/52, City Cup Winner 1950/51, 1952/53, 1956/57; Ulster Cup Winner 1950/51, 1952/53; Co. Antrim Shield Winner 1949/50, 1951/52, 1956/57; (with Carrick) Irish League ‘B’ Division Champion 1961/62; Steel & Sons Cup Winner 1961/62.
Awards: Ulster Footballer of the Year 1953.

Club Career:
Teams
Seasons
Signed
Fee
League
FA Cup
Other
Cliftonville
-
-
Youth
0/  0
-
-
Larne
-
-
-
(Intermediate)
Ballyclare Comrades
-
-
-
(Intermediate)
Gallahers
-
-
-
-
-
-
Linfield
-
-
-
-
-
-
Larne
-
-
-
(Intermediate League)
Glentoran
49/50-58/59
Nov-49
£500
*378/297
-
-
Larne
-
-
-
(Irish League B Division)
Carrick Rangers
-
-
-
(Irish League B Division)
TOTALS
-
£-
-
-
-
* all games.

Biography:
Sammy Hughes, a native of Harryville just outside Ballymena, had found his footballing feet with the Life Boys and Boys’ Brigade in his hometown, before signing with Cliftonville Olympic at the age of 14½. He spent the next few years playing Intermediate football with a number of teams, including for Linfield Swifts. He did make the first eleven at Windsor, scoring twice in an Irish Cup tie against Belfast Celtic, but left disillusioned, to sign for Larne. Impressed by his performances at Inver Park, Kilmarnock manager Alex Hastings travelled across the Irish Sea to obtain Hughes’ signature. Hastings left disappointed, without even talking to his target, under the impression that he had already signed for Glentoran.

As a matter of fact it would be two weeks after Hastings’ visit to these shores that Hughes completed his £500 move to Glentoran. The Glens were in dire need of a reliable goalscorer and manager Frank Grice had put in much leg-work to claim the young centre-forward’s signature. Grice handed Hughes an immediate debut in the season’s opening Irish League match against Glenavon - Hughes didn’t disappoint, scoring a brace in a 3-1 victory. By the end of the 1949/50 season he had taken his tally to 28 goals in 25 games as Glentoran finished level on points with Linfield in the Irish League, but with superior goals scored and goal difference. League rules however stipulated that a test match would decide the champion and Linfield came out on top, 2-0 winners at Solitude. Three days after the play-off match Glentoran met Linfield again at the same venue for the Co. Antrim Shield final, and by way of revenge, the scoreline was reversed – Hughes had his first senior medal.

The following season things just got better and better for Hughes. The Glentoran fans had taken him to their hearts, his skills talked of in song. 46 Hughes goals, half of them in the League, helped Glentoran to a four trophy haul in 1950/51, he scored in the 2-1 Ulster Cup final win over Linfield and twice in the 3-1 win against Ballymena in the Irish Cup final – Hughes considered his performance in that win over Ballymena the finest in his career. The only real blip in Glentoran’s season came in the Gold Cup final where they lost 5-1 to Linfield. The 1951/52 season was a disappointing one at the Oval, they finished ten points off Irish League champions, Glenavon and ‘all’ they had to show for the season were the Gold Cup and Co. Antrim Shield, Hughes scoring twice in a 3-0 win over Brantwood in the final of the latter competition. Even Hughes’ goal tally of 29 was disappointing, by his previous high standards at least!

Undoubtedly the best season of Hughes’ career was 1952/53. He amassed 64 goals, a then post-war record, claimed winner’s medals in the League, City Cup and Ulster Cup and he became the first Glentoran player to the claim the Ulster Player of the Year award. The season ended with Hughes’ selection for the Irish FA squad which toured North America. On the tour Hughes further added to his season’s tally, scoring eleven of the Irish team’s 39 goals in eleven matches. In the final match, a 4-1 defeat by Swiss side Berne Young Boys, Hughes fractured his ankle in a challenge with their ‘keeper. If not for that injury, Hughes might have gone on to gain the caps bestowed on his brother, Billy.

Ruled out by the ankle injury for the opening months of the 1953/54 season, Hughes returned to the Glentoran side just in time for the start of the Irish League in November. He managed to find the net 30 times in 37 matches that season as the Glens finished a point behind Linfield in the title race and lost out in the Irish Cup Final to Derry City - a total of 93,285 people watched the three matches it took to decide the Final! Through the remainder of the 1950s successes were rare for Glentoran as they developed into a mid-table side. Hughes, now often featuring at inside-forward, maintained his impressive goalscoring rate, only once did his seasonal total fall below twenty. It again took three games to decide the 1956 Irish Cup Final, the trophy finally going to Distillery after 2-2, 1-1 and 0-1 results. The following season’s tables were turned on Distillery, as the Glens defeated them in both the City Cup decider and Co. Antrim Shield Final – Hughes marking each game with a goal.

With the Glentoran team much changed in his decade at the Oval, Hughes began to drop down the pecking order for a forward’s role. Trevor Thompson was now the Glens’ goal-king and with Hughes limited to just 17 appearances in the 1958/59 season (still amassing a credible eight goals) manager Tommy Briggs released both Hughes and another veteran forward, Sammy Lowry as he attempted to build a team for the ‘sixties - even a petition organised by the fans couldn’t keep Hughes at the Oval. On his departure a scribe of the day answered speculation on the best Irish League forward since World War II: "There can only be one answer - Sammy Hughes." He still ranks third in Glentoran’s all-time goalscorers list only bettered by Fred Roberts and Thompson.

After leaving Glentoran Hughes returned to Larne for a third spell and in December 1961 he scored the winner for Carrick Rangers in the Steel Cup Final win over Ballymena United Reserves. Later he managed Carrick and Larne Tech Old Boys before drifting away from football.

Irish FA Representative Appearance Details:
13-09-1950 British Army ......... H D 0-0
18-05-1953 Hamilton & District FA A W 4-1 1 goal
20-05-1953 Ontario FA ........... A W 2-0 1 goal
23-05-1953 Manitoba FA .......... A W 2-0 1 goal
30-05-1953 British Colombia FA .. A W 3-1 1 goal
02-06-1953 Victoria FA .......... A W 5-1 2 goals
06-06-1953 British Columbia FA .. A L 2-3 1 goal
08-06-1953 Alberta FA ........... A W 9-1 4 goals
13-06-1953 Liverpool FC ......... N L 1-3 
17-06-1953 SC Young Boys ........ N L 1-4

Summary: 10/11. Won 6, Drew 1, Lost 3.

Irish league Representative Appearances:

1 comment:

Jack Son said...

Sammy hughes was aneighbour of mine in the sixties in larne. I played head tennis with him, his son also Sammy was a good friend. Sorry to hear of his passing he was a gentleman.

son of jack

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