Hugo Duggan - Jump King of Donegal - inducted into Hall of Fame

Hugo Duggan - Jump King of Donegal - inducted into Hall of Fame
Tom Comack sport@donegaldemocrat.com @dgldemocrat

Donegal has produced many great athletes down the years, household names from national champions to double Olympians.

But one man stands apart from them all and that man is Hugo Duggan from Milford.

Hugo is a seven time national long jump champion and was one the leading long jumper in Ireland for the best part of two decades.

No other Donegal athlete has come close to matching his seven national titles

Hugo, who turned 70 last October, is also the proud holder of a World Masters long jump championship medal.

And he also holds another unique record not only in Donegal but nationally. He won national titles in the colours of four clubs, Cranford, Clonliffe Harriers, Finn Valley and Lifford.

“Hugo has been the most successful Donegal athlete in the history of Donegal athletics," said Patsy McGonagle, a club colleague with Hugo, both in Cranford and Finn Valley athletic clubs.

"It was a great tribute to him that he was able to compete at the highest level and on the national stage coming from Donegal.

"A testament to how good he was is that he still holds the long jump record he set back in 1967,” added the four time Irish Olympic Athletics manager.

It all began in the early 1960s for Hugo when he joined Cranford Athletic Club, the only athletic club in Donegal at the time.

He won his first Irish title in 1965, the Irish Junior long jump title, two years after he and Paddy Marley, also from Milford, had joined Cranford.

Hugo won the first of his National titles in 1967, in the first year of the new athletic association.

Those other championship winning years were 1970, '71, '72, '74, '80 and '84 and he was runner-up in '69, '73, '76 and '88. He was also a bronze medal winner in the triple jump in 1969.

"I had a great career in athletics and brilliant memories. I have great memories and made great friends down the years with Cranford, Clonliffe, Finn Valley and Lifford," said Hugo, who was also a talented soccer player.

He played with Fern United in the Donegal Junior League and also guested with Fanad United, Swilly Rovers and Downings in Summer Cups all around Donegal.

The highlight of his career was the World Masters Championship in Australia in 1987.

Hugo is very thankful to the people of Milford and Patsy McGonagle and Finn Valley, without whom, he insists, it would have been impossible for him to achieve his great successes.

"At the time I was married and the father of eight children and there was no way I could have afforded to go to the Worlds,” explained Hugo.

"The Worlds were in Australia, and it meant I was going to have to take four weeks off work and there was no way I could afford the cost.

"But Patsy McGonagle insisted that I had to go and Finn Valley contributed and the locals in Milford organised a few events and fundraisers and I got to go to Australia.

WORLDS IN MELBOURNE

The worlds were in Melbourne and I won and a week later I won the Australian Masters in Hobart, Tasmania, in what was one of my best ever performances.

"I won (Australian Masters) with a jump of 6.78 metres in what was the first Australian Masters.

"The Worlds was one of my greatest achievements and we had a big celebration when I came home.

"The celebrations were in the Milford Inn and we had a brilliant night it was as if everybody there that night felt they were part of it.

"And they were, because they had contributed; because only for them and Patsy McGonagle and all at Finn Valley I would not have been able to go to Australia to compete in the Worlds.

"I also owe a lot to my wife, Brid, who was left at home on her own for four weeks with eight children to look after. Brid was very supportive right through my career."

Hugo's relationship with Patsy McGonagle goes back to their time as club colleagues with Cranford and from Hugo's time as a member of Finn Valley.

"The reason I joined (Finn Valley) was because I was working for the Milford Bakery at the time. And as well as the bakery in Milford they also had one in Ballyshannon and I used to deliver bread to Ballyshannon and a number of agents in the Donegal Town area.

"My shift used to start at 7 in the evening and on my way to Ballyshannon, I used to stop off in Finn Valley, on my break, on my way through Stranorlar and train with Finn Valley.

"I did that twice a week on a Tuesday and a Thursday for years.

Before Finn Valley, Hugo was also a member of Clonliffe Harriers in Dublin, one the top athletic clubs in Ireland at the time.

“Danny and Frankie McDaid, Paddy Marley and myself, we all moved to Dublin to work at the same time and to join Clonliffe.

“Clonliffe was a big club and we all joined it because it offered better facilities and coaches.

“However, I found out they had no facilities for jumping and no coaches. I remember the first evening I went training all the runners followed me to watch me train.”

Hugo lived in Raheny and worked on the buildings during the day and though he continued to run in the colours of Clonliffe, he trained with Raheny Shamrocks.

His years with Clonliffe were his most successful on the national stage; he won four of his national titles.

He joined Lifford AC on his return from Dublin because the club had a running track, the first club in the county to have one.

In a career of many firsts he can also boast of a British Masters long jump championship from 1987, setting a new British Master record.

He is the holder number of Irish Defence Forces championships - he was a member of the 24th Battalion of the FCA - and was winner of the highly coveted General Mulcahy Memorial trophy for best overall athlete in the defence forces.

His Donegal long jump record of 24 feet and 21/2 (7.39 metres) which he set at the Ulster Athletics final in Emyvale, Monaghan, in 1967, still stands to this day.

On his retirement he coached for many years at Milford Athletic Club, the club he was one of the founding fathers of, before stepping back to take a back seat at the club since 2007.

Hugo was inducted into Donegal Athletics Hall of Fame at the Donegal Athletics annual awards in the Finn Valley Centre on Saturday night.

See pages 26 and 27 for full coverage of night.