This is the Galway football team that played Tyrone in the 1956 All-Ireland semifinal in Croke Park. They are, back row, left to right: Seán Purcell, Gerry Kirwan, Joe Young, Jack Kissane, Frank Evers, Mattie McDonagh, Tom McHugh, and Billy O’Neill. In front are Mick Greally, Tom ‘Pook’ Dillon, Sean Keely, Jack Mangan, Frank Stockwell, Jack Mahon, and Gerry Daly. The first score in the game was a brilliant point by Galway’s Tom McHugh. Galway won a thrilling close game that featured a high degree of sportsmanship, and went on to beat Cork in the final.
When Tom McHugh was growing up in Caherlistrane he played a lot of sport and it was touch and go whether he would play hurling or Gaelic football. His schooling at Tuam CBS decided that, he became a hurler and a footballer with football just about winning out. He became a regular on the Galway Senior team in the 1950s at right half forward or corner forward. He was an accurate, stylish player, forceful and resourceful with good hands and a deceptive swerve, often named as ‘The Man of the Match’. He featured regularly on the score sheet.
He was a forester by profession and his job took him to different locations around the country so he played for a number of different clubs. While in Wicklow, he won three senior county football titles with Ballinacor and one hurling title with Avondale, and he also hurled with Mountrath in Laois. He was on a Clonbur side that won the Galway County Junior title; he was on three county title winning senior football teams with Oughterard and he won a county medal in hurling with Liam Mellows. He won two Connacht titles with the Galway senior football team and his great ambition was to help them to an All Ireland. He achieved this in 1956, playing in all the games up to the semifinal against Tyrone but he was injured in that match, and though he made a partial recovery, he was unable to play in the final against Cork. He treasured his All Ireland medal.
For all his achievements on the playing pitch and in his professional life (he planted Maam ), he was, on a personal level, a quiet, modest, and gracious man, devoted to his family, the epitome of a gentleman. He passed away recently but he will be fondly remembered.
Solas na bFhlaitheas dá anam uasal.