Hughes, Eugene 'Nudie'
June 18, 1993
Eugene 'Nudie' Hughes
Part of Monaghan sporting folklore
The genesis of Eugene Hughes took place in the town of Castleblayney some 35 years ago. Born into a family of 14, he was to become one of Monaghan's greatest all-time sporting celebrities. However, Eugene's christian name just never stuck. "One out of every 200 people might call me Eugene - everybody else just knows me as Nudie."
Nudie Hughes is surely Monaghan's most acclaimed GAA export. In fact, he is quite simply a part of Monaghan folklore. Patrick Kavanagh, Barry McGuigan, 'Big Tom' McBride, Nudie Hughes. He slots into the list as comfortably as you'd expect Roy Keane to fit into an Irish jersey.
It was at the very tender age that Nudie first developed an interest in the game that was to make him famous. Raised in the York Street area of Castleblayney, a young Eugene Hughes was hooked on football by the age of five years old. Not even in his wildest dreams could he have imagined the harvest he was going to reap in the world of GAA.
When asked what are his best memories in football, Nudie Hughes is quick to replay. "Winning the Ulster titles with Monaghan in '79, '85 and '88 were the highlights of my career. And also winning the Ulster Club Championship in '86 and '90."
The list of accomplishments which have been achieved by Nudie throughout his career is both long and impressive. He has been honoured with an All Star award on three occasion. For the first of these All Stars in 1979, he was named as right corner back. On the other two occasions at left corner forward. Nudie was also named as a replacement on three separate occasions.
Monaghan have only ever won one Senior National Football title - the National League in the 1984/85 campaign. The 'Nudie Hughes' factor played a vital role in that glorious campaign. Indeed, Nudie would appear to have been involved in all Monaghan's major achievements. He could be described in Monaghan as the man with the Midas touch.
Monaghan again reached the League final in 1986, but this time they were unlucky, losing to Laois by a single point. Nudie was also a part of the Ulster Railway Cup winning team of 1984, and was in the runners-up teams of 1993 and '88. In the 1983 team he played at half back. This shows, once again, the versatility of the player. Nudie was capable of playing at the highest level in a number of different position.
Eugene Hughes acquire his famous nickname at a very young age. "It stuck for the rest of my days," he says. "Even the priests in the parish call me Nudie nowadays. I don't mind at all. There's nothing offensive in it as far as I'm concerned."
Football would seem to be an inherent part of Nudie's life, no matter where he turns. He married a woman called Geraldine Hamill - her father won a Junior All-Ireland medal in 1956! "I had to do a lot of hunting to find her," he jokes.
Nudie and Geraldine have two sons - Ciaran and Conor.
The Castleblayney man also represented his county as a minor and at Under 21 level. However, his earlier days in football were not his happiest as he picked up a lot of injuries.
Nudie Hughes has always been a dedicated servant to Castleblayney Faughs. With the club he has won seven county championship medals and two Ulster medals. "In Castleblayney, you are merited on the number of championship medals you have won. The Faughs are one of the most successful teams in the country, if not the most successful, with just over 30 championships."
Nudie has had the honour of lining out alongside some exceptional players in his time. "I've played with some great players, such as Gerry Fitzpatrick, Eamonn Tavey and Paddy Kerr. But my old club and county team mate Eamonn McEneaney was probably the best. Myself and Eamonn combined very well together."
These days, Nudie doesn't play very much. "I play a bit of club football. I have acquired what you might call a portly appetite. I would like to be in better shape but it's something you have to accept as you get older. I hope to remain a part of the club in Castleblayney and just enjoy myself. I don't know if I'll figure in the championship challenge this year. I've not played that much and I'm not doing very much training. But I'm happy enough - I've had my day."
The 1993 style Nudie Hughes is partial to golf and music. "I enjoy a round of golf as weekends. I listen to classical music, especially the great composers." The Monaghan team which Hughes represented in the 1980's was a formidable side. Nudie will never forget how close Monaghan came to reaching the All-Ireland final in 1985. That was the year of the famous drawn game with Kerry. "I was after returning from my honeymoon that year. I remember there was greater excitement throughout County Monaghan. Looking back at that game, I've never seen a ball come back off the woodwork, like it did on us that day, and end up in the goalkeeper's hands. I think we were one of the unluckiest teams not to compete in an All-Ireland final. We never got the chance to show how good we were. In the replay we didn't make use of the extra man while Kerry made the ball do the work. But on the first day Monaghan were definitely superior. Things just didn't go our way."
Another game which lives in the 'Faughs man's memory is the 1988 semi final when Cork defeated Monaghan by 11 points. "There was a gale force wind blowing that day, the likes of which I have never seen since. In the first half we elected to play against the wind. We went in at half time trailing by seven points.
"At the start of the second half we reduced the deficit to five points. I will always maintain that what happened next was a bad error by the referee. The tackle which left Brendan Murray with a facial injury was a bookable offence. Instead of us getting a free, Cork went up to score a goal at the other end. That bad decision changed the course of the game. When refs make a decision - even tough they know it is a bad one - they are afraid to accept responsibility for their mistake and change their decision.
What Nudie still admires about the Monaghan team of the 80's was the amount of hard work that was put into the side. "If players didn't think they were up to the standard required, they went out to train and improved. We went straight from division 3 to division 1, which was a great achievement for a county with only about 30 clubs. We had nearly the same team for ten years with only a few replacements available."
What about the forthcoming game against Derry in the Ulster Championship semi final? "Monaghan have a very young side but I really think we have a chance. Sean McCague has a very successful past and he is one of the best motivators in the country. Our performance in the first half of the first match against Cavan was dismal - the players will accept that themselves. But in the second half of the first game and in the second match they were there to play football."
"Monaghan are capable of upsetting Derry. I believe that it's all 'on the day'. At the start of the year I tipped Derry to win the Ulster title. I am very familiar with their team. But they have this thing about Monaghan. I have a notion that Monaghan could upset Derry. Ray McCarron is playing very good football at the moment. In the Cavan games and in the drawn match against Derry last year he was exceptional. A bit more support from the players around him would make a good player even better. Ray is going to come out on top no matter what. Derry showed a great hunger against Down. They'll have to have that hunger again on June 20th. The least that's expected of them now is an Ulster title. On the other hand, Monaghan have yet to peak. If they peak on that day and play as well as they are capable of, then they could win."
From the sides remaining in the championship, Nudie believes that Derry are shaping up the best at the moment. He feels that they are currently the No 1 team. This will serve as added motivation to the Monaghan men. "To win anything you've got to beat the best."
Eugene 'Nudie' Hughes, who is employed as a sales rep by Tennents Ireland Ltd says that he has no strong desire to be over-involved in the game in the immediate future. Although he has done a considerable deal of coaching for different teams during the past two years, he has recently declined a coaching job with the county team. "I'd like to watch them growing up."
He feels that the time is coming where GAA players should be getting a better deal. "It's a disgrace that if a player gets injured he doesn't get fully compensated. This insurance policy they are talking about at the moment is a sham. If a player picks up an injury he shouldn't lose his wages."
"GAA is great for young people. It gets them involved in something. The coaching system should be better - especially at school level. We should be better equipped to accommodate the young players coming in," says the 'Blayney and Monaghan great with a passing note.
Taken from Hogan Stand magazine
19th June 1993
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