Brendan Graham speaks to John Hughes about Betty RIP

(22 Mar 2020)

Dublin Camogie and the Camogie world in general this week lost a real true blue. Deservedly up
there as one of the best camogie players this country has ever seen, Hughes was voted in recent
years on the Camogie Team of the Century.
Heralded as one of the greatest players we will ever see to grace a camogie pitch with her hurley in
hand, Inchicore native Betty Hughes passed away earlier this week leaving camogie fans across the
capital with fond memories and stories of her decorated career as a sky blue.
Her husband John very kindly sat down with Brendan Graham this week and was only delighted to
reminisce and remember fondly his dear wife Betty.
The strong no-nonsense defender began honing her skills from a very young age and made her
debut for the famous CIE club at just fifteen years of age.
In those early days for Betty she was just a kid doing what she loved more than anything else in life
and unknown to most but by the time she would eventually hang up her inter county boots in 1963
the nine time All – Ireland winner was a household name in Irish sporting circles.
She started with CIE when she was only 15” remembers John.
In fact when she tried to get into Croke Park for her first match in 1948, the man on the gate actually
wouldn't let her in because he said she was only a child said John with a laugh as he began retelling
one of the many stories that Betty so often enjoyed sharing.
Someone from the management or coaching staff had to come out to try and get her let in and
explain to the man on the gate that she was actually a player on the team despite how young she
was and looked, I think she was a reserve on the team but at fifteen it was still a phenomenal
A phenomenal achievement is right and the first of many inspiring and admirable achievements that
Betty would manage to strive towards during the course of her stellar playing career.
“She made her inter county debut in 1954 against Antrim and was in important member of the team
then from that year until 1963 winning nine All - Ireland medals in those ten years. The only time she
played and experienced defeat in a Championship game over those ten years was the All – Ireland
final in 1956 against Antrim.
“She had to honour of captaining the Dubs twice as well in both 1961 and 1962 before making the
very significant decision of hanging up her boots at inter county level in 1963.
"She also lets not forget had the three inter provincial medals playing for Leinster within those years
of playing for Dublin as well.
“It was just terrific and they were great times. I’ve always been so unbelievably proud of her from
day one and always will be.
My daughter has the nine All - Ireland medals, we have them all on a bracelet type thing and my
daughter looks after them and keeps them safe, she won so many medals and the kids used to play
with some of them when they were small which was lovely to see after Betty winning them but the
All - Ireland's are ones that are kept up high for safe keeping!”
It takes an unthinkable amount of hunger, skill and effort to win one All – Ireland medal at any grade
never mind nine in ten years but according to John and like a true champion second best just wasn’t
an option for Betty Hughes. Her competitiveness and unrivalled desire to reach that level that would each time be the difference between being crowned champions or heading for the exits as runners up ensured she came out on top more often than not.

Betty herself admitted upon being induced into the Echo Hall of Fame in 2018 that some of the best
days of her life were the ones that she was playing camogie and her staunch passion for the game
lifted the standard of all of those around her resulting in a hugely talented Dublin side that
eventually managed 10-in-a-row in 1966. Commitment and determination to what she did every single time she went out to play a camogie match is what led to such unprecedented success.” said John.
“A complete love for the game of camogie. Every single game she played she was going out to win
and that's the mindset that led to her having such an illustrious and decorated sporting journey.
Second place was no good to her, ever, It was all about winning with her team mates and that was
just so important to her. It was a house completely immersed in sport and it was great.”
A real love for the game of Camogie always existed under the Hughes’ roof and always will but in
more recent times it is the sport of ten pin bowling that has taken to the front with John and Betty’s
daughter becoming a champion in her own right in 2007. A world champion in fact.
"I have five kids, none of them played camogie growing up or any other sport for that matter apart
from our youngest girl. She has Down Syndrome and she became a Special Olympics World Games
Champion in 2007 out in Shanghai in China for ten pin bowling. We all went out to it together as a
family and it was another extremely proud and special moment for us all. Another medal to add to
the collection!.”
The sporting talent within the family doesn’t stop there with John’s granddaughter Lara also off to a
flying start in the early stages of what looks will be a promising sporting journey too.
“Betty used to always love going out to watch the grandkids play when they were younger.
“We have seven grand children and one of them has the genes of her granny.” spoke John fondly
about his granddaughter.
“Lara is her name, She's thirteen and plays for the Shelbourne U-14 team and she's also on the
Ireland cricket team at u15 international level so she's following in the footsteps of her granny Betty.
Her attitude and desire towards winning would be the exact same as the way Betty was and that can
only be a great thing.”
Off the field Betty worked in the catering business following in her father’s footsteps who also
worked for CIE.
She was a cateress in the CIE Catering Academy in Inchicore, It was a shop they had for training staff
members who had jobs in the catering department and her father Gerry worked in the company too.
She worked right beside the pitch that they used to train and play on so it couldn't have been any
handier for her.
“That pitch is still there, it was called the Pond Fields in those days and as far as I know it's still used
for football.”

One of the standout moments in Betty’s camogie career and one that is often remembered very
fondly is from the All – Ireland final in 1961.
She was the captain of the team that year leading them to a ten point victory over Tipperary in the
final. A fine display by the dominant defender but it was her actions in the moments after the game
that perfectly summed up the genuine character and personality that Betty Hughes was.
In what was to be the great Kathleen Mills’ final time to line out in the Dublin colours having just
secured her fifteenth All – Ireland medal, Betty invited and asked Kathleen to be the one to accept
the O’Duffy Cup on behalf of the team. Despite that honour usually being left for the captain, it was
a memorable gesture from Hughes in an attempt to recognise the service she had given to Dublin
A special moment between the pair especially when according to John, Mills had been Kathleen’s
hero from the time she first started showing an interest in Camogie.
“Kathleen Mills, the great Kathleen Mills, she was the shining light for Betty and for many others
and Betty spoke about her all the time” remembered John fondly.
“Funny enough it was actually Kathleen Mills who brought her to play Camogie at the very
beginning. Kathleen was from the Inchicore area as well and happened to see her playing on the
street outside the house. She came over and had a chat with her and told her she would love her to
come down to training one night and invited her down and that's where it all began.
The start of a memorable and truly wonderful journey for them both as teammates both with the
great CIE club and with Dublin Camogie.
“Betty was the captain that day [All – Ireland final 1961]and she left Kay to pick up the cup because it
was her last game and it was so thoughtful of her looking back.”
A lady full of thought and care for others both on the field and off it and someone who instilled
everything that is great in the game with the girls in blue.

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