Hugh McCabe: popular former Fermanagh player and manager with glint in eye and infectious smile
HUGH McCabe had a glint in his eye and an infectious smile which made him friends wherever he went.
In Fermanagh he was revered as a player and manager of the county football team, a leader on and off the pitch who showed and inspired loyalty in equal measure.
But his passion for the game and life in general also made him a hugely popular figure in GAA circles across Ulster.
He rarely missed a championship match at Clones and the five-minute walk from the Hibernian bar to St Tiernach's Park would usually take 45 as he stopped to talk to everyone he met.
Born not far away in Aghadrumsee, Hugh was a teacher by profession and spent 30 years teaching PE to inmates at Loughan House open prison in Blacklion.
He also ran Enniskillen youth club for a time and loved the work and the cameraderie.
Hugh was still a student teacher at the ‘Ranch' when he met Cathy Jordan in Birmingham while working on sites and playing football in his summer holiday.
They married in 1978 and lived in Belfast and Belcoo for a short time before settling in nearby Mullaghdun, with Cathy working as a nurse in the old Erne hospital.
His GAA career began with Aghadrumsee but he played mainly with Belcoo O'Rahilly's, coming agonisingly close several times to capturing a championship title.
He also proudly wore the Fermanagh green from 1974 to 1981, and again from 1985-88.
Usually lining out at centre half-back, but also playing a variety of other positions, the highlight was probably a McKenna Cup medal in 1977.
Hugh was a powerful player and intelligent in possession, but was also hugely influential in the team, communicating constantly with both voice and hands.
He went on to manage Fermanagh in the early 1990s, taking them from Division 4 to 2 and being involved in one of the Ulster Championship's most dramatic ever games, when Armagh scored three goals in the dying minutes of a 1993 preliminary round replay to steal victory from the Ernemen.
He also managed major clubs including Dromore, Errigal Ciaran and Mullahoran.
Hugh's son Shane also played for the county and appeared in an Ulster final as well as enjoying a successful career in the Irish League.
He said his father would be remembered for his wonderful wit and enthusiasm and unwavering loyalty to family and friends.
“He was someone who said impossible was never the case - he loved a challenge and loved proving people wrong, and had that bit of devilment on and off the pitch which everyone loved,” he said.
Fermanagh GAA said: “The energetic man that Hugh was lit up any room that he went into and he was a real character who will be sorely missed by all.
“A true gentleman of the game has gone and we remember his great approach to life and pray for his sorrowing family.”
Hugh Gerard McCabe died aged 62 on May 28 and was buried on Wednesday following funeral Mass at St Joseph's Church, Mullaghdun.
He is survived by his wife Cathy, children Sinead, Kelly, Shane, Karina and Stacy, niece Natasha, 10 brothers and sisters and seven grandchildren.