Born at Shrigley, near Killyleagh, County Down, centre forward Hugh Davey played junior football with St Peter’s Swifts, then wartime football with Belfast United before returning “home” to Killyleagh United who he helped to the Combination Third Division title. He really came to the fore from 1921 when he signed for Glentoran, playing up-front with Hugh Meek, their goals firing the team to the Irish League and Cup double in 1921. Davey finished the season with eleven goals from twenty appearances, and also a Charities Cup runner-up medal.
Davey’s return of 14 goals in 17 games during the 1921-22 season couldn’t prevent Linfield completing a clean-sweep of all the trophies on offer – Glentoran finished as runners-up in the League and City Cup. He did however claim his first representative honour during the season, leading the line in the Irish League’s 3-0 defeat by their Scottish counterparts in October 1921.
A move to Blackburn Rovers brought little joy for Davey, who failed to break into the First Division side. He joined Division Three (South) new boys Boscombe, to become Bournemouth & Boscombe Athletic the following season, for the 1923-24 season, making his Football League debut in Boscombe’s inaugural League fixture at Swindon Town in August 1923, a move which brought the attentions of the Inter League Board. Boscombe were ordered to pay Glentoran £100 plus 50% of any future transfer fee. His goalscoring prowess, he top scored with 20 goals that season, for one of the division’s whipping boys brought a move to Reading in March 1925 in a player-exchange deal after 22 goals in 43 appearances for The Cherries. Again the Inter League Board were asked by Glentoran to adjudicate and they were awarded the princely sum of £25. Before the end of the season Davey notched his first hat-trick for The Royals in a 4-1 win over Bristol Rovers in May 1925
The 1925-26 season proved to be Davey’s best in the Football League, his total of 26 goals in 28 games firing Reading to the Division Three (South) Championship, and their first ever promotion – a hat-trick in a 7-1 victory over Brentford on the final day of the season ensuring top spot by a single point with Davey failing to score in only 7 matches.
The Irish selectors couldn’t ignore Davey’s feats in front of goal any longer, and awarded him his first Ireland cap in a 0-0 draw with England at Windsor Park, Belfast in October 1925. A year later he marked his second cap with a goal in a 3-3 draw against the English at Anfield, and a year after that he led the line in a 2-0 victory over England at Windsor Park – it was a remarkable run of results for the Irish to avoid defeat by England three years in a row!
In the Second Division with Reading Davey’s remarkable strike rate continued, and with twelve goals in ten games at the start of the 1927-28 season including a hat-trick against South Shields in November 1927, and in early December he was signed by First Division Portsmouth after 50 goals in 66 games for the Elm Park club. Portsmouth were struggling, and Davey scored twice in seven matches as they maintained their top flight status by just a point. While with Pompey Davey won his fifth and final Ireland cap against Wales in February 1928. Although a return of just one goal in five appearances was below par, he could look back on satisfactory run of results in international football.
Having failed to make the expected impact at Portsmouth, Davey returned to the Irish League with Belfast Celtic in 1928 before being forced to quit following a knee operation.
Three of his sons had successful football careers in the League of Ireland and the Irish League, Con, Pat and Terry, and his grandson, also Hugh, won Under-21 caps.
This photograph was taken on 26th February 1927 when Ireland played Scotland at Windsor Park, Belfast, a match they lost 2-0.