BY KIERAN McCARTHY
TIM O’Leary jokes that he has gone to great lengths to keep in touch with his nephew Tadhg Furlong – he’s even installed WhatsApp on his phone.
Even Wexford man Furlong, who’s in New Zealand with the touring British & Irish Lions, was taken back by his uncle’s grasp of the messaging app.
‘Jesus, when did you get WhatsApp?’ Tadhg replied to Tim’s first message.
‘I put it on my phone to keep in contact while you’re away,’ Tim quipped.
And best of luck messages will wing their way from Whiddy Island this week to Furlong ahead of the Lions’ first test match against the All Blacks in Auckland on Saturday morning.
Ireland international prop Furlong has been a regular visitor to Whiddy all his life because his mother Margaret (née O’Leary) is from the island.
Almost 30 years ago, she moved to the village of Campile, outside New Ross in Wexford after she married James Furlong, a local farmer. Margaret is also the principal at Ballycullane National School.
‘There’s plenty of excitement here alright,’ said Tim, who runs the Whiddy Island Ferry and the Bankhouse bar and restaurant with his wife Kathleen.
‘We’ll watch the game here and there’ll be lots of craic because Second Captains (regarded as the most popular podcast in Ireland) are recording a live broadcast on Saturday. I know Richie Sadlier and Shane Horgan are coming down.’
Furlong himself spent a few days on Whiddy ahead of Leinster’s Champions Cup semi-final against Clermont in April.
As well as Tim, Furlong’s other two uncles, Danny and James, also live on Whiddy, as does his grandmother Noreen, who’ll be the proudest nan in the northern hemisphere this Saturday morning.
‘She’s his biggest fan still,’ Tim smiled.
‘I go to Dublin for a few of the internationals and I rang home after the French match (in the six Nations). I’ve a sister Mary (who lives in Dunmanway) and she said that the mother “did more running than Tadhg today” because every time a scrum would collapse on top of him she’d run out the door in case he gets hurt!
‘Tadhg has great time for his grandmother. He came down for a few nights before the Clermont game to see her because he knew he wouldn’t have much time until the end of the summer to see her again.’
And when the Lions tour finishes, Furlong will make it a priority to point his car west in the direction of Whiddy.
‘The minute this craic is over he’ll be down the road!’ Tim said.
‘Every first cousin Tadhg has is from Whiddy. He has no first cousins on the father’s side and he’d have a lot of friends down here, too.
‘He’d have worn the Bantry Blues jersey a couple of times in challenge matches.
‘Connie O’Leary, he was full back for Bantry against Castletown last Saturday night, is a first cousin of Tadhg and the same age as him, and Tadhg would know all the lads around the same age, and he would have lined out for Bantry a few times.’
Tim was already walking with an extra pep in his step this week after Bantry’s great win against Castletownbere in the Cork premier intermediate football championship, and to see his nephew Tadhg take on the All Blacks in their own backyard on Saturday will be a special occasion.
‘He seemed to be very pumped up against the Maori All Blacks last weekend and hopefully everything will work out on Saturday,’ Tim said, with the best wishes of all Furlong’s family and friends making their way to New Zealand this week via WhatsApp.