TADHG Furlong will take immense satisfaction from one of his greatest feats last weekend – ensuring his uncle Tim O’Leary, for once, was caught for words.
It doesn’t happen too often that Tim is stuck for something to say, but after the Whiddy Islander watched his nephew win man-of-the-match – and throw that pass in the lead-up to CJ Stander’s try – as Ireland defeated England 24-15 to clinch the Grand Slam on St Patrick’s Day, the West Cork man was left speechless.
‘I’m not a man who is ever short of words but I can’t describe the feeling afterwards,’ uncle Tim says.
‘It was brilliant, brilliant.
‘It wasn’t what I expected to be honest, it was very personal, it meant a lot to the family, it was special, very emotional.’
Wexford-man Furlong is a regular visitor to Whiddy Island, home to his mother Margaret (nee O’Leary) and where his three uncles – Tim, Danny and James – live, as does his grandmother, Noreen O’Leary, Tadhg’s biggest fan.
The Sunday before Furlong’s Twickenham heroics, Tim was in the capital for Coláiste Pobail Bheanntraí’s All-Ireland schools’ basketball final the following day, and he met up with Tadhg in Dublin.
‘He was relaxed like always, nothing fazes him, he has those rural roots in Wexford and Cork, and he takes everything in his stride,’ explains Tim, who runs the Whiddy Island Ferry and the Bankhouse bar and restaurant with his wife Kathleen.
Last Saturday, Tim and family put the shutters up at home on Whiddy Island, and watched on with huge pride.
‘It’s a great honour for the family,’ Tim says.
‘We were chatting to him after the match, he was in great form.
‘When we saw his mother and father, Margaret and James, on the sideline after the game, it was hard to describe it.
‘Winning man-of-the-match is great but there were five or six of them who could have got that award, but what was more important was that Tadhg would do himself justice – and he did that and more, they all did to be fair.’
Tim then pointed out another West Cork link to Ireland’s Grand Slam winning Six Nations heroes.
‘Dan Leavy’s grandmother’s brother had a pub in Bantry before, Lynchs, and that was our local, that’s where all the islanders used to drink. It’s where the Quays bar is now.’
And what about Furlong’s exceptional ball-handling skills and that deft pass to the charging Bundee Aki in the lead-up to CJ Stander’s first-half try?
‘I have to watch that again and again, and slow it down. I was lost for words again,’ Tim says.