John Furlong, right. celebrating with Ciaran Egan after Offaly's great win.
THE latest figure to emerge from one of Offaly and Tullamore football's most iconic families, John Furlong is fully aware of what the All-Ireland U-20 Football Championship win means to his county.
His grandfather Martin Furlong is one of Offaly's most cherished footballers. A brilliant goalkeeper, he is the most decorated Offaly player of all – the holder of an All-Ireland minor football title, three All-Ireland senior titles, seven Leinster senior football medals, four All-Star awards and a footballer of the year accolade. His uncles Mick and Tom were brilliant footballers before emigrating to the USA in the 1950s/1960s in a path later followed by Martin in the late 1980s while his father Ken also played in goals for Offaly in the 1990s.
“I can't put it into words really, it is incredible,” Furlong smiled afterwards. The Offaly centre half back was asked about what this win will mean to his grandfather.
“We talked to him after the Cork game, he was very happy to say the least. After that, not really too much, I kind of did. You could see it when we beat Cork in his eyes that it meant a lot to him, that it meant the world to him.”
Along with Cormac Egan and Tom Hyland, he came off the Offaly minor football team in 2020 into the U-20 side. He was called in just a couple of days after Offaly suffered an agonising defeat against Meath in the 2020 Leinster minor football final a couple of months ago. Was that hard?
“It wasn't too bad because you didn't have too much time to think. You were just straight into it. It wasn't too bad that way but it was still very tough. You always have it in the back of your head that you didn't want to feel that again.”
There was huge hype in Offaly in the build up to the final but Furlong steered clear of it.
“I tried to keep myself away from it as much as I could just to focus on the game. It is hard to do that all the time but the build up was very enjoyable. You see flags around the town and you know that is who you are playing for. You are playing for everyone in Offaly.”
He was handed a pivotal position at centre half back but just considered himself fortunate to be playing.
“I think I was lucky Oisin (Keenan-Martin) was out injured with his finger and he couldn't play the first two games. I was lucky enough and thankfully I kept my spot on the team when he came back.”
He was concerned as Roscommon threatened to score goals in the first half.
“I was a bit worried but there was still plenty of time left in the game and the scoreboard only matters at the end.”
Furlong almost got forward for a second half goal himself and he smiled: “I nearly got there but I will have to do it again the next day.”
Tullamore are playing a 2020 minor football semi-final on Tuesday night but the tight marking, tenacious defender will enjoy this win. “ I'll find time to celebrate,” he grinned.
He spoke about what this win means to Offaly people.
“It is hard not to know what it means. Everyone is happy, everyone is wishing us well in the club and everything. People you have never seen before, never talked to before and probably will never see again are coming up to talk to you.”
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