UíbhFhailí.com header image

[ Back to Articles Index ]

Furlongs of Offaly one of the great GAA families

by Sean Kilfeather was published in the Irish Times on Saturday the 28th of November 1998

Families play a huge part in the games of football and hurling and, by extension, the healthy life of the country. No matter how long a list we give we will leave someone out: the Sheehys and Landers in Kerry, the Rackards in Wexford, the Collerans in Sligo, the Bradys in Cavan, the Graces and Fennellys in Kilkenny, the Foleys in Dublin, the Dooleys in Offaly . . . But today I want to record the extraordinary feats of the Furlong family of Offaly.

This writer remembers vividly the contribution which Martin Furlong made to Offaly football in that extraordinary All-Ireland final of 1982 when he saved that penalty by Mike Sheehy. Seamus Darby's goal grabbed the headlines in Offaly's win, but had Furlong not saved that penalty the matter would have been academic.

That most eloquent and incisive observer of GAA affairs, John Clarke, has provided this column with some fascinating information about the contribution of the Furlong family to Offaly GAA.

The first of the Furlongs, Mick, entered the intercounty scene in 1946 when he represented the county as a minor. He went on to win a Leinster title. He made a spectacular arrival on the senior scene in 1948 when he scored an early goal against Kildare in the Leinster championship. And his talents were not confined to football: according to Clarke he was one of the county's greatest all-rounders.

As was quite common in those days, Mick Furlong was forced by circumstances to leave for Dublin where he played for the Sean McDermott's and Faughs clubs. Later he left for the United States, where he continued to contribute to the life of the GAA there.

Later Tom Furlong arrived on the scene. He played hurling and football at minor level, - in goal, at full forward and at midfield - and played at full forward in the Offaly football team defeated by Dublin in the 1962 Leinster final. He too was lost to emigration, but he won a National League medal in 1967 when New York beat Galway. He also made a significant impact on American football with the New York Giants before injury forced him out of the game.

Martin Furlong, also now in New York, stayed long enough to win every honour in the game apart from a National League medal.

I knew Martin as a quiet, modest, man, but he has a lot to be boastful about. He won an All-Ireland minor medal in 1964, having already won a county championship medal with Tullamore. For 20 years, almost without a break, he guarded the Offaly net and won Leinster championship medals on seven occasions and his first All-Ireland senior medal in 1971.

He did not concede a goal in All-Ireland finals of 60, 70 and 80 minutes duration - the 1969 final, the replay of 1972 and the 1982 final. He played for Leinster in the Railway Cup for 16 years, between 1968 and 1983.

When Martin Furlong played in the 1980 Leinster championship he was completing five decades of Furlong family appearances in the Offaly jersey. He retired in 1985 after 28 years in the service of the county. The new Tullamore Court Hotel is on the site of the Furlong family home. There was some local concern that the historic house which the Furlongs had occupied for several generations would be forgotten. Fittingly, however, there is to be a Furlong Room.

No family deserves such a tribute more.

[ Back to Articles Index ]