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
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.