'He brings the spotlight to Wexford' - Wexford hurler Matthew O'Hanlon praises former schoolmate Tadhg Furlong
Wexford centre-half-back Matthew O'Hanlon praised Leinster and Ireland prop Tadhg Furlong for bringing the spotlight to Wexford as his former St Augustine's and Good Counsel College schoolmate prepares to fly out with the British & Irish Lions next week.
Furlong was one of 11 Irish players selected in Warren Gatland's 41-man Lions squad for the 2017 Lions tour of New Zealand next month.
The Irish tighthead prop enjoyed a stellar 2016/17 season for Leinster, receiving a nomination for the 2017 Zurich Players’ Player of the Year award which he ultimately lost to Ireland teammate Conor Murray, but O'Hanlon insists that the achievements and accolades Furlong's received won't affect him.
"Tadhg is as down to earth as they come," O'Hanlon told gaa.ie on Saturday.
"He'd have no airs or graces about him. He wouldn't let be that way where we're from!
"It's great to see him mixing with the best rugby players in the world, it's absolutely fantastic. It brings the spotlight to Wexford."
O'Hanlon, who was one year ahead of Furlong at St.Augustine's, said that he used to play a bit of rugby with him and that the Lions prop is now benefiting from years of hard work after only breaking into the Leinster team ahead of Mike Ross last season.
As for O'Hanlon and his own endeavours with Wexford, the St. James' defender said that his side took huge encouragement from their league campaign where they progressed to the Division 1 semi-finals where they lost to defending All-Ireland champions Tipperary.
Wexford were beaten handily by Michael Ryan's side in that game but O'Hanlon said that those matches against Tipperary and Brian Cody's Kilkenny are where his squad need to be aiming for.
"We've been in 1B for quite some time, to get promoted was our number one objective.
"We achieved that with five wins and you can't ask for more. To beat Kilkenny in a Quarter-Final was a bonus and to play Tipperary the All-Ireland champions was great.
"Disappointed we didn't get to a League final, but they're the type of teams we want to challenge ourselves against. That's the level we need to try to reach. "From a League perspective I think we got as much as we expected as group out of it. Got promoted and hopefully it leaves us in a good place going into the Championship now."
Wexford take on Laois at O'Moore Park in the quarter-finals of the Leinster Senior Hurling Championship on Saturday as the Yellowbellies look to claim their first Leinster Championship since 2004.