Wednesday 16 October 2019

Tadhg lines out for community hospital night

Rugby great lends support to fundraising drive to ensure future of hospital for people of New Ross through donations

Tadhg Furlong with Mary and Pauline O’Neill
Tadhg Furlong with Mary and Pauline O’Neill
Tadhg Furlong with St Leonard’s pupils Ailbhe, Shifra and Darragh Mackey, Cathy Dillon and their parents

David Looby

Home-grown rugby hero Tadhg Furlong got a homecoming to remember in New Ross on Wednesday night when more than 120 people attended his launch of a Friends of New Ross Community Hospital fundraiser.

The world's number one tight-head prop was surrounded by a scrum of fans of all ages and duly obliged their requests of autographs, photos and selfies.

Taking time out from his busy preparations for the Rugby World Cup in Japan this summer, Tadhg, 26, got fully behind the fundraiser for the hospital which is celebrating 30 years serving the elderly community of New Ross and their families this year.

Hospital director Frances Ryan thanked Tadhg and MC Liam Spratt for participating in the talk. Ms Ryan gave a detailed outline of the hospital's formation. She said hospital directors decided to keep one bed for the exclusive use of palliative/emergency care which would be free from fees. This decision coupled with the reduction in short-term bed fees reduces the hospital's annual income this year by over €150,000. 'People say how does it cost so much. We operate 24 hours a day, not eight hours a day like an ordinary business. Our wages bill for serving your community, our community, in a manner which is conducive to their own needs is over €1.1m. That means nothing stays the same, it's continuous change. We didn't take the palliative care lightly.'

She thanked Margaret Cremin, Bob Walsh, director of nursing Michelle Murphy and her wonderful team. and all of the former directors. Ms Ryan also thanked anyone who has helped the hospital in any way and the New Ross Standard for supporting the hospital by highlighting the work the staff and directors do.

'This is your hospital. It has been tough going over the last 30 years. Now it's very well established and it's up to the community to keep it going. It just doesn't happen by itself; it takes work.'

She said it was regrettable that on two occasions in 2018 the hospital was unable to respond to a request for a palliative care bed, adding that the fundraiser aims to address this.

She thanked solicitor Gerry Flynn for his great work for the hospital which has seen infection rates fall to zero due to the new ventilation system installed in recent years.

Ms Ryan promised a big celebration event this year to mark the hospitals' 30 years serving the community.

'We are asking you to help us to continue providing the service within the community to serve our residents in a manner that suits their needs, To the future generations of New Ross please tell your young people what the hospital is about and encourage them to come with us and to be directors and subscribers to the hospital.'

Mr Spratt praised the work of all of the volunteers at the hospital including Bob Doyle, Deirdre Caulfield, Dr Mark Walsh, Dr Carl Rowsome and Tom Clarkin.

Bob Doyle said the hospital building was built in the mid-1930s. He said Tadhg agreed straight away to be part of the event. 'This man has given great pleasure to millions in Ireland and further afield from his man of the match award in Twickenham winning the Grand Slam to beating the All Blacks. This man is the number on tight-head prop in the world and it's great to have him from this town, well Campile.'

He thanked Sean Connick for the use of the Dunbrody restaurant and Gibneys for the wine.

He said many people in attendance were born in the hospital building where the community hospital now stands.

The community hospital started in 1989. It had 24 beds and has been refurbished constantly with an extension completed a couple of years ago. There are 36 beds now, including one palliative care bed which has no charge.

Mr Doyle thanked Ms Ryan, Tom Clarkin and the board of directors for their work as volunteers and doctors Mark Walsh and Carl Rolston

'This is a community hospital. It is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year with 53 staff working between full time and part time positions. No person is ever denied help due to their financial constraints.'

Operating to the clinical standards of Blackrock Clinic and the Mater Private, Mr Doyle said the service provided to residents is second to none.

'191 people were admitted last year. The oldest resident is 102 and the youngest resident is 58. The average age of the residents is 87 and the longest resident is here since 2000.'

He said 15 residents sadly died at the hospital last year

He said the Friends of New Ross Community Hospital fundraiser will fund the Palliative bed and five short-term beds. 'Costs are increasing. We had wages of €1.174m in 2018 and insurance has gone up by 87 per cent.'

He asked people to please complete the standing order form which provides weekly, monthly and annual payment options, with a range of amounts and urged individuals and businesses to support their local hospital. 'No amount is too small. We will use your money wisely. The staff take pride in what they do and there are strong patient family testimonials as featured in this week's New Ross Standard. We'd love you to visit us. It is not a commercial venture. We are not doing it to make money. We are a registered charity. By the Community - For the Community. Friends of New Ross Community. It is by the community, for the community.'

In a wide-ranging, entertaining interview with Liam Spratt, Tadhg spoke of his passion for sport, from his days playing GAA, to his breakthrough into the Leinster team. He recalled his time playing at under-age level with New Ross Rugby Club under John Keenan.

The former Good Counsel College student said: 'Home is home. A lot of my friends are still living here in town and if we tend to meet up New Ross tends to be the place where it happens. I still have things that bring me home and I am a proud New Ross man, a proud Wexford and a proud Campile man.'

He said he always enjoyed playing sport. 'It was never really a chore for me to beat a hurley ball off the back wall of the house or through a rugby ball with my brother. I enjoyed all sports but was always more suited to rugby given my body shape. GAA and soccer leads into rugby, just as rugby leads into GAA and soccer.'

He said apart from some nasty injuries in his late teens he has been very lucky, especially since he made his debut for Leinster in 2014. 'There is a lot of work that goes in off the pitch that goes into staying fit and healthy,' adding that there isn't much he can do about a shoulder or knee injury if he was hit the wrong way.

'I live my dream really. There are some days you are in training and you are just messing around passing a rugby ball and killing time in the gym and sometimes you pinch yourself and you realise how lucky you are. There are other times when, on a Saturday, you're playing a big Six Nations game and two hours before kick-off and you're up in the physio room and next thing you see a load of supporters outside drinking pints and you'd love to be them, but you get on a pitch then and it's all good.'

He said it's good to be nervous going into a game. 'Some games are bigger than others and some games mean more than others, but I think that excitement and nervous energy pent up inside you, when I feel that I always know I'm ready to roll here: more often than not you have a game that you're happy with. It just brings something out of you that you can't put your finger on.'

He praised Joe Schmidt and spoke of his joy at being named in the Ireland World Cup squad in 2015, adding that his decision to leave the Ireland set-up did not impact the team in the Six Nations. 'He has been a pleasure to work with and there is still a good chunk of work to look ahead to.'

Tadhg said beating the All Blacks in Chicago was his career highlight. 'It was unbelievably euphoric. It was the first time an Irish team had won over there. The baseball team the Cubs had just won the world series and there were three million people celebrating and then we go out and beat the All Blacks in this stadium where the stands just seemed to rise and rise and rise forever and they are all Irish people, and with the occasion and the atmosphere it was a day that you'd never forget.'

Other highlights include his first cap for Ireland and getting selected for the Lions. 'I was in the Leinster canteen with the team and found out when my name came up on Sky Sports!'

'It was unbelievable beating the All Blacks in Ireland too, but as a group we've set our standards high, but as a group we have set our standards high and if we want to do well in this world cup, if we want to challenge - then obviously you have to beat New Zealand. He is confident Ireland can do very well in the World Cup by making little improvements.

'You don't become a bad team overnight. The thing about professional rugby, if you win or lose you're going to have a game coming around the corner quickly. You can't celebrate the highs too much and you don't despair about the lows too much either. You have to be very calculated and cold and look at how you can fix this.'

He said he is happy to play the modern game where players are substituted after 65 minutes, even if some hurling fans from south Kilkenny can't get their heads around this.

Tadhg said he looks forward to playing against Toulouse in the semi-final of the European Cup.

Looking to the future he plans to study accountancy, having studied Business in university.

He has formed great friendships on the Irish and Leinster teams, adding that they spend so much time together they can't stand the sight of one another outside of training,

A girl in the audience named Ailbhe asked Tadhg who influenced him sport.

'The auld fella. Ever since we were born, there are pictures of us going around with hurls and rugby balls. He coached in Ross. I remember going along to training with him and trying to tackle everyone and ever since then.'

Responding to a question from Spratt about the perceived dangers of playing rugby, Tadhg said rugby people form a young age taught to tackle correctly and all the fundamentals of good technique.

He said some of the Islanders and Kiwi and South African players are huge. 'You see them crashing into each other and you think that can't be safe. When you see under 18 players that level of explosiveness and size isn't there so maybe they get scared what they see on television, but in reality its not there.'

Finishing proceedings choir Cairdeas (Friendship), performed a selection of songs.

New Ross Standard