Anatomy of a Love Island winner: what secret ingredients propelled Greg O'Shea to victory?
Rugby player Greg O’Shea was the dark horse that took the nation by surprise when he became the first Irish Love Island winner.
The 24-year-old who plays with his local club Shannon and is training as part of Ireland's Rugby Sevens squad training for the 2020 Olympics - was a last minute addition to the villa, proving sometimes they do save the best for last.
He was sent as a bombshell to build a love triangle between Amber Gill, his partner and her ex-boyfriend Michael Griffiths.
Greg was only expected to last a few days there, making little buzz like other Irish contestants Rob Lipsett and Shannen Reilly McGrath before him, but sent the latter half of the series' entire narrative arc into disarray when Amber chose to recouple with him.
Greg, like all the Love Island castmates, is now under ITV-ordered silence, both as part of their contractually obligated requirements and as part of the network’s duty of care to its cast who have been propelled into unfathomable levels of fame overnight.
Love Island isn’t all about looks, but it represents at least 85% of the show and men and women featured tend to fit the same physical requirements.
With the women, their torsos are tight, their bums high, their hair extensions long and their bikinis tiny. Each of the male contestants boasted six packs, but there’s something different about Greg, a distinctly Irish feel that left him a cut above the rest.
Greg, from Corbally in Limerick, has roots in Hong Kong as his grandfather Peter Ho who emigrated to Ireland after World War Two to open the city’s first Chinese restaurant. This year was arguably the most racially diverse group of contestants and it’s somewhat groundbreaking that a biracial couple scooped the title for the first time in the show’s five-year history.
While most men of Love Island prefer teeth so white you need sunglasses, Greg’s natural-looking approach, especially with his chompers, is more aligned with Andy Murray, whose straight and white-but-not-too-white teeth have become a popular request with dentists.
His decision to wear lip balm on Monday night’s final was a bold one and one final finger to gender norms. He possesses the quiet confidence of a man who grew up being told he was good-looking, but the self-deprecation to still be charming.
When asked to rate himself out of 10, he said: "I broke my face a couple of months ago through rugby so I had a broken nose and a cracked forehead! Before that happened I would say I was an eight...but now I’d dock myself down to a seven with the broken face. The lads always say I give the girls a cheeky smile so that’s probably my best feature."
Greg is a professional athlete and it shows. With an on-site gym and two-drinks-per-night policy imposed, there wasn’t much room for him to stray from his intensive training regimen and producers often cut to shots of Greg lifting weights in the corner and in possession of a six pack and a strong neck even the most devoted fitness followers would envy.
Perhaps his biggest heartthrob moment was the final day in the villa in which he twerked against a wall in the push-up position, a video clip which has been shared thousands of times on social media, alongside a clip of him practicing the salsa during dance rehearsals.
Irish men have moved well beyond the days of a t-shirt, flared jeans and ‘nice’ pair of brown shoes, as demonstrated by Greg. Although he spent most of his time shirtless, his preference for a patterned collar shirt was tailor made in influencer heaven.
The Islanders are given an allowance before entering the villa to purchase clothing as well as receiving sponsored clothing from I Saw it First, which explains their nightly new outfit changes; whereas the men partner with the likes of BoohooMAN and ASOS.
In comparison to Curtis’ kimono, Michael’s insistence at wearing leather in 30 degree heat and Chris’ extensive eyeglass collection; Greg’s decision to dress like the normal bloke added the right amount of appeal.
You’re more likely to find him in a white t-shirt and baseball cap, questionably worn backwards, in keeping with his pre-Love Island Instagram presence. He didn’t change himself to fit the show and like Amber, showed that being yourself really is enough sometimes.
Ovie, who has single-handedly spearheaded the return of the bucket hat, is exempt from all style criticism.
Let’s be honest, Greg is lovely - even Amber’s mum thought so and yours probably would too. After watching heartbroken and helpless from their home in Newcastle after Michael broke her heart, in came Greg who told her from the get-go that his relationship style is mutual respect and spoiling a girlfriend.
He was her knight in a shining Hawaiian shirt. By the time the final week rolled around, Greg settled into the villa well and wasn’t quite cool as Ovie who is so laid-back he might need to have his pulse checked, but a voice of reason needed to shake things up after the rest of the cast spent two months speaking only to one another.
When Curtis admitted to advising Jordan to tell India about his burgeoning feelings for her, an undeniably dumb decision; Greg’s response- “what was your thought process behind that?” - became an instant meme.
It was a fair observation from a grounded person and quite possibly the comment that clinched his eventual win. Each of this year’s final couples had one standout star carrying the other one: Maura was TV gold, but Curtis was a ‘snake’; Ovie was the type of handsome gentlemen you never meet in real life, whereas India was ‘boring’ and Tommy had a heart of gold whereas it became accepted as fact that Molly Mae was ‘fake’.
Greg and Amber, arguably the most popular contestant throughout the course of two months, were both publicly adored.
There is no guaranteed formula for success on television, especially reality, but being yourself is a good place to start.