CORK hurling star Luke O’Farrell and his dog Billy have been buddies for 13 years. After all, isn’t a dog man’s best friend?
“I got Billy the Boxer when I was 17,” says Luke, from Midleton, who recently turned 30.
“Our dog at home had died from old age and when I did research to get another, the Boxer came up trumps. He’s a really great dog who loves his walks and his grub.
“When my wife Rosie and I moved to Ladysbridge, Billy came too.”
The dog is larger than life. “And he has an unreal appetite!” says Luke. “He’ll eat anything. He’s never satisfied, he’d eat all day long!”
Boxers are renowned as fearless, energetic, devoted, intelligent, cheerful, loyal, bright, confident and playful.
“Billy is all those things,” says Luke. “I’ve had him most of my adult life, we’ve been through thick and thin together.”
At 13, the pet getting old in dog years now and he is on medication.
“He’s doing well though,” says Luke. “He’s still mad for a walk, even though he’s a slow mover.”
Billy, who endeared himself to the O’Farrell family and to Luke’s wife, Rosie, also won the hearts of the in-laws.
“My mother-in-law, Ginny, who is a very talented artist, painted a magnificent life-like portrait of myself and Billy for my 30th birthday in February,” says Luke.
“Rosie asked her mother to paint the portrait as a surprise for my birthday. I absolutely love it.
“The painting is a fabulous likeness of both myself and Billy. Ginny managed to capture Billy’s almost human look and she captured his personality when the dog and I were sitting together sharing a moment.
“We’re having the painting framed and we’ll hang it in a prominent place in the house. I am so happy to have this precious memento of Billy forever. I love it.”
Art is Ginny’s first love. Now living in Ballinacurra, she studied the subject in the Byam Shaw School of Art, London. “I love painting people, animals, dancers, and children,” says Ginny.
“I do most of my painting in the kitchen. It keeps me sane!
Ginny is very creative.
“I also do sculptures of fairies using wire and brown paper and then I paint them.
“I lived in the Wicklow Mountains 20 years ago and an older man was interested in the traits of fairies, which he told me about; they have nice traits and some have not so nice traits!”
The nice fairies make nice presents for people.
“Yes, they are popular all right,” says Ginny. “They are something different.”
Ginny proved very popular with her son-in-law when she presented him with the portrait of one man and his dog.
“Luke was absolutely thrilled with it,” says Ginny.
“I did the portrait from a photograph. It looked like Luke and Billy were chatting!”
Knowing the bond Luke and Billy have, a chat between the two was quite likely?
“Absolutely,” says Ginny. “They really understand one another. They adore each other.”
Ginny, understanding how much Billy means to Luke, set to work capturing the unique comradeship that man and beast share.
“I thought the piece of art would be a nice sentimental thing for Luke to have forever,” says Ginny.
“Billy is getting elderly. But now Luke will always have a lovely reminder of the dog he loves so much.”
Luke — a corner forward who played for Cork 24 times between 2010 and 2017 and won a Munster medal — and Billy go back a long way.
“I know he bought the dog himself with his pocket money when he was a teenager,” says Ginny.
She was enthused with her project.
“It gathered momentum and I worked on it a lot.
“I tried to capture the expression on the dog’s face and on Luke’s face. They seemed engrossed.”
Ginny says that it is nice for owners attached to their pets to have a memento to keep forever.
“I think portraits of pets make lovely presents for friends and neighbours,” says Ginny.
“They are so delighted to have a keepsake of the family pet that means so much to them.”
Was Luke delighted with his 30th birthday present?
“Very much so. It was a total surprise,” says Ginny.
“Luke had absolutely no idea what I was working on.”
So, as well having a canine best friend, Luke has also a best friend in his mother-in-law?
“Pretty much!” says Ginny.