CORK Westlife fans attending this weekend’s concerts have paid tribute to the group with stories of devotion to the band and friendships set to their music.
Páirc Uí Chaoimh is set to host 40,000 fans for each concert but Michelle Murphy from Glounthaune will undoubtedly be among their most loyal supporters.
She has been carrying on a tradition for her late brother Wanny, a devoted Westlife fan, who died suddenly in 2018 at the age of just 35.
Up until that day, he and Michelle had boasted their own supergroup, jokingly known as ‘the Westies’.
Their modest fan club comprised of Wanny, Michelle, her sister-in-law Clodagh, their sister Tracy, and Wanny’s niece (Michelle’s daughter) Sophie. Together, the gang attended Westlife concerts, which they still recall with fondness.
“Sophie has been going since she was five years old,” said Michelle. “We travel everywhere to see them. Wanny used to fly home from Guernsey especially for concerts. It was always me and my sister Tracy and sister-in-law Clodagh.”
Their music brought the family comfort at an extremely difficult time.
“One of Wanny’s requests was that we play Westlife at his funeral. His friends all joked that it was the first and last time they would ever stand and listen to a Westlife song play til the end.”
The group will bring along a Westlife scarf and t-shirt once belonging to Wanny as a tribute to the Westlife fan.
“It’s bitter-sweet to hear their music but we have so many beautiful memories,” said Michelle. "His friends were all into heavy metal and house music. He didn’t care about the slagging he got for being a Westlife fan.”
Meanwhile, Valerie O’Connor of Blarney St had been planning to attend the concert with her best friend and sister-in-law Deirdre Kearney, who tragically passed away before the concert.
“We went everywhere together and had been so excited for this day to come,” she said. “Sadly, Deirdre died suddenly before having the chance to see them perform.
"She had been so excited to go for drinks and dinner but I know she will be with me in spirit. I’ll be bringing along her memorial card tomorrow so I can feel like she is there with me.”
Valerie has benefited from the support of her friend Carmel.
“My friend Carmel is coming with me to the concert now. The three of us had been very good friends in North Pres. Carmel was the first person I called when Deirdre passed away.”
Valerie’s husband Stephen had bought her the tickets following a difficult year.
“My husband Stephen bought them for me when I had been having a very tough year. He didn’t even say anything until the day they came in the post,” she said.
Diehard fan Victoria Piper from Crosshaven confessed to buying tickets for both Friday and Saturday’s concerts.
“I’ve been going to their concerts since 2001,” Victoria said. “My cousin was a fan and at that age all you want to do is follow the crowd. While everybody else grew out of their music I never stopped being a fan and I don’t think I ever will.”