Greg O’Shea left Love Island villa in disguise to attend granny’s funeral
“I had two bodyguards with me. I had a hat on and my face covered. I went straight from the villa to the funeral, buried my grandmother and then came straight back on a plane”
Irish Love Island winner Greg O’Shea has spoken for the first time of how he broke down on the hit TV show when he heard his granny had just died in hospital from Alzheimer’s.
Greg was flown back home to Ireland for the funeral before returning to the ITV show, which he and onscreen partner Amber Gill eventually won.
Now, the Limerick man is in training to run the London marathon in October in memory of his nan Monica to raise money for research into combating Alzheimer’s.
“I was actually in Love Island when she passed away,” recalls Greg (27). “I felt like a bit of a fool not being there and all the other family was there. I just feel like I owe her something. I know she wouldn’t expect that.
“I just feel like I need to do something to try and help to raise funds for Alzheimer’s research, because of the turmoil that my family went through.
"I would hate for another family to have to go through that, so if I can do a little bit to raise money to help catch this Alzheimer’s disease earlier, it might help families go through less stress.”
Greg then recalls the moment he was told his granny had died while he was filming in Mallorca.
“It was very upsetting, it kind of caught me off guard,” he tells the Sunday World. “I knew she was a bit sick before going but I didn’t think she had literally a couple of days left.
"She passed away while I was in the villa. My parents told ITV that they didn’t need to tell me because I wouldn’t have given anything to the show and they were trying to organise funeral arrangements and all that.”
But once the funeral was organised, ITV producers told Greg the news.
“I remember they took me out of the villa and brought me into Portakabin. It was actually Caroline Flack’s Portakabin,” he adds. “They told me. I wouldn’t be a man for crying. I would be like a stereotypical Irish lad, very tough, wouldn’t cry. But that kind of caught me.
“Because I just felt like such a fool sitting over in Mallorca with beautiful people on this really famous show and all my family are with my grandmother the last couple of days, I just felt like a bit of a fool.
“I think that’s kind of why in the back of my head I need to do something, like put in a bit of effort here and try and help families and their struggle.”
He was given the option to fly home.
“So, then the next day I flew straight home to Ireland.,” he explains. “I had two bodyguards with me. I had a hat on and my face covered. I went straight from the villa to the funeral, buried my grandmother and then came straight back on a plane.
“They gave me the option – ‘you don’t have to come back in if you don’t want to’. But my family were like ‘sure what are you going to do, you’re just going to sit in Ireland and watch the show with the rest of us’.
"It was kind of the age-old cliché, ‘your nana wants you to go in and do your best, so just go back and have a bit of fun’. I did and ended up winning it.”
Despite being told of the shock news while away from home, Greg says he was made more at ease when he was told how kind-hearted hospital staff made his granny’s passing easier.
“A nice little story my family told me, that my nana when she was passing away in the nursing home, the nurses put on Love Island in the background in her room and I was on a screen and I was talking,” he says.
“So, I like to kind of think that in her last couple of hours before she passed away she heard me talking into the background, even if it was on TV.
"It’s kind of a nice idea and it’s really cool that the nurses did that because they figured out it was my grandmother and they just put it on. Obviously, she wasn’t able to sit up to watch TV, but even if I was on in the background it was a nice idea.”
Greg’s grandfather was originally from Hong Kong and when he emigrated to Ireland in the 1960s he travelled to Limerick, where he opened one of Limerick’s first Chinese restaurants and also met Monica on the local social scene.
“I presume back then it wasn’t the most commonly done thing, mixed race couples,” he confirms. “Even travelling that far from Hong Kong to Ireland in the 1960s was unheard of. So, I would say it was a bit like ‘do you see the Irish girl with the Chinese guy’ kind of thing. She was known as around Limerick as Monica Ho.
“Even my mom would have dealt with that with my dad. My dad is a Limerick lad, Irish born and bred. My mom looks quite Asian because of her father. That stuff is all part of the past, that’s not a thing anymore, there are so many mixed-race couples all over the world.”
Monica was in her 70s when she died.
“It’s still relatively young in this day and age to be passing away,” he stresses. “She was a real independent lady. She was all about it. She loved getting dressed up. She’d never be caught off guard, she was always looking well.
“It’s just seeing them deteriorate in front of your eyes and just starting to lose their mind.”
Greg points out that up until now the longest distance he has run is 5km. Known as a sprinter and also a rugby player, this will be a new level for him.
“It’s a ridiculous challenge that I don’t know if I’ll be able to do it, but mentally I’m just going to have to remember for nana and keep trudging and keep putting one foot in front of the other and hopefully I’ll get to the end,” he reflects.
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