The Carrigaline local organised a quiz night in the pub and a waxing charity drive so he could get a place on the plane to the Special Olympics in Athens. He also had the Kieran Kramer band entertain the locals, the Corner House in the city’s Coburg Street opened their doors and Lifeimi Mafi donated a Munster jersey to raffle. Friends rallied, favours were called in and the €3,750 that every Special Olympics volunteer needs to table was boxed off.
Thousands of miles away, a 14-year-old Chinese athlete was making less painful preparations for his trip to the Greek capital. And Jun Sung turned out to be quite happy that Long left the Gaelic Bar without a whisper of body hair — and his fundraising problems sorted.
“I went out and was paired up with a Chinese golfer,” said Long 24 hours after touching down in Dublin with a campaign which saw Team Ireland take 106 medals in total behind him.
“It was extremely frustrating at the beginning because of the language barrier. He was a good golfer — I could see that — but he needed a lot of encouraging and his concentration wasn’t good.”
With the Chinese lad seemingly not too adept with Long’s lilting Leeside accent and the caddy knowing little Cantonese, he didn’t get much encouragement on their first day out together on the greens. He shot a very disappointing 71.
“He just needed someone to talk him through it,” continues Long.
“So we went back in and I was thinking, ‘how am I going to help this fella now?’ So I went up to his coach who spoke a bit of English and said, ‘I need Jun Sung — his name was Jun Sung — to be able to understand me’.
“I have one of these phones with a voice recorder in it and I got the coach to say about 10 phrases into the machine.”
There, off the course, the three stood as they muddled through a series of phrases that Long thought would be helpful.
“Please concentrate Jun Sung.”
“The lie of the putt is left.”
“The lie of the putt is right.”
“You need extra power because of the sand.”
“Your choice of club is wrong.”
The pair headed out the next day with a small hole punched through the language barrier.
“He shot 59 and picked up 11 shots,” said the Corkman, “then the third day he hit 51 and the last was 60.”
“What can I say, I came up with an ingenious plan and helped him out.
“We definitely bonded. We were high-fiving all the way around the course; that was my way of telling him that he had hit a good shot. So if he made a mistake or whatever and I held back the high five, the head would drop.
“Then on the next hole if he did better he’d give me a thumbs up and we’d have a high-five. He was only 14 and he only had two words in English, ‘water’ and ‘okay’.
“[But] I went out there and was paired with a Chinese golfer who I never met and by the end there was of course an emotional attachment. On the last day I gave him a Team Ireland T-shirt with Athens 2011 on it and our logo and he gave me a little Chinese doll that someone must have given to him to give to me. I don’t where he got it from.”
The performance earned the youngster a bronze medal. The Chinese coaches were jumping around behind the rope as they tried to explain to the athlete what he’d achieved, despite a terrible start. “There was definitely a few hugs at the end,” he added.
So Leeside can take some credit for a Chinese medal. Did Long go to see its presentation?
“We all went to the awards ceremony to support the Irish athletes but obviously when athletes from other countries got their medals we’d cheer and clap them too. But when Sung got his medal he got an extra cheer from the Irish.”
The luggage is unpacked and the mementoes for this volunteer are a tan, some wonderful memories and a little Chinese doll. Was the waxing worth it to get there?
“When you wake up the next morning with no hair but your fundraising is done it’s worth it. Fellas were coming up saying ‘I’ll give you 50 for half an eyebrow’. And I was like, ‘Give me it. I’m delighted I got there’.”
You get the feeling, he’s not the only one.