Love Island star Maura Higgins’ ex-fiance has claimed the starlet is ‘playing a game’ and ‘trying to grab attention’ in the villa.
Mechanic James Finnegan, 31, said Maura, 28, was ‘much more reserved’ and ‘not the most beautiful girl in town’ when he knew her as a teenager.
And the bombshell’s former lover revealed her outlandish behaviour on the ITV2 show is an ‘act’ which has shocked locals in her hometown Ballymahon, Ireland.
Attention: Love Island star Maura Higgins’ ex-fiance has claimed the starlet is ‘playing a game’ and ‘trying to grab attention’ in the villa
He told the Sun: ‘The Maura you see on Love Island is not the Maura I know. For me, she is putting on an act. I haven’t watched the scene where she was hitting on Tommy Fury but she never did anything like that to me. I’m not even sure he’s her type.
‘I think Maura is playing a game and trying to grab attention. But there is a lot of jealousy towards her here, with people bitching behind her back. I think she will be given a hard time when she comes home.’
James, who began dating Maura when she was 18, added that the Love Island bombshell was ‘not the most beautiful girl in town’ and was ‘much more reserved’ as a teenager.
Case of the ex: Love Island temptress Maura Higgins (centre) was previously engaged to Irish car mechanic James Finnegan (second from right). The pair are pictured with friends in 2013
He said: ‘She was not the most beautiful girl in town and was much more reserved back then, but I had wanted to go out with her for some time. The first date went well and we had a little kiss. We had a lot in common, we both loved cars. Maura was easy-going back then’.
Her childhood sweetheart, who she split with two years ago, went on to admit the beauty began to change in her 20s when she started modelling and entering talent competitions.
James said the contests ‘gave her confidence’ because she had to ‘stand on stage and talk about herself’.
It comes after MailOnline revealed Maura was engaged to Irish car mechanic James, who she was with for nine years. Friends of Maura’s former fiancé claimed he is heartbroken that they are no longer together.
Moving on: The stunning model dated James for a total of nine years, but ended things when he wouldn’t commit to marriage and children
‘Maura and James seemed like the perfect fit,’ a source told MailOnline. ‘They were together for years and everyone assumed that they would get married and have children.
‘As time went on and their relationship became more serious, Maura decided she wanted to get married, but James wasn’t willing to commit.
‘In the end she told him she wanted settle down and gave him an ultimatum, but he didn’t want to be tied down by children so they broke up.
They added: ‘You can hardly blame Maura for wanting to take things to the next stage. To be with someone for nine years and not walk down the aisle is an awfully long time.’
Maura met James when she was 16 in the Irish town of Ballymohan, County Longford, where he worked in his father’s garage.
Childhood sweetheart: Maura met James when she was 16 in the Irish town of Ballymohan, County Longford. The pair were once ‘deeply in love’, but things ‘fizzled out’
After they split Maura, who has caused a stir in the Love Island villa, began dating Paul Caslin, a Liverpool-born TV director, who is now based in LA.
But they separated last November after a year together when he moved to the US and they couldn’t make their long distance relationship work.
Maura’s mother Sharon said her daughter was ‘deeply in love’ with mechanic James, but their relationship had simply ‘fizzled out’.
Sharon sparked a backlash when she claimed her daughter dumped Mr Caslin when he cheated on her, a claim the director denies.
The friend continued: ‘James hasn’t moved on at all and hasn’t met anyone else. He still holds a candle to Maura and I think he regrets not being willing to commit.
‘He’s the sensitive quiet type and hasn’t been seen with anyone else.
A source told MailOnline: ‘Maura was a hairdresser in the local salon, then she got into a bit of modelling work. But it changed her. She became very conscious of her looks and what she was wearing’
‘Maura was a hairdresser in the local salon, then she got into a bit of modelling work. But it changed her. She became very conscious of her looks and what she was wearing.
‘I think she started to look at a life outside Ballymahon that could give her move opportunities. She was a big fish in a small pond and I think eventually she outgrew the village.
‘We do wonder why James didn’t want to marry her. I think if I were going with a guy that long I’d expect a diamond ring. She’s a stunning looking girl. He’s not a beaut compared to the people on Love Island but he’s a nice boy.
‘Mind you, there are no eligible men living here in the village. Its very difficult to fall in love in this town.’
Details of Maura’s past have emerged as she has been slammed by viewers for her ‘predatory behaviour’ towards Tommy Fury.
TV watchdog Ofcom received 486 complaints after she leapt on the 20-year-old boxer as he lay on the sofa and tried to get him to kiss her.
He said ‘No’ and turned his head away from Maura, who was trying to entice him away from his partner Molly-Mae Hague.
Maura also attempted to seduce Tommy by asking him if he wanted to ‘get frisky’ under the covers with her.
One viewer tweeted: ‘Maura is like a bloody predator. Forcing herself on Tommy like that is wrong.’
Others insisted that Maura’s behaviour was ‘unacceptable’.
Complaints: Ofcom has received a total of 486 complaints about Maura’s display with Tommy Fury, which many viewers branded ‘desperate’ and ‘crossing a line’
The uncomfortable scene led fans to accuse Love Island bosses of ‘double standards’ as they claimed Tommy would have been thrown out if it was the other around.
One said: ‘@LoveIsland should understand what Maura did last night to tommy was unacceptable. If it was the other way round Tommy probably would have been removed from, but what will happen to Maura? Nothing! Because she’s a women. DOUBLE F***ING STANDARDS at its finest #LoveIsland.’
Meanwhile, back in Ballymahon her behaviour in the villa hasn’t damped her popularity with locals in her hometown who pack into the local bar Skelly’s to cheer her on.
Skelly’s owner Pat Skelly said lots of villagers are excited that Maura is on telly and they have even started showing the programme in the bar every night at 9pm.
He said: ‘Maura is a regular in the bar who has been coming for years.
‘The staff and I wish her all the best for the show. We are rooting for her. Our customers have been watching her in the bar out of interest and we’ve put Love Island on the telly here each night at nine o’clock when it is on. We have all been curious to see what she gets up to because she’s local.’
He added: ‘When Maura comes in here she’s just one of the crowd. She’s got friends she’s known since school. She doesn’t vye for attention but she always dresses smartly.
Controversial: Maura also attempted to seduce Tommy by asking him if he wanted to ‘get frisky’ under the covers with her
‘She minds her own business and you’d hardly know she was in the place. She just drinks her gin and tonics and asks our barmen to mix up the odd cocktail alongside her friends.’
Locals in Skelly’s said Maura wanted to travel the world and go to glitzy parties, whereas James was a typical village lad who was content to stay at home.
One said: ‘Maura always wanted for bigger things. I remember her saying that Ballymahon was not for her – and that she wanted to get out.
‘Perhaps James could see that problems might arise in this relationship and decided that he and Maura weren’t as compatible as he’d like.’
James lives at home, right next to his job at family run business P & J Finnegan Car Sales, which he is in line to take over in future.
He gets his hands dirty and works really hard, but and weekends he unwinds with pals and goes to England and down south for the family car sales business.
His close friends, many of whom are now keen settle down and are getting married, drink locally in places like Skellys or Cooneys hotel where there’s lots of typical Irish craic, live music and lots of Guinness.
James is a quiet lad who is more likely to keep his feelings to himself and he’s very much the opposite of Maura’s outgoing personality.
James declined to comment when approached by MailOnline.
Popular: Back in Ballymahon her behaviour in the villa hasn’t damped her popularity with locals in her hometown who pack into the local bar Skelly’s to cheer her on