Kieran Quinn and his lawyer and Fine Gael councillor wife, Sinead Maguire, tell slightly different versions of how they first met eight years ago. He alleges that she was in McGarrigle's pub in Strandhill, Sligo, as she wanted to meet him when he was playing a gig there, while she insists she was merely in the pub to hang out with her friends.
"Sinead's a politician and a lawyer, so she tells lies for a living," jokes pianist Kieran, who was also playing football for Sligo at that time. "Her friends showed her an article about me in the paper, so her radar was alerted. I was having a drink at the bar afterwards and we got chatting. I was attracted to Sinead as she's naturally pretty - a thoroughbred, I call her - and she doesn't need to make much effort to look great. When you're a musician and footballer, you can get people saying, 'Aren't you great,' but I liked that Sinead wasn't like that and I knew it would be an equal, two-way thing."
We've heard from the prosecution, but what's the curly-haired Councillor Maguire's defence? "I can't lie, the bit about the article is true and my friends were trying to fix me up," she laughs. "My version is that I happened to be in the pub that night and didn't know Kieran was going to be there. I was in and out a lot so I didn't really listen to him playing, and I'm glad about that because I would have been intimidated talking to him. There was a spark there immediately between us."
Sinead was 32 and Kieran was 27 when they met, and she broke several of her own rules to date him. "He's five years younger and a GAA man, and footballers wouldn't have been my scene," she admits.
"There were a couple of hurdles in my head that Kieran smashed. I thought he was incredibly handsome, and we had great conversations. We went to sit at the top of the sand dunes with a bottle of wine at the end of the night, and talked until the sun came up."
The fact that Sinead hadn't come home worried her sister Sorcha, and there was a comical moment when the lovebirds spotted her walking along the strand the next morning, surreptitiously checking her sister was OK. Sinead and Kieran were married less than two years later, after he proposed to her on the same sand dunes. Mind you, ever the lawyer, she "interrogated" him as to why he was proposing, but he obviously successfully fielded that cross-examination, as she said yes.
While Sinead, 40, is originally from Cavan and was only in Strandhill because Sorcha was living there, Kieran, now 35, is a native. He's the eldest of Colleen, a psychotherapist, and GP Roddy's three children, and was born in Australia as his dad worked there for a time as a 'flying doctor.' Kieran actually gave up playing piano at 12 because he didn't like the traditional way he was being taught. He went back to it at 17 while boarding at Clongowes Wood College, and credits music teacher Liz Keighary with rekindling his love of music. He combined his psychology and philosophy degree at Trinity with playing football for Sligo, and after he went off travelling, decided to pursue a full-time career in music.
"I wasn't confident at the start," he admits. "I wouldn't have been comfortable talking to a crowd or playing my own music initially, but thankfully that has all changed. I pushed and worked hard, and while I wouldn't say I have had any big breaks, I've made a living out of it for 10 years and have found a way to make it work."
Kieran has just released a gorgeous new album, The Next One, and 10 of the tunes are his own compositions. He has also just embarked on a 32-date national tour. "I can't wait to get out and meet everyone," he says. "I have local musicians from each county performing with me. The two main influences on the album are jazz and traditional Irish, and I collaborated with other great singers and musicians on it."
Seeing the album come to fruition is very exciting, says Sinead, who is from Blacklion in Cavan. And if you're wondering, yes, she's related to chef Neven Maguire - he's her first cousin, as their dads were brothers, and she and Kieran held their wedding reception at Neven's restaurant. Her dad Frank is a farmer and mum Margaret is a retired public health nurse and Sinead has two younger sisters. She went to secondary school in Leitrim, and boarded at Mount St. Michael from 16-18.
Sinead studied archaeology and law at NUI, Galway, and then went to California to intern with a civil rights attorney, which was a fantastic experience. "If I hadn't met her, I probably would have left law because she showed me what good you could do with it," she says. "My plan was to qualify as an attorney in the States, but after my godfather, Uncle Joe, died (Neven's dad sadly died in a car crash) I couldn't resettle so I came home."
Having qualified as a solicitor, Sinead worked in indictable crime for a criminal law firm in Dublin. She is now self-employed and her specialist areas include mental health, crime and employment. She was also elected as a local county councillor in May 2014. "I was eight months pregnant when I was running, but I really enjoyed it and love the work," she says.
Sinead and Kieran have two children, daughter Nixie, 4, and son Tom, 13 months. Nixie's name came from a book, but Tom was named after people they liked and because Sinead's father said, "Ah you couldn't be calling the boys funny names!" They adore their children, but the early years have been challenging as both children had reflux and didn't sleep for a long time. Kieran and Sinead love living in Strandhill, which they say has a creative, entrepreneurial community.
"We both have independence to pursue our own careers and interests, and then we come back together for family time, so it's all great and we're really happy," says Kieran.
Kieran Quinn's album, The Next One, is available nationwide and on his website. He is currently on a 32-date nationwide tour, and full details are on www.kieranquinn.ie
Sunday Indo Living