'I played for Fermanagh in Croke Park then jetted to our wedding in a helicopter'- GAA star Liam McBarron
Footballer Liam McBarron played at Croke Park for Fermanagh on his wedding day to Ann-Marie
Back in 1999, 21-year-old Ann-Marie Cahill wasn't impressed to hear that a tall, handsome GAA footballer from Fermanagh had come to spend the summer in Boston, where she and her family lived. Meanwhile, the other girls on her football team were smitten by 22-year-old Liam McBarron.
"They were saying, 'Jesus, look at him', but I was sick of the Irish players who came over every summer," she says. "You'd be ditched when they went home, and I wasn't interested in getting my heart broken again. When you're young and innocent, players are players."
Ann-Marie's sister Lynn told her that Liam was a lovely guy, but he wasn't her type as he was wearing an Incredible Hulk t-shirt and O'Neills tracksuit bottoms. However, Anne-Marie did a double-take when she clapped eyes on Liam in the pub after training. "I said to my sister, 'Get him over here now and introduce me,'" she laughs.
While she had been living in Boston since the age of 11, Ann-Marie is from Dungarvan, Co Waterford, and is the second-eldest of Mary and Tom Cahill's four girls. Sadly, her youngest sister, Sarah, died aged five from pneumonia - which, she says, was 'horrendous' for the family. Her parents sold their pub, The Welcome Inn, and moved to Boston. There they opened The Chieftain Pub & Restaurant in Plainville.
As a teenager, Ann-Marie played GAA, and ended up playing for the US team. When she finished high school, she went to Australia for a year and played for Australia.
"Gaelic football got me through life and helped me meet people," she explains. "I went back to Boston after that and worked in the pub."
Liam recalls how, once they were introduced, Ann-Marie played hard to get. They didn't get together for a few weeks, but then began dating and had a great summer. She liked his smile and his eyes, and the conversation was always easy.
"I was very physically attracted to Ann-Marie, as she's beautiful and has great bone structure," says Liam. "She has a very soft and easy-going personality, and is very supportive. A Dutch guy once said to me 'when you are choosing a girl, choose her for her eyes - because you spend most of your time looking at them.'"
Once the summer was over, Liam headed back to Enniskillen to finish his master's. When he was three, his father, Sean, died aged 37 from a brain haemorrhage, and he pays credit to his mum, Philomena, for raising himself and his older brother and sister single-handedly. Liam trained as a technology and design teacher and then completed a master's in computers and education. He also played for Fermanagh under-21s before going to senior level.
He and Ann-Marie conducted a long-distance relationship over the next year, and then she decided to come here in 2001, as it was easier, logistically, for her to make the move.
"It was hard to leave my family, but coming back to Ireland made it easier," she says. "We settled in Dublin, and my mom and dad come over four times a year now, so it's great. They have retired, and my sisters have taken over the bar."
Ann-Marie and Liam were married in 2004, and couldn't believe it when Cork and Fermanagh ended up being scheduled to play in Croke Park on the day.
"I got so upset because I thought no one would come to the wedding, but it had been Liam's dream to play in Croke Park and I couldn't take it away from him," says Ann-Marie, who also played GAA here for 15 years. "He told me that Sean Quinn, who is from Fermanagh, would send him in the helicopter."
On the big day, Liam played the match at 2pm (happily, Fermanagh won) and was whisked away by helicopter to say 'I do' in Waterford, which made the news that evening.
The rest of the team came down by coach to join them that evening and they had a wonderful day.
Now 38 and 40, Ann-Marie and Liam have three children - Sean (10), Thomas (7) and Julia (5). Liam taught for eight years, and then started up a waste management company called EcoSense. Ann-Marie worked for 10 years with Vera Wang at Brown Thomas, and was looking for a new challenge that she could combine with raising a young family. The idea came about when she started making her own granola - as she is, by her own admission, a 'picky eater'. Liam and the children loved it too, so she began developing the recipe and testing it out on other people.
The reaction was really positive, and Julia's Favorite Granola was born. Ann-Marie acquired an approved kitchen in Bray, and goes there four evenings per week to make the granola. It has only been a year, and she is already supplying 23 outlets, including Avoca, and has expanded to include granola bars and bags of family 'bites'. She is really enjoying the very positive reaction the products have garnered so far.
"I love my little life right now," she says. "Liam and I have a date night every weekend, and catch up on everything that has happened."
GAA is still a common denominator as, while they are both retired now, Liam coaches the Kilmacud Crokes under-10s. Ann-Marie says he always puts her first, plus he is a huge help with the business. "I grew up with integrity and honesty at all times, and Ann-Marie brings that in abundance as well," says Liam. "There are no hidden doors with us, and that's what keeps us going."
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