'We're two nerds together," is how economist Ronan Lyons and his entrepreneur wife, Naoise McNally, sum up what makes their relationship work. Actually, Ronan claims that he was even a bit of a nerd as a child, and at the age of seven was so worried about being unemployed when he grew up, that he devised a solution.
"I saw a vacant plot of land in Rathfarnham, and came up with the idea that we could put seven buildings on it where the 280,000 people who were unemployed at that time could all go to work," he laughs. Thankfully, Ronan's grasp on ergonomics has improved since then, as has his title – we can now address him as Dr Lyons after he successfully defended his doctoral thesis at Oxford last Friday on the economics of Ireland's recent property market bubble and crash.
Ronan, 33, is from Templeogue, and is the youngest of Aileen and the late Gay Lyons' two sons. His mum was a secondary school teacher and dad was an accountant – Gay sadly passed away on his 30th wedding anniversary from a heart attack in 2005.
It was probably no surprise that Ronan went on to study economics and politics in Trinity College, followed by a master's degree, and after working for a few years, he decided to embark on the doctorate four years ago at Balliol College, Oxford. He was with Naoise by then – they got married during this time – and in fact while Ronan had planned to study part-time over here, it was she who encouraged him to go for it full-time at Oxford.
They managed by visiting each other for the weekend once a month, and then for his final two years, Ronan was able to spend more time over here as he was doing research. They are not a dramatic couple, they say, so took it in their stride and Naoise also had the establishment of her wedding website, One Fab Day, to keep her busy.
Naoise, 32, is the oldest of five from Rathfeigh, Co Meath, and her mum Eavan was a nurse at the Mater. Her late dad Peter had a business restoring minis and vintage cars, but sadly died in 2012 from cancer, three months before she married Ronan.
She studied business and Russian at Trinity: they were there at the same time, she and Ronan never met on campus, although her American friend Jackie was in his class. On Jackie's last night out in Ireland to celebrate her graduation, they met for the first time in a pub. Ronan thought Naoise was attractive, good fun and intelligent, and he found her very interesting. However, her friend had said he was a tad annoying in class, so she was all prepared to dislike him, but found to her surprise that she kinda liked him too. It was a bit disconcerting that she was planning to move to Russia, though, and was going there for two weeks a fortnight later to scope it all out. Ronan phoned her the next day and invited her on a date – it was to take place 10 days later, which secretly baffled her, but he reasoned that she was less likely to be booked up.
"His personality won me over, and we had a fabulous time, but the coat he wore had to go," she laughs. "I had been watching Strictly Come Dancing that year, and while I was away he texted me on both Saturday nights to tell me who had been eliminated, which I thought was very sweet. I found him very intellectually challenging, and I really liked that. I'm quite loud, mouthy and extrovert, and while some people can find that too much, Ronan didn't, and it was great to have someone to bat against.
"He's incredibly loyal, calm and calming, doesn't get sucked into drama, and is one of the happiest people you could ever meet, while I'm more volatile."
Naoise decided not to move to Russia after all, and she and Ronan were married in 2012 in a humanist ceremony conducted by Susie Kennedy (also a well-known actor, singer and director). The ceremony took place in the park at Tintern Abbey and the reception in a marquee at Naoise's family's holiday home in Rosslare. They took care of the legal bit in New York the following week, as humanist ceremonies weren't legally binding then. They now live in Dublin with their adored dog Max, and hope to have a family in the future.
While Ronan is working as assistant professor of economics at Trinity, Naoise's career path included working in fund accounting, and at daft.ie. Then, while planning their own weddings, she and her friend Susan Gallagher were inspired by some great American wedding blogs to create a blog called One Fab Day, with the aim of helping other Irish people navigate their way through the production of a wedding. It took off beyond their wildest dreams and has become their full-time job.
Three years later, it has grown to be one of the top 10 wedding blogs in the world – an incredible achievement. It is styled as an online magazine, publishing original content three times daily, and employs a team of eight at its Dublin office. It works closely with its partners in the wedding industry to support them, and will be looking for investment to expand into the UK and further afield in the coming months.
"I'm academic-smart but Naoise is both academic-smart and world-smart," says her proud husband. "She thinks through everything, and is pretty much my adviser in everything. When I have a problem, I always think, 'What would Naoise do?'"