Saturday 15 December 2018

‘I’m just following up on a story that you’ve taken up with a woman’

Extracts from Sean Cavanagh's new book, The Obsession

Seán and his wife Fionnuala.
Seán and his wife Fionnuala.

Independent.ie Sportdesk

Fionnuala and I had our first baby, Eva, on April 26, 2011. It was a magical time for us, and Eva has continued to bring incredible love and joy to our lives. But the warm glow we enjoyed in the days and weeks after her arrival was mixed with unpleasant background noise from anonymous quarters.

All through my career I’ve had to endure an awful pile of horse sh**e being spoken about me.

Thanks be to God, Fionnuala has been there with me through thick and thin for most of it. She knows how quickly rumour spreads and, more worryingly, how easily it sticks.

The odd time it can get to me because I feel sad and angry that my family are affected. Mostly, though, I have just brushed it off.

Worst of all, though, were the rumours about my marriage. They started with random snippets. One day I was in a local shop and bumped into a club-mate who said he was sorry to hear Fionnuala and myself had split up.

Soon after, Cathal McCarron told me he heard I had gone off with the winner of the Tyrone Rose competition and was moving to Omagh with her.

Those were outrageous suggestions for a man who spent the majority of time at work, training or strapped up with ice. At work one Tuesday morning, soon after Eva was born, I got a phone call from Philly McQuade, taxi man and Moy club stalwart: "Are you about, Seán? Look, take a run out of the office, will you? It’ll only take a minute."

He probably wants me to sell tickets, I thought.

I popped out and sat in his taxi, and Philly gave it to me straight: 'You need to do something about these rumours, Seán. I’m going around in the taxi and people are saying you ran off with a woman and Fionnuala showed you the door. I heard it in Armagh, in Blackwatertown, and I heard it in the Moy a couple of times this week.'

'Huh? I know this has been going around, Philly, but can you find out where it’s coming from?'

'Seán, it’s coming from everywhere. You have to nip it in the bud.'

Fionnuala was on maternity leave and whenever she was around Dungannon we would meet for lunch, which we did the following Friday in Linen Green, a shopping village outside the town.

As I pulled into the car park the phone buzzed. The lad at the other end gave his name and said he was writing a story for a popular Sunday newspaper.

"Feck sake,” I thought, another interview! And this late in the week, two days before our championship opener with Monaghan!

"All right there, how’s it going?" I said.

"Seán, I’m just following up on a story that you’ve taken up with a woman and got kicked out of the house."

"Huh? Sorry?"

"It’s on Wikipedia."

I was gobsmacked. I didn’t know much about Wikipedia.

"Huh? Who put that in?"

"I don’t know, Seán. I’m only following up the story."

"Well, I can tell you this. I’m actually meeting my wife, Fionnuala, right now. I’m on my way into the coffee shop."

"Seán, we’re running the story on Sunday."

"You’re what? I’m sorry, you’ll have to give me a minute here!"

I hung up and went inside, and Fionnuala knew straight away something was up.

Fionnuala is much more bullish than I am at taking people on. Where I’d be diplomatic or tactful she takes the direct route.

She took the phone off me, dialled the number and got your man from the newspaper. I sat there in disbelief.

"I’m Seán Cavanagh’s wife," she said. "What’s going on here?"

He told her they had information from several sources that I had been given the door and was away with another woman. Fionnuala told him he was following a false lead.

As it turned out, nothing was ever run in print. I had a couple of restless nights before the Monaghan game – Eva had been crying in the wee hours and I had been sweating over what might appear in the papers – and I wasn’t exactly full of the joys that Sunday morning. But none of the papers ran with the story either then or later.

We reckon we know who was behind the rumour and finding that out in itself proved a sickener. It was an individual with whom I had been friendly for a while before we had lost touch.

Angry, I phoned the individual in question. Not surprisingly, he pleaded total innocence. But to this day, any mention of the name of that lad is banned in our house.

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