Louise Duffy on marriage to Paul Galvin: 'I feel happier...like it's a stronger, better relationship'
'I'm a lazy mare and I always drive," says Louise Duffy.
"I'm from the country; we drive everywhere." This Mayo girl is talking about the proximity of the "tiny" house she shares with husband Paul Galvin, pretty centrally located near Ranelagh in Dublin, to her work in Today FM, near St Stephen's Green. She never walks it, she admits with a laugh; country girls don't do walking.
There are two things that strike you very quickly about Louise. One is that, as she says, she's a country girl. Her Mayo accent might sound a bit more refined to west-of-Ireland ears, but it is relatively undiluted, and her country-girl status is something she alludes to often. Second, she has a self-deprecating way about her that is very likeable and that, perhaps, is a result of the fact that she's a country girl. She refers to herself, as already noted, as a "lazy mare" and mentions several times in conversation that she's hard to shut up.
"I'm a mouther, amn't I?" she says at one point. "I give myself a pain in my head talking sometimes." Louise doesn't spare herself, and, further, she has an endearing way with words.
Louise fits in beautifully in the chic French-macaroon cafe in Dublin city centre where we sit. Her jacket, in flamingo pink, with mango-coloured lapels, could have been made for it. She's glamorous to the nth degree, but it was far from it she was reared. She might remain resolutely culchie at heart, but presents herself like she's made for Manhattan.
It's an unusual mix in the homogeneous modern age where everyone's the same while they try so hard to be different, and, for Louise Duffy, it works. Her union with Galvin sort of helps, too, in a pure Irish-Posh-and-Becks sort of way. She's a good-sort glamorous girl, and he's a GAA star who loves his clothes and resolutely paddles his own canoe. The synergy is good.
These are the things that make you warm to Louise. One imagines they are what work for her on Today FM, too, where she has gone from strength to strength in recent years, and now has her new 7-to-9pm weeknight show. These qualities will also be the making of her new website, womenswearstory.com, which she calls a marriage of her "passions for music and fashion".
The site, whose name echoes that of her husband's menswearstory.com, is a glossy affair with new-music recommendations that she "might not get away with" on her radio show, items on forthcoming fashion trends, recommendations of new or relatively unknown brands, and great tips on where to pick up catwalk looks at decent prices.
Louise says she spends hours every night online, "virtual window shopping" and doing some actual online shopping, too. "In work, I'd say they think I have some sort of black-market sideline; so many boxes come in and go back all the time. A huge amount goes back," she reassures me.
Setting up the website is just an extension of what she spent her evenings doing anyway. "I'd have up to 20 tabs open at a time and I might leave a few open by way of a hint to Paul," she says with a laugh. He's good at buying clothes for her, and always the right size, apparently, although she doesn't buy much for him.
"I'd get him something, and then I'd see him cutting off the collar or the sleeves and I'd think, 'Ah, why?' He knows what he likes, and anyway, he wears Dunnes Stores [for which he designs a menswear line] all the time now anyway."
She loves that they are both interested in clothes, however, and likes being married to a man to whom she can talk properly about fashion and share her ideas.
"It might seem superficial to some people," she says, "to be so cash-poor and clothes-rich and so wrapped up in fashion, and I do sometimes look around my house and think that maybe I should be spending my money there instead, but there's time for that later. Down the road, I won't be able to indulge this passion in the same way," she concedes.
- Read more: Exclusive: Today FM star Louise Duffy on marriage to Paul Galvin and her latest career move
Castlebar born and bred, Louise grew up the third of four children and the only girl. "It was all He-Man and soccer growing up," she says, "and I think I was prissier and girlier as a reaction to all of that."
Her father had, and still has, a stainless-steel manufacturing business in Mayo, and the boys helped him from a young age. Louise was into drama and dancing and all that jazz, she admits, but not necessarily a devotee of any one of them.
"I'd say I tried everything going," she laughs. "I was a great bird to pick up new things and then drop them after a few months, probably once the fees had been paid."
But while the boys were off working with their dad and learning to sail and windsurf and do all sort of outdoorsy stuff, Louise wasn't just at home fluffing up her tutu and doing her nails. From her teens, she was out working at part-time jobs in local pubs belonging to the extended family, and in local retail.
"At 14 or 15," Louise says, "I rang around every shop in Castlebar looking for a job. I ended up getting one in a maternity-and-baby shop, measuring women for nursing bras."
That was an interesting and potentially off-putting introduction to the realities of womanhood, I comment.
"It was. It still is," laughs Louise, who got married to former Kerry footballer and fashion guru Galvin last New Year's Eve.
"But that was my own dosh in my pocket to buy my own clothes and not bother Mum and Dad," she continues.
Unlike their city counterparts, country kids know that if they're planning to go to college, they're going to have to leave home. And Louise, who suspected early on that she wanted a job in the media, knew that Mayo wasn't going to allow her to achieve that.
"I'm such a homebird, really," she says, "but at the same time I knew I had to leave." She came to Dublin straight after school to study film and broadcasting in DIT.
"I remember my dad dropping me off at the top of Grafton Street when I was coming up to college. He'd given me money to go shopping or whatever, and I was, like, 'See ya'. But he was so emotional and I was thinking, 'Yeah, relax, I'll be home at the weekend'. But I didn't get it then. That's all so much more emotional for the parents. Because they know you're gone and you'll never be back the same way again. You don't get that when you're 17."
Louise would still go home at least once a month to see her family and friends, but Dublin has become her second home. It's where work is and, now, it's where her marriage is.
The couple had three years of a long-distance relationship until Paul announced his retirement from the Kerry football team in late 2014. He moved to Dublin to live with Louise after that, and stayed during his brief return to the team last year. The capital is home to them both now, even though they are both very connected to their native counties, which are inconveniently far from each other.
When she finished in DIT, having specialised in radio, Louise trained and worked in the law for a while. "It was easy, then, before mortgages and commitments, to take temp jobs and try different things and be freer," Louise says. "And I always worked in retail. Wherever the staff discount was most attractive, I went there and basically worked my way around Grafton Street, funding my clothes habit."
Louise's lucky break was getting a job as an AA Roadwatch broadcaster of news and travel bulletins. Her second lucky break was that they placed her in Today FM, and in the mornings with Ian Dempsey.
"With lyric or RTE One, there's not much opportunity to have fun with traffic, but with Ian, it's just his personality to involve every person he's talking to," she says, explaining that she was in the AA studio off Grafton Street, while Today FM is housed some streets away. Close, but not necessarily close enough to break the ice with a less responsive presenter.
"There was a good relationship there from the start," says Louise, "and I'd always be listening to him to see what he was talking about before coming to me. And I'd be thinking of something to say, getting ready for him, always looking for a chance to say more than the traffic report."
Louise was sharp and funny and Dempsey started giving her more time. Then, she says, the 5am-to-7am slot came up on Today FM. Louise had made known that she was keen to flex her broadcasting muscles, and she got the gig. It was the loneliest time of her life, she says, but it was a fantastic training ground, too.
"I probably couldn't even do it now," Louise says, now that she has her husband actually living in the same county and house as her, and her life has changed so much. "The early morning was fantastic as a starting point, and it was a great place to make a few mistakes. You could do stuff and think, 'OK, that was a disaster, I sound like such an asshole', but people listening at that time are so forgiving. They're just glad that someone else is awake."
After that, Louise did the lunchtime slot, before filling in for the late Tony Fenton while he was sick and, latterly, taking a month off before starting her own show, Lost in Music, from 7pm-9pm. She might have worried that it would mess up her married life, but far from it. "If I was still in law, I'd probably only be rolling in at eight o'clock anyway," she reasons, "and now I'm doing what I love."
Though Paul moved to Dublin two years ago, and they got engaged soon after and married last New Year, there's a sense that it's still a novelty for them to be in the same place. Did she ever worry, when he first moved here, that it wouldn't work, I wonder?
- Read more: GAA star Paul Galvin and Today FM’s Louise Duffy wed in ‘magical’ ceremony in her Mayo hometown
"No," says Louise. "I think we knew, though, that it would work, because if it wasn't right, we wouldn't have been bothering our arses getting in the car after work on a Friday and driving to see each other. To have him in the same county is amazing. It still is, after two years."
In 2011, Louise and Paul met through mutual friends in Castlebar. They were GAA friends, though Louise makes no bones about her GAA ignorance, back then, at least.
"I didn't know him or anything about him when I met him," she says of Paul. "He was so into GAA, and that was a world I knew nothing about. My family is into music and my brothers are into sailing and surfing, and so he probably wasn't an obvious one for me to go for; but these things happen."
She was always supportive of Paul's inter-county-football career, but she wasn't ever going to be the dyed-in-the-wool partner-supporter, and both of them seem comfortable with that.
"I might have had times when I felt I should be more supportive, because so many of the wives are, and it becomes their lives too, and then it means so much to the whole family. But I always appreciated that it's a huge undertaking for the county players. They give all their time, and I suppose that means the partner does too. But Paul was always in Kerry in those days and I was in Dublin, and my way of being supportive was going down every weekend, and so those early days were a juggle of him doing his thing and me doing mine."
The abrupt end that comes to a inter-county-football career was startling to Louise. One minute it's full-on and the next it's over, and while she was delighted that Paul's football retirement left him free to move to Dublin, she could see what a gap it left in his life, despite his writing and his fashion work. She was delighted for him when he joined the hurling club Kilmacud Crokes earlier this year - in addition to his footballing skills, Paul is also an accomplished hurler.
Radio is often characterised as offering women broadcasters greater career longevity than television, though television is always held up as the pinnacle, the grand prize in any broadcasting career. Louise says while she's enjoyed her turns on TV with TV3's The Seven O'Clock Show, radio is where her heart is.
"I love the integrity of radio," she explains. "You have to be yourself on radio, your true self, because there are no distractions if you're faking it. On television, for a woman in particular, people will be distracted into what shoes you're wearing or how your hair looks, but on radio it's just all you. I love that."
It's interesting that someone so interested in clothes and fashion should choose a career where she is not seen, but that speaks of the two sides of Louise that her website encapsulates. Her first love was always the music, and that's what she showcases, even indulges, on radio.
Their New Year's Eve wedding, in Mayo, was a wonderfully musical occasion, Louise says. Her brother is in a bluegrass band and is always the life and soul of a party, Roisin O was there and sang, and Cronin was the wedding band. She had thought getting married would be just a great day out and it was, Louise explains, but actually being married has made more of a change to their lives than she anticipated.
"I feel happier, almost," Louise says. "I feel like it's different, and it's hard to pinpoint how, but it feels like a stronger, better relationship. Nothing changed: we're in the same house and we're the same people, but it's just better."
As two people very connected to their native counties, do they ever discuss settling in either Mayo or Kerry to live? "My friends are always asking me if I'd like to come home in the end," Louise says, "and it'll always be home, but I suppose the work is in Dublin. And Paul loves Kerry, of course, but work is here, for now, anyway. I can see that people might want that for their family, what they had growing up, and things can change, but that's far down the line, very far down the line."
What a Mayo-Kerry couple is to do for their first Christmas is a more imminent issue, though. And no matter how long she's been in Dublin, or how much she stylishly fits the city, Louise is a country girl at heart. "Well," she says. "The girl always gets first dibs, right? In the past, we always went home to our own places for Christmas, and then he came to me in Mayo on Stephen's Day and I went to Kerry for New Year. But this year, I don't know.
"Maybe he could go down to Kerry for the days leading up to Christmas and then come up to me for Christmas Day. I don't know what I'm basing that on, but there you go - they're the rules that I've just invented: he'll read it here first," Louise Duffy says, laughing heartily. "It's in print now, there's no backing out!"
Photography by Agata Stoinska. Styling by Liadan Hynes
Sunday Indo Life Magazine