Ross O’Carroll-Kelly: ‘The only Cillian I know is her ex, who worked as a risk assessor for an insurance company. I call him Love Actuary’

It started as just a meal, but it seems likely to end in an intervention

Sorcha tells me to get dressed – we're supposed to be in Saba at nine. Which comes as news to me. She goes, "I told you yesterday, Ross, we're meeting Cillian."

And I’m like, “Cillian?” because the only Cillian I know is Cillian her ex, who went out with her in UCD, then later worked as a risk assessor for an insurance company, which is how I came to nickname him Love Actuary.

I go, “The only Cillian I know is Cillian what’s-his-face?”

She’s like, “Yeah, no, that’s him.”


And I’m there, “Okay, why are we having dinner with him after all these years?”

I’m not jealous. It’s just the last time I heard the dude’s name mentioned was, like, eight or nine years ago. Me and Sorcha were having a few, let’s just say, marital problems, owing to me sleeping with Eskaterina, our nanny from, I don’t know, Belgrania or Ukrania or one of those countries that sound made up.

Cillian was her rock during those troubled times. He’s one of those men who actually listen to women – and not as, like, a seduction tactic. He’s got a genuine gift for it. Anyway, Sorcha tried to convince herself that she was in love with him. They went off to America, taking Honor with them. The whole thing lasted about a year, until Cillian had a bit of a meltdown, around the same time as the world economy was going through something similar.

“He’s getting married!” Sorcha goes.

I laugh. I shouldn’t be bitter. But then bitterness is part of what made me such a force to be reckoned with on the rugby field.

I’m there, “I don’t understand why he’s back in our lives, though.”

“Ross,” she goes, “when you get engaged, you’re supposed to contact people you’ve, you know, been with in the past to let them know.”

“Why? To rub their noses in it and find out if they still want you?”

“It’s so they don’t hear it from someone else. It’s called good manners.”

“Well, I’ve never heard of it. God, if I’d told all my exes when you and me got engaged, I’d have been on the phone for years. Would have been easier to hire a plane and do a leaflet drop over South Dublin. I still don’t know why we’re meeting him for dinner, though.”

“He and I were talking and I said how much you and I would love to meet Sunneva.”

“Sunneva? The only Sunneva I know is Sunneva Feeny, who went to Loreto on the Green and married Oran Gunn, who played loosehead for Gonzaga. Now she’s called Sunneva Gunn. It’s not her, is it? I’d hate to think they broke up, even though he’s nearly as big a filthbag as me.”

“Go and get dressed, Ross.”

Which is what I end up having to do.

Half an hour later, we arrive in Saba and I spot them across the floor of the restaurant. Cillian hasn’t changed a bit, except he’s a few pounds heavier and he’s wearing, like, glasses. It turns out it’s not Sunneva Gunn he’s marrying. It ends up being totally different Sunneva. The only way I can describe her in non-sexist terms is to say that she’s not great. I’ll leave it at that.

Cillian makes the introductions. I’m pretty sure I’m not imagining a faint smile on Sorcha’s lips when she notices that Sunneva isn’t as good-looking as her. I make sure to give Cillian a good, meaty handshake, just to let him know I haven’t fully forgiven him for trying to take my wife and daughter away from me.

Then we sit down. It’s the usual blah-blah-blah. They met through a dating website – they’re not ashamed of it, they say. She’s a primary school teacher and he’s now working as a senior credit analyst some crowd in the IFSC. They’re about as much fun as an autopsy.

Until, that is, the waitress arrives to take our orders and Cillian asks for the Massaman curry. That’s when the evening suddenly takes a twist.

“You’re not having a curry,” Sunneva goes and she says it, like, firmly? “Order something else.”

Cillian’s there, “I kind of had my heart set on a curry, sweetie.”


She suddenly rips into him. She’s there, “Well, I don’t want you stinking up our bedroom with your farts!” and she shouts it at the top of her voice. Then she turns to the waiter and goes, “He’ll have the steamed fillet of sea bass.”

When it’s my turn to order, I go, “I’ll have the Massaman curry,” not because I like it particularly – I’m a Phad Thai man – but just to let Cillian know that some of us can order whatever we want.

I look at Sorcha and that’s when I cop her embarrassment at the way Sunneva just spoke to Cillian. Sunneva cops it, too, because she goes, “Sometimes – you probably remember this, Sorcha – you have to shout to be heard by him. I’ve been on at him for six months now to throw out those model airplanes of his.”

Sorcha looks at Cillian. She’s there, “You love your model airplanes.”

Cillian’s there, “Sunneva thinks it’s time I maybe got rid of them.”

“You are getting rid of them,” Sunneva goes. “There’s a focking skip coming on Wednesday.”

Whenever I see a man just sitting there, allowing a woman to talk to him like he’s a dog, I always think, ‘I wonder would he be interested in babysitting Honor?’

Anyway, this ends up being the vibe for the entire night until exactly 11 o’clock, when Sunneva announces that their pre-booked Hailo has arrived and she drags poor Cillian off home. I order another cocktail, while Sorcha, who’s been holding her tongue all night, finally offloads.

“Oh my God,” she goes, “she’s horrible!”

I’m there, “Hey, looks aren’t important, Sorcha. Even though that sounds kind of wrong even as I’m saying it.”

“I’m talking about her personality. She’s awful.”

“Hey, not every man is as lucky as me. The curry was great, by the way – although don’t stand downwind from me!”

“Ross, he can’t marry her. We have to stop him making the biggest mistake of his life.”

I’m there, “Sorcha, it’s nothing to do with us.”

But I already know that I’m wasting my breath.