WHEN RORY KAVANAGH opted off the Donegal panel for a few months in late 2009 into the spring of 2010, he went travelling with his friend and neighbour Damien McClafferty.
Together, Kavanagh and McClafferty, known as ‘Didi’, enjoyed their rest and relaxation, as they undertook a trip around the world, starting in Bangkok before making their through Laos by slow boat on the Mekong River.
Photo caption: Donegal captain Michael Murphy and Charlie Collins of Donegal Sport Hub join former Donegal midfielder Rory Kavanagh (centre) at the launch of his autobiography ‘Winning’ at the Mount Errigal Hotel in Letterkenny last month
From there they went motorbiking in Hue, Vietnam, and made their way up the east coast of Australia from Sydney to the Great Barrier Reef in an old campervan before moving onto New Zealand.
The usual stuff.
Until they arrived in Fiji in March 2010.
Kavanagh takes up the story in his autobiography ‘Winning’ and listen to the audio below …
At one stage, people at home in Donegal did hear that I might be in some big trouble.
As big as it gets, because they were told myself and Didi were caught in the middle of a cyclone. We were on one of the hundreds of islands that make up Fiji. And we were in lockdown in our resort, even though Cyclone Thomas was passing us by, and was a couple of hundred miles away.
At home, however, people thought we were in the middle of the path of this cyclone.
The reason they thought that was because we told them.
We had nothing to do with ourselves, apart from lounge by the pool by day and have dinner with a few drinks at night. We got to know the barman very well as you do if you’re Irish. He was working in the resort for stints of three and four months at a time before heading back home to his own island, and he loved to phone home.
And each night, Didi and I gave him our phones because we discovered it was not costing us anything. In return we had free drinks all evening long.
The barman had my phone, when a call came through to Didi. ‘Are you in the middle of a hurricane over there?’ he was asked.
Didi was enjoying his Long Island Iced Teas.
It was another beautifully warm, tranquil evening, with hardly a wisp of air hitting our faces.
‘Aye…’ replied Didi.
‘We’re in the middle of it… right in the centre of it… it’s TERRIBLE!’ ‘Trees are down…
‘Coconuts are flying off the f****** trees!’ he continued.
It was his brother, who works for the BBC, he was talking to.
‘Are you serious, Damien?’ he was asked.
‘F****** awful…’ confirmed Didi.
Next thing, Didi’s brother tells him that Shaun Doherty from Highland Radio wants to have a word with him. His current affairs show has one of the highest listenerships in the county.
So here we were.
Live. On air.
‘Didi … don’t be doing this!’ I warned him.
Doherty’s very formal, almost posh accent was the next thing I overheard on Didi’s
phone as I leaned into the conversation.
There were thousands and thousands of people in Donegal now listening in on our conversation also.
‘Damien… Damien… tell me the EXTRAORDINARY story?’ asked Doherty, ‘… what are the conditions like out there? ‘How BAD is it, Damien?’
‘It’s bad,’ Didi replied, slurring every second word.
‘The thing that we’re scared about, is not the wind,’ continued Didi, ‘… or … erm … the rain but fallin’ … erm… fallin’ coconuts. They’re the worst thing that people are afraid of.
‘Falling coconuts. Every resort is riddled with coconut trees and a lot of people… they die from coconuts falling every year.’
‘How bizarre,’ replied Doherty, who was clearly onto us at this stage.
‘So, let me get this straight?’ said Doherty. ‘It’s not roofs that are caving in on people’s heads that’s the danger during this terrible cyclone… it’s coconuts falling down and hitting them on the head and killing them?’
‘Exactly,’ claimed Didi. ‘Exactly!’
‘I believe,’ said Doherty, ‘… I believe the Donegal footballer, Rory Kavanagh is with you there.
‘Can I have a word with Rory?’ I was on the line next.
I actually tried to temper the story, and mentioned to Doherty that Damien and I were in a bunker, about 400 metres underground.
I mentioned that we were tracking the cyclone overhead on our laptop. I tried my best, despite the Iced Teas, and despite Damien’s disagreement, to assure Shaun Doherty that we expected to come out of our ordeal alive.
And that was the last we thought of the interview.
Didi took a call by the pool side the next morning from [my wife]Kathryn. She had been unable to get me on my phone.
I had forgotten to get it back from the barman.
Cyclone Thomas, in retrospect, was the calm. The perfect storm was about to hit.
‘WHERE’S RORY?’ Kathryn demanded.
‘He’s okay… he’s up in bed!’
‘GET HIM… NOW!’
Kathryn was not worried one bit about my safety.
She knew the story.
Damien and I were in the Daily Star newspaper, she informed me. We were headline news.
People were sick to death with worry.
My mother had her Blessed Candles lit all over the house.
For the launch of Kavanagh’s book last month, Michael Harte put together a video of that conversion with Shaun Doherty of Highland Radio …
‘Winning – How Donegal changed the game forever’ is available to buy in Letterkenny at Eason’s, Evolve Menswear, Clarke’s Newsagents, Macs Mace, Dry Arch Filling Station and at the Oldtown Shop. It is also available throughout the county and nationally at Eason’s and all good book stores and can be purchased on Amazon.