The story of a love triangle between Michael, Harry Boland (Michael’s best friend), and Kitty is accurate. In 1918, Harry and Michael traveled to Longford where Kiernan and her siblings worked at taking care of the family business in Granard and stayed at the Greville Arms. At this time, Harry was the one dating Kitty and Michael’s interests were directed at Kitty’s sister, Helen. But Helen had another male friend seeking her affections and they eventually married, much to Michael’s dismay.
According to Sean MacEoin, Michael was originally attracted to Helen Kiernan ‘who oozed charm,’ but she was already engaged to a local lawyer, Paul McGovern. Frank O’Connor claimed that ‘on the night before her wedding [Michael] went to her hotel and pleaded with her not to go through with her marriage’ and that during the wedding speeches he was so agitated that he shredded his handkerchief. He then transferred his affections to a second sister, Kitty, with whom Harry Boland was also in love. Kitty had a very pleasing personality: clever, capable, articulate, well groomed, poised, always impeccably dressed, pretty rather than beautiful. (James MacKay).
The friendship Boland and Collins shared grew as they spent an increased amount of time together and this must have played a role in Collins’ hesitation to go after Kitty immediately. By 1919, Boland was surely in love with her. Michael enjoyed escaping to the country to play tennis, talk, and dance. In the summer of 1920, Harry returned to Ireland from America to take a break. He and Kitty spent time together and when it was time for Harry to leave again, Michael walked Kitty to tell Harry goodbye at his own risk.
In 1921, Michael traveled to Granard alone and stayed with Kitty. He invited her to a horse show and they met a number of friends there, Harry included. During the latter part of the year, it was apparent that Harry and Michael were competing for Kitty’s love. Both wrote to her frequently while they were out of the country, Harry being in New York and Collins in London. The correspondence between Michael and Kitty has been recorded in the book In Great Haste, a phrase that usually appeared in the letters. Over time, Kitty chose Michael but it is not clear how she went about breaking off her relationship with Harry.