John Dineen and Michelle Dockery watch the U.S. Open tennis tournament in 2013.
John Dineen and Michelle Dockery watch the U.S. Open tennis tournament in 2013.
PHOTO: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images North America/Getty Images

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John Dineen, a public relations executive, was 34 when he died of cancer Sunday

Dockery and Dineen had been introduced by her "Downton Abbey" co-star

(CNN) —  

“Downton Abbey” star Michelle Dockery’s boyfriend, business relations executive John Dineen, died Sunday after a long illness, according to news reports.

“The family is very grateful for the support and kindness they have received but would kindly request that they are left to grieve in private,” a spokesman told Britain’s ITV News.

Dineen was 34.

Dockery generally kept her personal life private but said last year that she had “a wonderful man in my life from Ireland.”

In a Marie Claire interview, she said that among the people she’d invite to a dinner party were “Marilyn Monroe, Patti Smith, Ernest Hemingway, Johnny Cash, Kristen Wiig, Will Ferrell and John Dineen.”

The pair were introduced by Dockery’s “Downton” co-star Allen Leech. A number of media reports claimed the two had gotten engaged this year, though the news was not confirmed.

The Irish Independent reported that Dineen, who was a senior director with FTI Consulting in London, returned to Ireland after a cancer diagnosis. He was raised in Waterfall, County Cork, and died at Marymount Hospice in Cork.

Dockery plays Lady Mary Crawley on “Downton.” Her character also lost a loved one young when Lady Mary’s husband, Matthew Crawley, died in a car crash just after the birth of their first child – a comparison at least one UK tabloid played up.

The popular series, broadcast on PBS in the United States, is now airing its last episodes in the UK, to be followed by a run in the U.S. beginning January 3.