Meet the 'Superfan' who's spent €500k on following boys and girls in green
SPORT will imitate art in an exhibition staged by Ireland's greatest sports fan, who has spent more than €500,000 supporting the boys and girls in green over the past 40 years.
Retired garda Jim Ryan doesn't drink, smoke or gamble, but he has a passion for Irish sport, from football to GAA and athletics to boxing.
He attended his first All-Ireland hurling final in 1966, and since then has been to three Olympics, three World Cup finals, two European Championship finals and hundreds of Ireland soccer matches.
Now Jim's extensive collection of memorabilia will be the centrepiece of a special exhibition in Blackpool Library in Cork this weekend.
"I never thought anyone would have an interest in seeing my personal collection of sports memorabilia," he said. "But I'm thrilled it's going on public display.
"If people get one tenth the pleasure from looking at these flags, programmes, match tickets, caps, photos and jerseys that I got from all over the world, it will have been worthwhile."
Jim's €500,000 investment in following Irish sport has seen him witness some remarkable achievements.
He was there to cheer Ray Houghton's winning header against England at the Euro 88 finals in Germany.
He was also present for the only Northern Ireland-Republic of Ireland football select when a Shamrock Rovers XI featuring Johnny Giles, Martin O'Neill and Pat Jennings took on the mighty Brazilians in 1973.
He was in Sydney in 2000 to see Sonia O'Sullivan clinch an Olympic medal, and in London in 2012 as Katie Taylor made history by winning a boxing gold.
Jim admits his passions are GAA and soccer.
He watched the debuts of Irish legends including David O'Leary, Paul McGrath, Roy Keane and Robbie Keane.
"It's a bit like your first kiss - you never, ever forget it," he said.
Jim, who has missed only one of Ireland's competitive away matches in 39 years, went to every match at Germany 88, Italy 90, USA 94, Japan/Korea 02 and Poland 2012.
"I've visited 80 countries supporting Ireland," he said.