Euro 2016: Republic's 'super fan' keeps mileage clock ticking

Support for Boys in Green has seen Jim Ryan visit the US, Iran, Korea and now Paris

The Republic of Ireland’s Ray Houghton (C) is mobbed by his teammates after scoring in  the World Cup match between Italy and Ireland in East Rutherford New Jersey on June 19th, 1994. Irish super fan Jim Ryan, who has followed the team around the world, says Houghton’s goals in 1994 and against England in 1988 are some of his most memorable moments.  Photograph: Ray Stubblebine/Reuters.

The Republic of Ireland’s Ray Houghton (C) is mobbed by his teammates after scoring in the World Cup match between Italy and Ireland in East Rutherford New Jersey on June 19th, 1994. Irish super fan Jim Ryan, who has followed the team around the world, says Houghton’s goals in 1994 and against England in 1988 are some of his most memorable moments. Photograph: Ray Stubblebine/Reuters.

 

It’s just as well Jim Ryan isn’t fitted with an odometer because if he was, the clock would be well around a second if not a third time. The football supporter has been all over the world to back the Republic of Ireland and is currently on his way to Paris for the Euro 2016 showdown with Sweden.

“I’ve been following the Republic of Ireland for 40 years,” he said. “My first trip abroad was in 1976 when we played England in Wembley. England had Ray Clemence and Trevor Brooking and Kevin Keegan was captain but Gerry Daly scored from the penalty spot for us to earn us a 1-1 draw.”

Countless trips in planes, trains and automobiles later, Ryan is on the road again - on this occasion via Brittany Ferries to Roscoff and car to Paris with his travelling companion, Tony O’Sullivan and friends, Mairead O’Callaghan and Eileen Martin to support Ireland in France.

Now retired from An Garda Síochána, the Watergrasshill man has followed the Republic across Europe, to Tehran and Japan over the years.

“I was at Italia ’90 and I was at USA ’94. I still remember Ray Houghton scoring against Italy in the Giant’s Stadium, that was memorable but I suppose it was the game against England in Stuttgart in the 1988 European Championships that really stands out,” he said.

“It was our first time qualifying for a major tournament and then for Houghton to score after just six minutes and then 84 minutes of torture before we were finally able to celebrate - nothing will ever match that for sheer emotion - to finally reach the finals and to beat England in our first game.”

A sporting ecumenist, Jim also follows the Cork hurlers and footballers while he has supported the Irish rugby team in the 2003 World Cup in Australia, the Irish cricket team in the 2011 World Cup in Sri Lanka and he was there when Katie Taylor won gold in the London Olympics in 2012.

So what does he think of Ireland’s chances in the Euros?

“I suppose I’m more realistic than optimistic. Everyone is talking about the game against Sweden but I think the last game against Italy could be the crucial one - they’ll be doing well to get out of the group - it would be great if they could.”