If you are ever curious as to who might have lined out for Clare GAA at any stage over the last 50 years, then Seamus McQuaid is the man to ask.
The Monaghan native has come to prominence in the last few months with his social media accounts ‘All Things GAA collection’ which has gathered a huge following from those who enjoy looking back on old programmes and GAA memorabilia.
It was his job as a steel worker that first brought him to the county, but it was love that kept him here as he and his wife set up home in Kildysart. That move also led to him finding a new job as the caretaker at St John Bosco Community School so his Banner passport is well stamped at this stage.
When he first made the move, the GAA was not something that held much store for him with his first love being motorsport. As his family grew, that quickly changed.
“I didn’t have much interest when I first came to Kildysart but then my sons started to play football and I started to keep the sheets with their names on it. From there I started to go with them to Clare games and just caught the bug. No matter what game I was at, I would always take home the programme and it has just expanded over the last 10 years or so. I always said that everyone needs a hobby and this is mine. I come here to the room and this is my space to escape” he noted.
To say it has expanded is something of an understatement, as his collection now totals somewhere in the region of 2,500 programmes from both club and county level. It includes anything from senior All-Ireland finals to the underage finals in Clare and everything in between. There is also a vast collection of sporting autobiographies and every kind of trinket you could imagine with a sporting connection.
Along with it being a historical reference point from a GAA perspective, he feels there is a huge social element to it also.
“We have two fairs every year in Turloughmore and Thurles and everyone meets up to swap whatever ones we have spare and try to pick up the ones we don’t have. There are easily a few hundred that I know of who are into it at the moment. We meet up with people at various matches to swap programmes and everyone enjoys just having fun with it. I might have all Clare programmes but you have to remember that Clare play someone too so there will be a Kilkenny man or an Offaly man or whoever it might be who want that programme too and we all will help each other out in that respect. It is hard to believe maybe but I could go into a county final and not just buy one programme, I might buy ten of them but I know that I will get it back from swapping with others who are on the hunt for them” he explained.
He points to the section of his collection which remembers the All-Ireland winning teams of 1995 and 1997, along with the 1992 Munster Football championship win as being of particular pride, with the editions of the Clare Champion from the weeks after those wins taking centre stage among them. There’s also a football signed by Mick O’Dwyer during his time in charge of the county footballers along with a sliotar struck into the Cusack Park terrace by Tony Kelly, which Seamus claims he caught first time.
The collection has been building over the last decade or so, but it was only in recent times that Seamus decided to begin showing it off to a wider audience when he set up his social media accounts and began to digitize his collection. Once they began to gain traction, he says the reaction was hugely positive
“I always had social media accounts for myself but I saw other collectors starting to put stuff up so I decided to give it a go as a way to show them off. I never really was into Twitter at first but it from there that is had really boomed. Being able to tag the people involved and tagging the clubs was the really big thing. Clubs had a great interest in it and they started to share it out too and it quickly grew from there. I try to put a few up most evenings but it can be time consuming in terms of organising them. It is a hobby and in ways it can be therapeutic to just come up and escape into your own world” he smiled.
Moves are afoot in recent months to move match-day programmes online, but Seamus does not think it will mean the end of people collecting.
“It will be all digital eventually but I don’t think that the hobby of collecting the psychical copies will ever be lost because people will always be looking for the ones from this era and much further back. Programmes are actually getting much scarcer in recent years. I remember going to games and there would be hundreds of them blowing around a terrace that people would have left behind, and that just does not happen anymore because only the people who genuinely want a programme will buy it. I would be one of those who will walk around still looking for them after games because I know I have the lads around the country who will be looking for them too. The crew in the shop in Cusack Park are very good to me and Ann Hayes is excellent for giving stuff to me too” he said.
The collection will continue to build over the coming years and while the bug has spread to his youngest son, Seamus is confident his collection is safe in the future.
“ I know it is there for the lads to do whatever they want with it when they are older, but they do say that I told them I will haunt them if it is ever sold when I am gone” he laughed.
Anyone who wants to check out the collection can search for All Things GAA Collection on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.