Eddie O’Mahony has collected match-worn Republic of Ireland jerseys for almost 20 years, and his gallery now forms the basis of ‘Forty Shades of Green’ — a book charting the history of team shirts from 1986 to 2018.
The book begins with the shirt worn in Ireland’s 1986 match against Wales and appropriately ends with the jersey worn by Wes Holohan against the same opposition this year.
Only 300 copies of the book were published in its first run, which were snapped-up by eager Irish supporters who bought it directly from the FAI, but now the publishers have decided to bring a second run into stores to meet the huge Christmas demand.
Eddie has followed the Boys in Green for years, but his collection began one night in the tumultuous summer of 2002.
“I’ve been following the team since I was a kid, but in 2002 I went to the World Cup in Japan, and I ended up in the team hotel after the Germany game.
“There was a sing-song and a few drinks, and I got chatting to Stephen Reid who ended up giving me one of his jerseys.
“It was an incredible moment, and I showed it to everyone when I got home, played 5-a-side in it, but eventually everyone got bored of it,” he joked.
After time Eddie decided to donate the shirt to an Irish football museum — only to discover there wasn’t one, which remains the case today.
Eddie decided to adopt a cart-before-the-horse approach to rectifying this. Instead of securing a physical museum to fill with memorabilia, he went about amassing a collection that would be so significant it would demand a public space.
He documented his collection on his ‘virtual museum’ — www.irelandsoccershirts.com — a website that Eddie admits was ‘amateurish’ in its first incarnation.
However, touched by the passing of fellow supporter James Nolan who tragically lost his life in Poland during Euro 2012, Eddie was inspired to revamp and improve the site to pay tribute to James.
“He was one of our own, and I wanted to do something to honour his memory,” Eddie explained.
Putting his own money into the project, Eddie had each piece of memorabilia professionally photographed for a new, redesigned website that does justice to his collection and has helped amass more curios.
“Players have seen the project online and can see it’s a serious endeavour, the word of mouth has been positive and really helps,” he said.
And it’s not just former Boys in Green who have helped Eddie out.
The collector has contacted one-time opponents who swapped shirts at the end of the game, which has unearthed some gems.
“Ireland played Norway in 1985, and wore a once-off shirt in that game that not many would have seen. The game wasn’t broadcast as RTÉ were on a strike.
“I contacted Arne Larson Okland, one of the Norwegian players, to ask if he still had it. Six months later he emailed to say his wife had found it in their attic and that I could have it,” Eddie said.
Other notable entries in the collection include a shirt that was due to be worn by Roy Keane in the 2002 World Cup before the Saipan fallout, and the famous ‘marker’ shirt complete with hand drawn number 5, as worn by Richard Dunne during his colossal defensive performance away to Russia.
The second run of “Forty Shades of Green” is due to hit bookshops in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile Eddie says he is working to convince the FAI to host his collection in a temporary exhibition in the Convention Centre to coincide with the Euro 2020 qualifying draw, which will take place in Dublin in December 2018.