Mr ‘Ireland’ Jim Barr on following the Boys in Green for over 30 years

Jim Barr has been a busy man this week-and-a-half.

By Kevin Mullan
Friday, 10th June 2022, 1:27 pm

As always when Ireland face a series of fixtures the ex-Carnhill shopkeeper has been making sure fans have been sorted for games in Armenia and Dublin.

The ‘Journal’ caught up with Jim to reminisce about a 30-year footballing adventure with the ‘Boys in Green’.

Surrounded by signed shirts and memorabilia from Ireland legends including Johnny Giles, John Aldridge, Shane Duffy, Ray Houghton, James McClean and Ronnie Whelan, and photographs of himself alongside the likes of former German international manager, Joachim Löw, and striker, Oliver Bierhoff, Jim, who founded the official Derry Republic of Ireland supporters club in February 1992, took us back to where it all began.

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Jim Barr with some treasured possessions at his home in the Glen estate.

“We started the club in the Gweedore Bar and then moved up to the Castle and have been going ever since,” said the affable Shantallow native.

“That’s going back 30 years now. Before that I used to follow Derry all over when they started back in the League of Ireland in the mid-1980s.

“We had a big supporters’ club that we ran from the Shantallow House that had three or four hundred members in it.”

Over the years the club have travelled to World Cups in the United States (1994) and Japan/South Korea (2002) and European Championships in Poland/Ukraine (2012) and France (2016), not to mention many the skirmish in qualification campaigns all over Europe in between.

Jim Barr pictured with Ireland memorabilia at his home.

And although the fervour of the heady days of the Jack Charlton era has diminished somewhat Jim says the local club is still in rude health, not least with the strong local interest in the Irish side today.

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“They are all genuine boys. There is a fair proportion of them now who are middle-aged who would take their grandsons to get them into it.”

Jim will be well-known to many as the former operator of Barr’s Shop in Carnhill. However readers may be less aware of how a past career had prepared him for the many long haul journeys he has completed in support of the national side.

Ray Houghton and Terry Phelan after the former scored against Italy at USA 1994.

In fact, Jim had travelled the world several times over long before he was organising itineraries for the club.

“Before I was 26 or 27 I was around the better part of the world. I was in the Merchant Navy on oil tankers from when I left school when I was 16. My poor father was killed by a cop in a road accident at the bottom of the Rock Road. After that I was the oldest in the house and the shillings weren’t easy to get. We used to gather spuds and get a shilling or so. Then a neighbour got me into the BSR but I didn’t like it so I went down to the quay and they were taking recruits for the Merchant Navy.

“I said I wanted to join. I went to Gravesend in Kent to do six months training. My first boat was out of Belfast to Helsinki. I would send the wages back to my mother.”

He remembers going ashore in Philadelphia in the early 1960s and hearing a musical legend in a quayside bar.

Packie Bonner’s famous penalty save against Romania at Italia 1990. Jim founded the supporters club shortly after the World Cup.

“I saw one of the world’s greatest stars. I was about 18 or 19 and I wasn’t drinking. The deckhands took me in to a pub and there was a boy playing away on the piano and me sitting drinking coke.

‘Do you know that boy?’ they asked.

I said, ‘No, how would I know him?’

It was Ray Charles.”

Remorseful mystery punter returns Jim’s £10 with interest after 30 yearsMore than 30 years later Jim was back in the US as the head honcho of the recently formed supporters’ club following Ireland at USA 1994.

“Everything went well. We went to America. There were a couple of priests in the club and they could sing!

Jim beside photographs of him with former German international manager Joachim Löw and striker Oliver Bierhoff

“There was some singing and dancing in the pubs in America.

“We have some stories going down in the buses today about the trips we had away to America or over to Portugal or wherever. The crack was great.”

The club has associations all over Ireland and the world and Jim became a founding member of the Confederation of Republic of Ireland Supporters Clubs (CRISC) in 2013.

Jim remembers travelling along the east coast of the US and establishing links there.

“I took a train from New York up to Boston to The Banshee pub in Dorchester. To this day there are 19 of them in our club.

“That was ten or twelve years ago and they are still in touch with me. They buy about seven or eight season tickets off me every year and meet up with me. We were to meet up in Germany the last time.

“We meet up for different matches. It’s easier for them sometimes to get to the continent than it is to get to Ireland.

“These are boys whose families are from Meath, Cork and Kerry but are over in Boston.

“I can’t get to as many away matches now as I used to but I was everywhere over the years.”

Today Jim is busy in Dublin ensuring everyone is right for the Scotland match tomorrow.

As ever he will be running a tight ship and everyone will be home and hosed on Monday.

“We have a mixed group who travel and we don’t allow alcohol on our buses or nothing like that.

“You are going down to a match. You have all day - you get your seats and have a pub in the ground behind you and you have a few drinks after the game in the hotel but its back down to be on that bus for 11 o’clock or it’s away without you. End of story.”