Confessions of a hoarder

Cavanman's Diary

Just as a lot of what are regarded as ‘old pubs with character’ are, in reality, not far removed from dirty, outdated kips, there is also a thin line between a hoarder and what they call in these parts “a clatty hoor”.

As I have written before, I am the former (some would say both). I collect and store useless things. It’s a trait I inherited from my late grandfather, Dick Fitzpatrick, one of the great hoarders.

Now, it’s important you don’t confuse him – or worse, me – with one of these recluses who hold on to towering stacks of newspapers and can barely move around their houses. Things aren’t just that bad, yet, but we share some of those traits.

Hoarding was once described as a form of idolatry and I can see the logic in that. There is a fixation at play.

Granda liked to trick at old clocks and engines and so on. His fascination with mechanical objects led him to attend auctions and often land home with what the announcer called “a box of junk”. It was exactly as advertised – a cardboard box or a tea chest full of old ornaments and remote controls with no batteries, elastic bands, screwy things, mousetraps, decks of cards with only 49 in it… You get the idea.

He would never discard any of it. Within that box, there might have been something useful. If not, so what? It’s only a box. There was always room for another one in the hay shed.

I am similar (sans hay shed); every now and then, I mount a cold-blooded cull but I find it regrettable. It goes against my nature to throw anything out.

One of the treasures I keep is football match programmes. I wouldn’t call myself a collector per se but they’re just a thing I like to have. Match programmes may usually be just a few sheets of glossy paper, often replete with garish graphics and funky fonts, but they boast a secret power – hold one in your hand and they can transport you, the reader, or the hoarder, back to an exact moment in time.

I keep a lot of them in a battered old suitcase, bursting at the seams, in my office, and more in big plastic storage containers, which are sealed tight as a drum in the shed. Others are in drawers and on shelves of a bookcase. My wife, at the end of her tether, put some sort of order on them at one point but I resisted and, over time, have disorganised them all again, through an ancient process my other grandfather used to call “leaving it lying at your arse”.

Regardless, I am quite comfortable surrounded by clutter anyway. Good job, says you.

Anyway, I often take these programmes out, ostensibly checking something or looking for a particular game, and soon I am thumbing through a few dozen and a few hours are gone. (At least, this time, I managed to turn that lost morning into a column.)

In my collection are some classics (the re-opening of Breffni Park in 1952 is the centrepiece) but mostly, they are from humdrum inter-county matches. One, which I’m looking at now, is for a game which actually never happened – the opening of the new football pitch at St Matthew’s Park in Crosskeys, home of Denn GFC.

Cavan were due to meet Meath on that occasion (Monday, April 22, 2019) but the match was called off due, I think, to an outbreak of a virus in one of the camps. Scanning the team sheets, I just noticed that Martin Cahill, the former county captain from the host club, was listed at number 30; unfortunately, Martin didn’t get that swansong, which would have been richly deserved. But had I not taken that programme out, that’s something I wouldn’t have known.

Another. June 12, 2011 – Cavan versus Donegal in the Ulster Senior Football Championship. Page 28 – ‘One Minute With… Micheál Lyng’. Favourite drink: Mi-wadi. Young Player within your club to look out for: Paul O’Connor.

I rummage blindly again. The All-Ireland ladies Intermediate final, 2011, Cavan against Westmeath. Under 'Interesting Facts' on page 37, “Eight of the Cavan squad played in the All-Ireland U16 final against Galway in 2003”.

Elsewhere on the page, a Q&A with the Cavan captain, Aisling Doonan. Biggest disappointment: Losing U16 All-Ireland to Galway.

Next, Cavan and Wexford, a National League Division 3 match at home on March 13, 2010. On the cover, Cian Mackey. Inside, a piece by my friend Niall Boyle, Sports Editor of the now-defunct Cavan Post, headed 'Testing times for Breffni Blues'.

It feels like a lifetime has passed but I remember the match well. Mackey scored seven points, Niall and I ended up in the Imperial after. The years go on. He now edits a national newspaper in Australia; I’m sitting on the floor of my box room leafing through dusty, worthless programmes. Never liked Sydney anyway...

A couple more lucky dips. Cavan and Antrim, Ulster Championship, 1995. In the pen pics, two Antrim players are listed as “Unemployed”. A thinly-veiled ‘come and get me’ shout-out to employers? A joke? A sign of the times? We’ll never know.

“Today’s game will go some way towards determining the full extent of Cavan’s recent revival,” was the top line in Sunday Life journo Michael McGeary’s preview on page nine. I was at that game as an 11-year-old; Peter Reilly rattled the net twice and Cavan were back.

You won’t be surprised to know that I also keep magazines and little booklets and so on. I’ve just pulled out a drawer and the first one that came to hand was a commemorative leaflet saluting the 1963 Cavan junior champions, Butlersbridge. Where I got that, I have no idea but I’ll tell you this much: it and I shall never part ways.

The dig continues. Here’s a Hogan Stand magazine from March, 2003. The cover price is €3.75, money a 19-year-old me definitely did not have going spare. Why did I buy it? I see now: “Jason still chasin’ the dream”, a three-page interview with the Cavan goalsmith O’Reilly, with heavy product placement for a local quarry, including a photo of the Belturbet man in a hard hat standing beside a stack of kerbstones, captioned “Concrete might be the only thing to stop Jason O’Reilly”.

Another magazine, this one GAA Digest, All-Ireland Souvenir edition, 1949, in pristine condition, which someone kindly gave me. The style of writing seems amusingly twee now but the men who produced this – and they were all men – were absolutely staunch in their devotion to the games.

On page 11, a photo of Willie Doonan, incorrectly captioned “W Donovan (Cavan)”.

Anyway, back in 2023, we’ve a deadline tomorrow; that’s enough for one afternoon.

That last one got me thinking, though. What are the chances that somebody, in 84 years’ time, on the Moon or wherever they’ll live then, will, like I’ve just done with GAA Digest, drag up my columns, pointing out typos and inaccuracies?

Hoarding probably won’t be a thing by then. But if it is, they’ll be kept busy…