Niall Quinn was filming for his Peaky Bannsiders YouTube channel (@ThePeakys) in Belfast at the weekend when he was approached out of the blue by Tony Guinn, who said he wanted to thank him for his regular vlogs about the Ballycastle Road club.
Mr Guinn, who left Northern Ireland as a 10-year-old at the height of the Troubles, is now head coach of men’s football at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in Wisconsin.
He regularly returns to Northern Ireland with teams and to visit family and goes to watch sporting events.
On Saturday he was at the BetMcLean Cup final between Linfield and Coleraine at Windsor Park.
And as he made his way to his seat in the North Stand, navigating through Coleraine supporters in the concourse, he spotted Niall Quinn, whose videos feature his travels with his young son Oisín to watch their beloved Bannsiders and other clubs’ games north and south of the border, as well as GAA fixtures.
The emotional exchange between Niall and Tony was captured on camera and the video-maker clearly struggled to maintain his composure as he listened to Tony’s story about his late son.
Tony told Niall he had come across his Peaky Bannsiders posts by accident, but they struck a chord with him because he’d been robbed of the chance to bring his son to Northern Ireland to see Irish League games.
He told Niall that his son died from Ewing sarcoma, the second most commonly diagnosed form of primary bone cancer in young adults.
Tony said: “He loved football/soccer. And because I come from here, my dream was always to bring him to a Windsor Park match and to watch Linfield, Coleraine and Ballymena games, which are part of our culture.”
Tony said he discovered Peaky Bannsiders when he was actually searching YouTube for information about the TV series Peaky Blinders.
He added that he hadn’t missed any of the Peaky Bannsiders vlogs, which had a particular resonance for him because he could watch Niall bringing his son Oisín to the games.
Tony said that through the Peaky Bannsiders videos he got an opportunity to experience “the joy” of what it was like to be a father like Niall, travelling to matches with his son.
He told Niall: “That’s why I wanted to stop you and thank you for doing it. It means a lot to me. You wouldn’t think that someone all the way in America probably knows your videos better than people here.”
Unusually for his videos, Niall was almost lost for words, but he eventually said that he hoped Coleraine would win the cup final for Tony’s son. However, Linfield emerged triumphant with a 2-0 victory.
Response to Tony Guinn’s contribution to the video was swift.
One commenter said Tony’s words were heart-breaking and heart-warming at the same time.
One man from Canada said it was “awesome” to watch the Peaky Bannsiders video and others wished Tony well after saying they’d been deeply moved by his story.
Niall told the Coleraine FC website that he started his vlogs to create lifelong memories with Oisín that he could look back on in years to come.
“As far as the match-day experience goes, I wanted it to be raw,” he said.
“What you see is the real deal — emotions, a father and son’s bond, the craic, the Coleraine fans and some banter.”