GAA programme rollout shows impressive progress

Matchday programmes will always be important historical documents for the Association
GAA programme rollout shows impressive progress

Programmes from the 1990 All-Ireland hurling final, 1999 All-Ireland hurling final and 2010 All-Ireland football final

LAST Wednesday, UCC GAA Club put out a call on social media seeking to find a programme from the 1970 county SHC final.

The College, benefiting from the rule that meant stars such as Ray Cummins had to play for them rather than Blackrock, overcame Muskerry by 2-12 to 0-16 in that decider to claim a second title, having also won in 1963.

While the modes of communication that have made the modern world a smaller place are often misused, in things like this they are a great asset and, thankfully, former journalist Jim O’Sullivan was able to come good with images of the programme.

In modern terms, it’s a fairly basic production, with details of the game and its curtain-raiser – a senior league clash between Glen Rovers and St Finbarr’s – on the cover. A sad indicator of the passing of time is the fact that Murphy’s stout is the only one of the three businesses advertised in the centre spread to still be in operation – Archer’s silversmiths and O’Shea’s shoe repairs are no more.

1970 Cork senior hurling final programme, UCC v Muskerry
1970 Cork senior hurling final programme, UCC v Muskerry

It is these little details which make match programmes such interesting historical documents. At club venues, the programmes are often still just the teamsheet and that’s fine as they are generally free – though Charleville deserve credit for an enterprising move at a Harty Cup semi-final a few years ago: the programme was free with a club lottery ticket (I won a prize so I’m very positively disposed towards such an idea).

For the bigger games, the quality has moved upwards. County final programmes are edited by Rory Noonan of The Echo, continuing the fine work of Brendan Larkin before him, while Ed Donnelly of the Munster Council has taken provincial productions to another level.

In terms of All-Ireland finals, it’s interesting to plot the development over the course of two decades – the 1990 hurling decider (my first), its 1999 counterpart and the 2010 football final, Cork’s last senior win.

The cover of the 1990 one is striking, with a full Croke Park inside the Liam MacCarthy Cup – the football one was the same style but featuring the Sam Maguire – but the content, which interesting in parts, is quite rudimentary. Not short on advertisements, it does give all the necessary information along with historical snippets, but the articles with headings like ‘Galway are consistent championship battlers’ and ‘Cork leave poor form behind them at the right time’ are not going to grab the average reader. Even so, Cork’s win, the first part of the double, means it’s a treasured possession.

Nine years on and the hurling final programme is still produced by DBA but it’s a world away from 1990. Now A4 in size, there is more colour inside in terms of the imagery and the tone of the articles – for instance, a piece on Cork goalkeeper Dónal Óg Cusack points out how he is aiming to become the first custodian in hurling history to keep clean sheets in the provincial final, All-Ireland semi-final and final. Thankfully, for him and Cork, he did in a 0-13 to 0-12 win.

The programme isn’t short on the historical angle, either, but even then it’s intriguing, relating the experience of Gertrude Gaffney, who had never seen a hurling game before being sent to do a colour piece for the Irish Independent on the day of the second replay of the 1931 final behind Cork and Kilkenny. The cover features Canice Brennan of Kilkenny and Cork’s Ben O’Connor, seemingly going for the same ball, though it’s a merging of two images – if it had been real Brennan’s swing would knock the Newtown man spark out.

The A4 experiment didn’t last too long – presumably they were too unwieldy, especially for one noting the scorers on the teams page – and the 2010 programme is smaller than 1999 but still larger than 1990 and, edited by Bishopstown native Brian Murphy, packing a lot into its 96 pages.

The cover is a mosaic of various images with the Sam Maguire overlaid – a nice idea though one that would have been even better without the pictures being repeated and perhaps with more of a Cork-Down focus.

The player profiles have more info than before, while there are focuses on the managers and captains as well as features on the 40th year of the All-Stars and, given that the counties had to wear change strips that day, one on colour-clashes in past finals. On top of all of that, the statistical analysis is deeper than ever.

In a world moving ever more towards digital technology, the role of the programme is under threat to an extent, but we’d like to think that as long as the content is strong, people will but them. And you can’t reminisce about an app 30 years later.

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