An unfortunate side-effect of championship games being played behind closed doors last year is the fact that no programmes were produced for quite a few games.
For reporters, it meant a return to the days of trying to source starting line-ups directly from team management or club officers – no need for sympathy, we survived. Come the county finals, online versions were available – edited as ever by The Echo’s Rory Noonan – and while this was a welcome development, it did mean that programme enthusiasts were left without the physical product for their collections.
Dan Cronin, current registrar of Macroom GAA Club, is one such collector, with the hobby having grown organically since he first started attending games.
“Essentially, I’m probably collecting all my life, unbeknownst to myself,” says Dan, who works as a postman.
“My father was secretary of Canovee from 1947-49 and I have his secretary’s reports from then. His sisters would have had stuff in the home place that he would have kept, so it was always in my DNA to collect things.
“When I was getting serious about the collecting, my uncle on my mother’s side, who was involved with St Finbarr’s, had a heap of programmes that he passed on to me.
“The first game I can remember going to was between Macroom and Castlehaven in 1985, when I was ten. My father would have been a good Canovee man so he was a bit slow to go to Macroom matches!
“Recently, I counted just the Cork county programmes I have and, between everything, I’ve about a thousand of them. I reckon the total figure is well over 5,000.
“I’ve a lot of other, non-GAA programmes too – I’ve a lot of Liverpool programmes, golf, horseracing, greyhounds, road-bowling, theatre programmes. Anything at all people give me, I keep!”
There is a small but dedicated band of collectors around the country.
“In normal times, we have one programme fair in Thurles every year,” Dan says.
“Séamus King and Liam O’Donoghue run it and it’s held in Thurles Sarsfields’ hall.
"There are 13 or 14 in a collectors’ WhatsApp group and I would estimate that there are 200 or 300 GAA collectors in the country.
“I’d have as much meas in any game, a programme is a programme, to me.
Even so, some programmes are more valuable than others, something that Dan has learned through experience.
“I kind of got done with a 1973 Munster football final programme one time,” he says.
“A fella said, ‘I’ll give you five challenge matches from the 1950s for that,’ but I didn’t realise at the time that the ’73 Munster football final is one of the rarest ones going.
“We’ve righted the wrong since, we have a copy again so we’re okay.”
The collection is ever-growing and Dan is looking forward to the return of supporters at games and the availability of programmes again. Meanwhile, the quest for completion – if such a thing is possible – remains ongoing.
“I’m missing 14 county finals from 1947 onwards,” Dan says.
“That would be a lovely thing to do, to have the full set of them. I have the two senior finals from that year and, pre-1947, I’m not even sure what kind of programmes they would have had.
“Obviously, All-Ireland finals back the line would be a great thing as well. I’ve every hurling final back as far as 1960 and every football since 1966.
“In lots of cases, when you say to people, ‘Oh, I collect programmes,’ they think you have one or two here and there. They don’t pay much attention to it, so it’s of late I’m trying to put myself out there as being one of the bigger collectors in Cork.
“I think I’d be there or thereabouts with anybody.”