Brendan O Sullivan

Old Programmes

by Brendan O'Sullivan

Collecting  programmes is an interest for many GAA followers. But  the oldest programmes in my collection are from before I was born; they are from some of the matches that my father attended as a young man.

His name was  Michael O'Sullivan, from Ballyleddar, Beaufort and he worked in Killorglin after leaving school, playing at midfield for the  Laune Rangers in the early 1930s.He moved to Dublin in December 1935,  where he joined the equally  famous Kickhams  club. It was a  6-day working week in those years but Sunday was a day of rest and often involved an afternoon trip to Croke Park.

The oldest programme in front of me  is 74 years old, July 19, 1936-the  Leinster Final , Kildare and Laois, 6 Delaneys on the Laois team. This  tattered  programme was purely  functional,4 pages only, the front page has  match details, the middle pages the teams but no subs, the back page blank.

The second oldest is the All-Ireland semi-final of that year August23-Laois now Leinster champions, against Cavan. Another 4-page programme. But, this time my father has recorded the match statistics  in the middle pages-Cavan ahead at half-time, Laois winning by 2-6 to 1-5. He has also noted  the 50s, free kicks and overs -the old name for wides.

Oct 17, 1937 -- the first  programme  involving Kerry. It is the All-Ireland Final replay against Cavan and this programme is more elaborate, consisting of 8 pages, containing photos of the players and articles on the history of the GAA. Entrance- 1 or 2 shillings, an extra 2  and 6 for a sideline seat. Again,  statistics are recorded in the grid provided-Kerry 1-0 Cavan 0-3 at half-time, final score Kerry 4-4 Cavan 1-7, frees, 50s and wides also listed. The Kerry names are famous --  Danno Keeffe, Joe Keohane, the Landers brothers and  captain Miko Doyle (who was involved in an early altercation with the Cavan full-back Jim Smith) And so, in  his 2nd year in Dublin, my father had seen Kerry win an All-Ireland.

The 1938 programmes show him on his travels - trips  to Carlow in July  for the Leinster semi-final, to Mullingar on August 14 for the All-Ireland semi-final between Galway and Monaghan, the day 18 year old  Micheal O'Hehir made his debut as a commentator. An extra reason for the trip to Mullingar was that the  Kerry minors were playing  Galway and the score is recorded: Kerry  3-9  Galway 1-4.

On the following Sunday he was in Croke Park for the official opening of the Cusack Stand and to see Kerry beat Laois  in the second  semi-final. Two weeks later the Hurling Final, Waterford and Dublin, then the Football final, Kerry and Galway and the replay in October when he had his first experience of Kerry losing a final. There was a  bizarre  finish to this as the crowd, thinking the final whistle had gone, invaded the pitch with 2 minutes to go. When the pitch was cleared, some of the Kerry players were gone to their hotel and substitutes had to play out the remaining time.
2 programmes stand out from 1939. On July 16  he was among a huge crowd who travelled to Roscommon for the Connacht Final in which Mayo defeated All-Ireland champions Galway. It started 30 minutes late and spectators overflowed on to the pitch in the second half. The game ended early with a pitch invasion 2 minutes from time.  (Pitch invasions were not unusual in the 1930s) But, in the midst of the mayhem, my father hasn't forgotten his loyalties - on the middle pages of the programme, he has written in capital letters UP KERRY COME ON KERRY. And, of course Kerry did defeat Mayo in the semi-final and go on to win the 1st of 3-in-a-row.

But the more famous final of 1939  was the Cork-Kilkenny Thunder and Lightning hurling final on Sept 3. Hitler's tanks had invaded Poland 2 days earlier and  on that Sunday morning Britain and France declared war on Germany. The weather reflected the European drama as the second half was played amidst the roar of thunder and the flash of lightning. And my father was there, though I would like to ask him why his  programme shows  no sign of exposure to the torrential rain

And so, I look at 14 programmes from the 1930s  and see my father, in his 20s, in his first years in Dublin, his leisure time revolving around GAA activities, enjoying the big occasions. I am pleased to possess these mementoes of GAA history but I also look at them with some regret because, while my father did talk about games and players and travels of his past, much of it didn't register with me then and now he is not here to answer the countless questions which spring to my mind.

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