Looking for: Official Club Opening Programs

Retired Kilflynn publican Michael Parker gets with the programme
By Murt Murphy from The County Final program 2011 and reproduced here for kerrygaa.ie
There is one man at the today's county final who does not need to get with the programme because he has close on 7000 programmes and that's retired Kilflynn publican Michael Parker.
Michael's house in Tralee resembles a museum as his collection grows by the day and if Michael knows you and is aware that you might have been at game that he wasn't at - he will more then likely ask you for a programme.
Michael Parker is one of natures gentlemen, who loves football and hurling and despite approaching his 80th birthday, he still can remember back to when his interest or obsession with collecting programmes and GAA memorabilia.
" It was back in the early 50's that I saw people walking away from games and leaving programmes after them so I thought to myself that it would be a good idea to start collecting them. At time Eugie Powell used to publish programmes for all championship games. Later I joined a Programme Collectors Association in Dublin by paying a two pound subscription, so I would get a lot a match programmes that way."
Michael was brandishing the 2000 Co SFC final programme between Crokes and An Gaeltacht " Look " he said " A man told me yesterday that Colm Cooper did not play in that final. But there it is - Colm Cooper wearing 15, so there is the proof that I was right" he proudly claims and not alone that, but the programme is autographed by all the players!!

mikeparker.jpgMichael admits to getting programmes from contacts in counties like, Cork, Dublin, Roscommon, Clare, Galway, Armagh and the list goes on... He got lots of programmes back in the day from his first cousin, the late Donie Kelly, who was a bookmaker in Tralee, but used the work on the gates for the Munster Council at all big football and hurling games around the province, so Donie was a regular supplier of programmes.
The oldest programme in his vast collection dates back to 1932(the year Michael was born) "I have a Munster Hurling programme between Cork and Tipperary - it cost one old penny"

He has many lots of hurling and football All-Ireland final programmes up along and has all the ones of the Glory Years in the seventies and 80th " I have Mikey Sheehy's jersey that he wore when he won his last All-Ireland in ‘86" he brags " Mick O'Connell, Mikey Sheehy, Maurice Fitzgerald and Colm Cooper are some of my favourite players.

Not really wanting to mention the county hurling final - I broached the subject with sensitivity " I have the programme when Crotta O'Neill's last won the county back in '68 beating the Stacks by that point. I was delighted on two counts because it was Crotta and then I was born Bridge Street (this makes him half a Narry!) "

Michael has so many items in his collection that it would not be possible to cover everything, but he continues to construct, a one man GAA archive , which will someday add to the history and folklore of the Association.

For now, Michael is very anxious to complete to aspects of his collection, before he passes his collection on to his three grandchildren , who appear to have been bitten by their Grandad's bug "I was talking to Tadghie Lyne before he died and he said that he had the programme from the 1947 final in the Polo Grounds and that I could have it after he died - I have not been able to track it down" explained Michael.

The other area Michael wants help on is programmes that marked the official opening club grounds in Kerry "I have 51 official openings that took place in the county so I still missing a good few. Clubs like Legion and Currow are ones that spring to mind - the last one I remember was Templenoe - Bertie Ahern opened it - I have his autograph " he quipped " But I am asking clubs to contact me or my son Michael who is in the Eolaire and we will try and complete the list. The first club I have dates back to 1953 and the official opening of St Brendan's Park in Ardfert - The great Christy Ring played that day! So I am pleading with clubs to make contact - it would be great to get every club covered"

So, as he sits in the stands today and watches yet another county final - Michael Parker will not be too bothered about the result but he will pounce on your programme like a panther - if you leave it behind - well you get my drift - a rare gentleman is Michael - so let's try and help him!