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Fans will be able to pre-order match programmes for All Ireland Finals

The pandemic has created unique challenges for the GAA, and the association intends to satisfy demand for match programmes by making them available in advance.

Tipperary and Cavan captured the hearts of the nation with their giant-killing exploits in the Munster and Ulster senior football championships last weekend.

The prospect of Waterford winning the All Ireland senior hurling title for the first time since 1959, or Mayo lifting the holy grail that is the Sam Maguire Cup for the first time since 1951 is going to have memento hunters on alert.

The inability of supporters to cheer on their counties is one of the obvious drawbacks of the pandemic. There was significant interest in the special commemorative match programme for the Meath v Dublin Leinster final, 100 years to the day of Bloody Sunday at Croke Park.

The GAA have a partnership with DBA Publications, and that Leinster final programme was available for purchase in a soft copy format for €5, with the hard copy sent out in the post, by DBA.

The Association are going to engage in a similar process for the All Ireland Finals, so watching supporters can have the programme in their hands when they sit down to enjoy the games in December.

Last year, match programmes cost €7 on the day at Croke Park.

Director of Communications at the GAA, Alan Milton, told OTB Sports they may have to do things differently when it comes to publishing teams if programmes are to be sent earlier in the week.

"Yes, it will be first time we have ever really looked at doing it. On occasion in the past, at certain points on arterial routes to Dublin, we have got hard copy programmes on a Saturday night or Sunday morning to let people have the programmes coming up to Dublin to Croke Park to the games. This year has been a totally different year for very obvious reasons, so we are going to have to come up with a whole new plan and we're in the process of doing that at the moment.

"We are acutely aware, especially of the pairings that are left in both the football and the hurling championships that there could be huge demand. When we know the final pairings we will sit down with our publishing partners in DBA and come up with a plan to see how we can best get as many hard copy programmes into the hands of people who want to get them."

Of the 82,000 spectators that attend Croke Park for All Ireland Finals, the number of programmes purchased by fans varies from approximately 15 thousand to 30 thousand, depending on the novelty of the pairings.

Competing county teams are sent to Croke Park by 10am on Thursday for publication and these are not released into the public domain. This poses challenges if programmes are to be distributed in time for regular people to have them at home by the weekend for the 2020 deciders.

Milton says this may have an impact on how teams are published.

"In terms of the possibility of pre-ordering or making hard copy and indeed soft copies available sooner than we generally would have, we will have to look at the possibility of including panels in the programmes. That's a big step, because anecdotally and indeed from any research we have ever done, one of the main reasons why people buy GAA programmes is because they want to see who is playing where and what clubs the opposition players are for. So the team has been a big selling point and when that practice has ended, the popularity of the programmes has declined and in some cases, nosedived."

However, whether the teams are published or not, the unique nature of 2020 may see All Ireland Final programmes become a collector's item, if the appetite for the Leinster final preview is anything to go by. Especially if Waterford, Cavan, Tipperary or Mayo go all the way.

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