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The commemorative Cork jerseys of Eoin Cadogan, Patrick Collins and Sean O'Leary Hayes, worn to honour Tomás Mac Curtain and Terence MacSwiney who both died while serving as Lord Mayor of Cork in 1920. Picture: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
The commemorative Cork jerseys of Eoin Cadogan, Patrick Collins and Sean O'Leary Hayes, worn to honour Tomás Mac Curtain and Terence MacSwiney who both died while serving as Lord Mayor of Cork in 1920. Picture: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Black jerseys are the latest addition in a century of change for Cork GAA

BLACK jerseys, as worn by the Cork hurlers on Sunday to commemorate Tomás Mac Curtain, Terence McSwiney, the Kilmichael Ambush and the burning of Cork, are the latest addition to the Cork palette.

When county colours first had to be registered more than a century ago, Cork’s choice was blue and saffron – replicas of these jerseys were worn against Kilkenny in 2016.

However, not long before the Munster championship clash with Waterford in May 1919, the county board offices at Cook St were raided by British forces and the jerseys were seized. 

A frantic search for new kit ensued and the county board luckily came across a set of red jerseys from the Father O'Leary Temperance Association team, which was recently defunct after a merger with St Finbarr’s.

Red and white became the official colours, though the blue and white of Munster became the back-up choice when colour-clashes occurred, such as the 1953 All-Ireland hurling final against Galway and the 1956 and 1957 football deciders against the Tribesmen and Louth respectively.

Cork versus Louth, 1957.
Cork versus Louth, 1957.

The 1973 All-Ireland football final against Galway saw Cork wear white jerseys for the first time and now black is added to the list of colours worn. 

Incidentally, it was the third set of jerseys in as many games for the hurlers – having played in their usual strip against Tipperary three weeks ago, last Sunday’s win over Westmeath in Tullamore saw the white alternative jerseys used. The footballers will follow suit against Derry next Sunday, having worn white against Down a fortnight ago and then red against Tipperary on Saturday.

Over the years, the style of the strip gradually changed from the rugby-shirt style with a buttoned collar to a v-neck version, the lapels starting out big and becoming smaller as time passed.

The first major change to the kit came in the 1976 Munster football final replay, when the players arranged among themselves to wear jerseys made by adidas, featuring a round neck and the famous three stripes down the sleeves. 

The 1976 Munster final.
The 1976 Munster final.

No action was taken against the players but the following year, when adidas shorts were worn against Kerry, the football panel were suspended en masse from playing football – conveniently, dual players could still play hurling!

When the impasse was eventually resolved, Cork returned to playing in O’Neills gear, the jerseys becoming more modern throughout the 1980s, with white trim added.

Dermot McCurtain in 1984.
Dermot McCurtain in 1984.
For the centenary hurling final in 1984, the Cork coat of arms, on the right breast, the GAA crest on the left and ‘Corcaigh’ across the chest were added. 

The coat of arms later became a permanent addition, with Barry’s Tea the first sponsor’s logo to adorn the shirt in 1991. That year also saw the crest added to the sleeves before a new style in 1994. 

The minor footballers who won the 1991 minor All-Ireland. 
The minor footballers who won the 1991 minor All-Ireland. 

O’Neills had introduced a design with stripes at the bottom of the sleeve and Cork sported this for two years, with the next one featuring a large white ‘C’ on them and ‘Corcaigh’ written on a white stripe underneath – Barry’s Tea were the sponsors for the first two years of this design before being replaced by Esat Digifone.

The phone company’s logo was replaced by that of O2 when a takeover occurred in 2002. As county boards became more aware of their commercial power, more and more began to redesign their crests as the traditional coats of arms couldn’t be copyrighted. Cork did this in 2004, adding Bandon Bridge and Shandon tower to the crest, while keeping the ship arriving into the harbour.

This new crest first appeared on the jersey launched that year, which featured a red collar for the first time. In 2006, the hurlers donned hooped socks for the first time in a number of decades as they fell agonisingly short of winning three in a row, before a new jersey appeared the following year.

Action from Cork and Waterford in Croker.
Action from Cork and Waterford in Croker.

Though adidas have copyrighted the three stripes everywhere else in the world, O’Neills can use it in Ireland as they used it first here and the 2007 Cork jersey also got that treatment, though it is unknown if anybody noticed the irony of the kit carrying a mark which had caused such consternation more than 30 years previously.

The 2010 All-Ireland win over Down.
The 2010 All-Ireland win over Down.

The three stripes have remained since then, with O2’s long spell as sponsor coming to an end in 2013, replaced by Chill Insurance. 

The current jersey, launched in 2019, saw a return to a classic design style, and a white neck.

Chill’s logo was rendered in white on Sunday, rather than in the usual purple and green – perhaps this might lead to it being seen in white on future red shirts?