Cork GAA should go back to black as their alternative jersey under new deal

White has traditionally been used as a change colour for the Rebels in modern times
Cork GAA should go back to black as their alternative jersey under new deal

Seamus Harnedy of Cork in action against Barry Nash of Limerick in the black jersey released as a limited edition version in 2020. Picture: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

ON WEDNESDAY, September 25, 1912, a newspaper report of a Cork County Board meeting carried information regarding the adoption of standardised colours for the county senior teams.

In the hope of securing the best deal, the matter had been put out to tender.

A circular had been sent to a number of clothing manufacturers, as follows: “GAA, Cork Co Board, Queen St, Cork, 20th Sept. 1912 – Dear Sir, on or before the 23rd inst. you may quote cash on delivery for the execution of the following orders within 14 days:

(a) Twenty woollen football jerseys, varying something in size to suit different physique with an average of 16ozs.

Colours — saffron, except a nine-inch blue band around the middle, sleeves, terminating at elbow; a large letter C worked in blue in breast centre; (b) twenty knickers (white), with blue border on ends of legs; (c) material must be Irish, and made within the county.”

It’s strange to think of Cork wearing jerseys that looked like Clare, but later in the teens blue had taken prominence over saffron, not unlike modern-day Longford or Wicklow (or even Tipperary).

That was before British troops ransacked the county board officers a few days before the 1919 Munster semi-final with Tipperary and a new set of jerseys, which had presented by former chairman JJ Walsh, were among the casualties.

Around this time, the Fr O’Leary Total Abstinence Hall team had disbanded, so their shirts were borrowed, though as there were only 15 of them, the board bought six white pullovers for the subs.

It was in this new outfit that Cork won a first All-Ireland in 16 years, captain Jimmy Kennedy scoring four goals in a triumph over Dublin on a scoreline of 6-4 to 2-4.

Over a century on, the only similarity is that Cork are about to enter a 16th year without an All-Ireland hurling title.

Rather than having to put the manufacturer of the strip out to tender, instead there is a deal with O’Neills and royalties based on replica sales, while the front of the jerseys now carries the name of Sports Direct.

Reaction to the new jersey launched last week has been mixed. The lack of blue on the Sports Direct logo is a plus, though white writing rather than red on a white background would have been less intrusive.

The shade of red seems darker than before, an effect created in part by shadow striping, though the retention of a partly white neck offers some contrast. The fact there are new sponsors will mean that a new change jersey will need to be released too, and it will be interesting to see in which direction Cork and O’Neills go.

The traditional Cork goalkeeper jersey. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie
The traditional Cork goalkeeper jersey. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

White has been the favoured choice for the last five decades, with positive memories accruing from the successful All-Ireland football final wins of 1973 and 2010, but prior to that ’73 win over Galway, blue was worn by Cork in Croke Park – in All-Ireland finals against the Tribesmen in 1953 (hurling) and ‘56 (football) and Louth in 1957 (football), provincial colours were used.


Would a Cavan-style Cork shirt be well-received nowadays?

Given that the Railway Cups no longer exist, the links with Munster and blue/white kits are weaker now, though Kerry do still use the colour as an alternative.

Blue and saffron, harking back to the 1910s – and resurrected for a one-off in 2016 – might be a popular option, but another commemorative shirt of recent times could be a better bet as the basis for the new second kit.

Picture: INPHO/Ken Sutton
Picture: INPHO/Ken Sutton

Honouring former Lord Mayors Tomás Mac Curtain and Terence McSwiney as well as remembering the Kilmichael Ambush and the burning of Cork in 1920, the black kit used by both the hurlers and footballers received a great response from the public, even if GAA chiefs weren’t best pleased.

For various reasons, black jerseys sell well and so it wouldn’t be a surprise if Cork were to revisit the colour – if not this year then in the near future.

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