It’s a common trope to think that things were always better in the old days – ignoring that, generally, there are good reasons for changing things.
However, in terms of GAA jerseys, it’s an area where the past is a foreign and superior place. While we accept that county boards need the income that shirts sponsors can bring, the modern offerings can’t measure up to the classics where the crest was the only accoutrement – classic and simple, unsullied with an overload of logos. There may be some cognitive bias as a result of on-field success, but we feel you’d struggle to come up with anything better than what Cork wore when winning the 1990 All-Ireland senior double.
It is this area of nostalgia that Órga Retro is seeking to cater for, offering a wide range of replicas of past jerseys. From the Cork point of view, the 1980s/90s classic is joined by the 1984 Centenary All-Ireland shirt, with ‘Corcaigh’ writ large across the front, while the mid-1990s top – the “Barry’s Tea jersey” is available too and can be won by one lucky reader (see below).
Tipperary native David Morrissey is the man driving the venture, having seen that there was a gap in the market.
“I had conducted market research for another Gaelic games-themed idea [player figurines] in the summer of 2016,” he says, “but the survey response suggested an overwhelming preference for retro team wear of which there was a gap left by Retro GAA, who had long ceased trading at the time.
“I was so invested with my initial idea that time that I parked the retro jerseys idea, but it provided me food for thought certainly. The original figurines idea didn’t quite work out which made me that little bit more cautious the next time around, and it would be 2019 when I eventually decided to dip my toes in the water and explore the idea of the retro gear.
“I was a member of a Tipperary supporters’ group on Facebook and I took orders for a late 80s style Tipp retro jersey from interested parties on the group. Like any brand-new business, it started off slowly, but gradually things took off. Soon more counties were added and word spread quickly.
“I had always considered incorporating the word 'gold' in the brand as it’s often used in advertising to describe classic memories, but it’s great to be able to incorporate use of the Irish language in the brand and thankfully it seems to go down well with the customers too.”
Being born in 1983 meant that David’s younger years hit the sweet spot of Tipperary winning All-Irelands, the Republic of Ireland reaching the World Cup quarter-finals and Arsenal winning the league.
“The interest in jerseys probably developed hand in hand with my growing interest in both Soccer and Gaelic Games from the age of seven,” he says.
“That summer of 1990 was a huge one for a generation of Irish kids. After that, I watched any soccer and GAA matches on TV and I also became fascinated with the many different team colours as much as the games itself.
“I used to practice drawing and colouring jerseys on paper from a young age, from studying Shoot! and Match magazines. My first proper jersey was the Arsenal title-winning one from 1990-91, which I received as a birthday present. Technically speaking though, the first ‘jersey’ I had, was white with red trim and red sleeve stripes with number 1 on the back and KUDO on the front. I received it as a present from an aunt during Italia 90 and rarely took it off for the rest of the summer. Even though it wasn’t an actual jersey per se, I was still very fond of it.”
Obviously, taking that interest in sportswear and translating it to the manufacture of jerseys is not something that’s easily achieved.
“At the beginning, it was challenging as it was new territory for both myself and the factory,” he says, “but overall, I’ve been extremely pleased with my manufacturers.
“They have been very attentive and shown great attention to detail with whatever specifications I have provided them with. Of course, it helps that I am someway proficient with Adobe Illustrator.
“Eventually, the jersey templates for various counties repeat themselves and it’s a simple case of recolouring and rebadging or either adding or subtracting minor detail.
“I’m a one-man band at the moment and I’m combining it with a full-time temporary role as a clerical officer in the civil service since October 2019. In a way, this has helped as I am based near a post office where I can dispatch the orders the following day but in recent months, I’ve become that increasingly busier with the Órga project, so I’ve a bit more packing to do in the evenings when I come home from work as well as answer an increasing number of enquiries through email or social media.”
“Starting off, I have been juggling a tight budget and there is so many outstanding jerseys out there to be considered.
“However, I receive loads of great ideas and input from the community of followers on the social media channels and I try to satisfy the demand as best as I can. The market decides success and failure at the end of the day so you try to satisfy the market and listen to your customers. I think I have succeeded in doing this to date to a considerable degree.”