Cork GAA Jersey Wars: Blackrock v St Finbarr's

Your votes will decide which club geansaí goes into the next round
Cork GAA Jersey Wars: Blackrock v St Finbarr's

Conor Cahalane, St Finbarr's, battles Michael O'Halloran, Blackrock. Picture: Larry Cummins.

WE want to know what your favourite GAA geansaí is.

From here until the end of August, your votes will decide the best design in our Cork GAA Jersey Wars competition.

Our resident jersey expert Denis Hurley compiled a list of 32 clubs, based on those involved in the senior tiers and a selection of wild cards. We put them in alphabetical order and paired them up, number four versus 29, which is Blackrock-St Finbarr's, and mapped out the path to the final. 

Full details of the competition are here.

Voting will run from 8am each day for 24 hours on the link below:

BLACKROCK

Our thanks go to Blackrock secretary Fergal Coakley for filling us in on the backstory as to how they acquired their first kit. The club was originally founded as Cork Nationals in 1883 and the first chairman, Edward Fitzgerald – who went on to serve as Lord Mayor for three years and to whom Fitzgerald’s Park is dedicated – sourced the jerseys from a shop in Washington St or Great George’s St as it was then known.

The colours were those selected by the first committee of the club and were reflective of the national colours. Those hoops would go on to be associated with much success on the playing fields of Cork and beyond.

There is a story that Dungourney, who were a major force in Cork as the 19th century gave way to the 20th, also played in green and gold hoops at the time and a challenge match was arranged between them and Blackrock, with the loser having to come up with an alternative design. Whether or not there is any truth in that, Dungourney now play in green jerseys with a gold sash, a look that the Rockies have sometimes deployed as a back-up strip.

However, the club’s early formation date – a year before the Gaelic Athletic Association itself – was handy from the point of view of colour-clashes up until the mid-1970s, as Cork had a bye-law where the ‘younger’ team would have to change kit.

With Blackrock older than practically everyone else, they were able to remain in their traditional colours for occasions like the 1973 and 1975 county senior hurling finals against Glen Rovers (founded 1916), with the northsiders clad in the black and white hoops of their sister club, St Nicholas.

In 1976, the Glen – having unsuccessfully argued in favour of wearing their new first-choice strip, which had wider hoops – wore gold jerseys with green and black trim but by the time of the clubs’ next meeting in the final, in 1978, the ‘older club’ rule had been dispensed with and Blackrock triumphed while wearing a Meath-like kit of green jerseys with gold collars and cuffs.

That look, sometimes with the sash, has remained as the second option, though the most recent set, worn against Newtownshandrum in the 2020 championship, employs a very dark shade of green – so dark, in fact, that when the Rockies and the Glen reached the final last October, it was considered too close to the Glen’s black for both teams to change and so there was a coin toss, won by Blackrock, who went on to reclaim the Seán Óg Murphy Cup, a record 33rd title.

 Robbie Cotter, Blackrock, celebrates his goal in extra time against Glen Rovers. Picture: Dan Linehan
Robbie Cotter, Blackrock, celebrates his goal in extra time against Glen Rovers. Picture: Dan Linehan

For a long time, the Rockies jersey was without a sponsor, with the club name in Irish across the front instead, but in the 2010s the Mater Private’s logo appeared on club shirts. Currently, Expresscare by Affidea are the main kit sponsors.

ST FINBARR'S

One of the most iconic jerseys in Cork GAA is the blue of St Finbarr’s, with the club’s supporters tending to wax lyrical in French with their, “Allez les bleus” chant.

The origins of the choice? The story on the club’s website, which is acknowledged as being unverified, comes from a letter written by Johnny O’Herlihy to Con Neenan in the 1970s.

Johnny had played with the Fr O’Leary Hall hurling team but transferred to the Barrs in 1910 and his father Patrick had played for the club in 1870s. Back then, players often competed in their work clothes, with sashes or caps used for identification. Patrick’s wife happened to be walking through Paddy’s Market on North Main St one Saturday and bought a blue jersey for him for the price of one shilling and sixpence. The following day, he wore it to Cuffe’s Field near the Lough where a decision was being made as to the club’s colours and they were so taken with his blue hue that it was adopted.

Seán Beecher’s book ‘The Blues’ notes that there has also been a suggestion that because the Lough parish church is called The Church of the Immaculate Conception, blue was chosen because blue is always associated with Our Lady.

Of course, the Barrs also played an indirect role in Cork wearing red as, in 1919, when the Fr O’Leary team merged with the Togher outfit, their old red tops were donated to the county board in the wake of their original set – blue and saffron – being confiscated or destroyed by British troops, who had raided the board offices on Cook St.

The Barrs’ blue, trimmed with gold, has enjoyed lots of success, with the club the only one in Ireland to have won All-Ireland senior club hurling and football titles. There is one outfit distinction between the two codes, though – white shorts are favoured in hurling while all-blue has prevailed in football since the 1979 county final win over Castlehaven. Previously, football jerseys had a harp whereas hurling ones did not.

For the most recent All-Ireland club title, the 1987 football win, the Barrs were up against Roscommon’s Clann na nGael, who also play in blue and gold and a white set of jerseys was worn. However, after the victory in Croke Park, team captain John Meyler donned a traditional top for the presentation of the cup.

Barrs talisman Ian Maguire.
Barrs talisman Ian Maguire.

Nowadays, gold jerseys are the second choice – in a modern style compared to the first-choice jersey, which remains unsullied by any superfluous designs. Across the chest is the club name in Irish along with the harp – a sponsor’s name has never appeared on the jerseys in a top-class game, though Ryan’s SuperValu in Togher do enjoy a close relationship with the Barrs and sponsored the off-field gear when the 32-year wait for an SFC title was ended in 2018.

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