Raising the Barr in the jersey stakes

St Finbarr's come out on top in Echo poll, beating Kiskeam in the final
Raising the Barr in the jersey stakes

Fionán Murray of St Finbarr's in action in 2009. Picture: Cillian Kelly

Maybe, just maybe, democracy does work after all!

At the outset of the Cork GAA Jersey Wars, the idea of St Finbarr’s National Hurling & Football Club contending for the title was not an outlandish one but in a head-to-head vote you just never know what might happen.

As it turned out, the Barrs had a strong vote all the way through, helping them to overcome fancied sides like Blackrock and UCC in their first two outings, then Youghal in the quarter-finals and Carbery Rangers in the semi-finals to reach the decider.

While the Barrs’ candidacy was expected from the outset, we hope it doesn’t sound insulting to Kiskeam to suggest that were dark horses – quite literally, given their all-black kit inspired by the New Zealand national rugby team.

After defeating Douglas and Éire Óg, the Duhallow club met Glen Rovers in the quarter-finals. The Glen would certainly have been fancied to go far, but Kiskeam triumphed by four votes and then saw off Cill na Martra in the last four.

The powerful all-black look is always an attractive one and the O’Neills design, worn en route to winning the county premier intermediate football title in 2016, presumably attracted some floating voters. It’s to Kiskeam’s credit that, in the extended poll for the final over the weekend, they ran the Barrs so close in a contest that attracted approximately three and a half thousand votes.

Ian Maguire in 2019. Picture: Larry Cummins. 
Ian Maguire in 2019. Picture: Larry Cummins. 

Ultimately, though, the celebrations were in Togher as the simplicity of the blue with gold trim won the day. What does it say that a kit with no superfluous additions, apart from the mandatory logos – the GAA symbol, maker O’Neills – and the club crest and name as Gaeilge, proves the most popular? To us, it would seem to be that less is more: flourishes for the sake of it don’t necessarily add value and there is lot to be said for the bold display of your colours – it’s not just the association with success that makes us love the Cork 1990 strips.

It’s interesting for us kit-nerds to note that, while the Barrs have a harp on the jersey, beneath the arc of the club name, in both codes but, until the mid-1990s, this was a football-only thing. 

There remains one notable difference between football and hurling in that blue shorts are worn for the big ball and white for the small.

This deviation can be traced back to the 1979 county SFC final against Castlehaven. Whether due to the colour-clash with the West Cork club’s blue and white hoops or a manufacturer’s error, a blue set of shorts were worn by the Togher side as they claimed a fifth county title. When they went to add provincial and All-Ireland honours, there was no question of going back and so a new tradition was born.

While the Barrs’ gold change jerseys are of a fairly modern style, the blue shirt has not been messed with and so a picture of Donal Hurley from the 1950s wouldn’t differ that much from Tony Maher in the 1970s or Jimmy Barry-Murphy in the 1980s, Mick Slocum in the 1990s, Ronan Curran in the 2000s or Ian Maguire today.

At the end of the day, to paraphrase Jerry Seinfield, we’re all just supporting the laundry. If every player in your club retired tomorrow and a new team was built from scratch, it would still be your club – there’s a sense Trigger’s broom from Only Fools and Horses about it all, but it makes sense to those invested in it.

So we send our congratulations to the Barrs for coming out on top and also congratulate Kiskeam for getting so far. Perhaps we will run the competition again in a few years – who knows how it might go?

Of course, while the Barrs won the big one this weekend, we shouldn’t forget that Nemo Rangers came out on top in the delayed 2020 Bons Secours Cork Premier SFC final against Castlehaven.

There’s little time for celebrating out in Trabeg – or the licking of wounds in Castlehaven – as they and everyone else must face into the 2021 championship this weekend. Strange times, certainly, but it’s good to get last year finally finished.

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