How does the new Cork GAA jersey compare with kits of the past?

New offering from O'Neills sees the addition of extra white panelling
How does the new Cork GAA jersey compare with kits of the past?

Cork footballer Steven Sherlock and hurlers Shane Kingston and Ciarán Joyce model the new jerseys. Picture: Diarmuid Greene

Today sees Cork County Board and kit manufacturer O’Neills launch the new jersey that will be worn by Rebel teams in 2023 and 2024.

With the addition of white panelling on the sleeves (and red panels on the shorts) the major change from its predecessor, traditionalists will be glad to see the return of a fully white neck, though a collar – last seen on the 2013-15 jersey – remains absent.

A nice addition on the back of the shirt sees elements of the crest rendered tonally. While it would have been nice to have them on front, such an inclusion would mean they would be obscured by the logo of sponsors Sports Direct.

The sportswear retailer is the fifth different sponsor that Cork have had since 1991, when the GAA finally relented on kit advertising, sparking a change in the marketing and design of counties’ strips.

Cork are obviously synonymous with red and white but for a while in the mid-1910s, a saffron jersey with a blue hoop was worn, later changed to a primarily blue top with a large gold 'C' on the front. This style was resurrected for a hurling league game against Kilkenny in 2016.

A few days before the 1919 Munster semi-final with Tipperary, however, the Cork County Board rooms at Cook St were ransacked by Crown forces and the 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, and they helped Cork win a first All-Ireland since 1903 with a win over Dublin.

Cork players Tony Connolly, Justin McCarthy, Seánie Barry, Jerry O'’Sullivan and captain Gerald McCarthy, as well as trainer Jim 'Tough' Barry, celebrate after beating Kilkenny in the 1966 All-Ireland hurling final.
Cork players Tony Connolly, Justin McCarthy, Seánie Barry, Jerry O'’Sullivan and captain Gerald McCarthy, as well as trainer Jim 'Tough' Barry, celebrate after beating Kilkenny in the 1966 All-Ireland hurling final.

Red was there to stay and, over the years, the kit 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 Cork team, clad in white change jerseys, prior to the 1973 All-Ireland football final against Galway
The Cork team, clad in white change jerseys, prior to the 1973 All-Ireland football final against Galway

With no other team in Munster wearing red, change jerseys were rarely seen, though All-Ireland finals with Galway in 1953 (hurling) and '56 (football) and Louth in 1957 (football) saw Cork in the blue of Munster. By the time Cork met Galway in the 1973 football final, however, it was decided to toss a coin to determine which team should change. Cork lost the toss but won the game wearing white jerseys with red collars.

A goalmouth scramble in the 1976 Munster SFC final replay between Cork - wearing 'illegal' adidas jerseys - and Kerry
A goalmouth scramble in the 1976 Munster SFC final replay between Cork - wearing 'illegal' adidas jerseys - and Kerry

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 Three Stripe International under licence from adidas. 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, though 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.

Jimmy Barry-Murphy in action against Galway's Sylvie Linnane in the 1986 All-Ireland hurling final. Picture: Inpho/Billy Stickland
Jimmy Barry-Murphy in action against Galway's Sylvie Linnane in the 1986 All-Ireland hurling final. Picture: Inpho/Billy Stickland

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.

Cork's Kevin Hennessy in action against Pa Carey of Limerick in 1992. Picture: Inpho
Cork's Kevin Hennessy in action against Pa Carey of Limerick in 1992. Picture: Inpho

That year also saw the crest added to the sleeves before 1994 saw a change, with white stripes at the hem. During the 1990s, the sleeves were the main area of experimentation by O’Neills, with a large white ‘C’ from 1996-99 and then the county’s coat of arms on the new top for 2000 – the addition of navy as a trim colour not universally popular.

Kevin Murray of Cork against Kilkenny in the 1999 All-Ireland hurling final. This type of jersey had four years of service, 1996-99. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Kevin Murray of Cork against Kilkenny in the 1999 All-Ireland hurling final. This type of jersey had four years of service, 1996-99. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Change was necessitated in 2002 as Esat was subsumed into O2, but the jersey and its successor in 2004 were of the ‘evolution, not revolution’ principle. However, a new crest in 2004 – the previous one could not be copyrighted – featured Shandon Tower and Bandon Bridge, along with the traditional ship arriving into the harbour.

Seán Óg Ó hAilpín lifts the Liam MacCarthy Cup after the win over Galway in the 2005 All-Ireland SHC final. Cork wore this jersey style from 2004-06. Picture: Inpho/Tom Honan
Seán Óg Ó hAilpín lifts the Liam MacCarthy Cup after the win over Galway in the 2005 All-Ireland SHC final. Cork wore this jersey style from 2004-06. Picture: Inpho/Tom Honan

By 2007, O’Neills were beginning to feature three stripes prominently again – the company had won a 1980s court case against adidas allowing them to use the marking in Ireland – and Cork’s new jersey had that treatment. The 2010 All-Ireland football win came in the white alternative version of the new jersey launched earlier that year.

Donncha O'Connor, wearing the 2010-12 Cork jersey, celebrates at the end of the win over Dublin in the 2010 All-Ireland SFC semi-final. Picture: David Maher/Sportsfile
Donncha O'Connor, wearing the 2010-12 Cork jersey, celebrates at the end of the win over Dublin in the 2010 All-Ireland SFC semi-final. Picture: David Maher/Sportsfile

In 2013, Chill Insurance replaced O2 but the jersey was still largely similar, however the next new top, in 2016, was notable for a cleaner style and the ‘mandarin’ neck style rather than the familiar collar.

That was the last of the three-year cycle, with the 2019 jersey even more minimalistic while the 2021 offering was slightly darker, with subtle tonal stripes. That jersey featured in an All-Ireland hurling final, albeit a losing one – hopefully the new shirt can go one better.

The new Cork kit goes on sale exclusively in Sports Direct Stores or online at https://ie.sportsdirect.com/ and oneills.com from Wednesday, November 30 at 10am. Fans can enjoy €10 off their next purchase with every purchase of the Cork GAA Home jersey and/or kit in all Sports Direct stores or free delivery online. 

Séamus Harnedy, seen in the 2016-18 Cork jersey, celebrates a goal against Clare in the 2018 Munster SHC final. Picture: Inpho/James Crombie
Séamus Harnedy, seen in the 2016-18 Cork jersey, celebrates a goal against Clare in the 2018 Munster SHC final. Picture: Inpho/James Crombie

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