From Blue to Red: The Cork Jersey
By Pauline Murphy
When the Cork senior Hurling team meet Kilkenny in a league clash at Pairc Ui Rinn on March 12, they will take to the field in colours not commonly seen on the backs of the rebels. As part of the Cork county board’s 1916 centenary celebrations the Cork Team will don blue jerseys, a colour they wore 100 years previously.
From 1888 to 1919 the Cork hurling and football team wore blue jerseys with an large “C” embroidered on the chest. During the war of Independence the British authorities viewed the GAA as a hotbed of Republican activity and in 1919 the county board offices in the city centre were raided. Among the items seized were the blue county team jerseys.
The Cork hurlers were only days away from a Munster Semi final meeting with Tipperary and without their jerseys they found themselves in a precarious situation.
As luck turned out, the Father O’Leary Temperance Hall team from the Lough had just annexed with the famous St Finbarrs club and as they had no more use for their red and white kit they duly handed it over to the jerseyless county team.
Because there were only 15 jerseys from the Fr O’Leary team, the county board made a quick order into the Munster Arcade for 6 white pullovers to serve as substitutes jerseys.
The first appearance of the red and white Cork team came on June 29th 1919 in the Munster hurling semi final at the Athletic grounds.
Apart from it being the first time Cork lined out in the red and white, it was also the first time the price of a match ticket increased.
Entry at the turnstiles went up from 6 pence to a shilling and some disgruntled supporters refused to pay. Instead they broke through some sheet iron at the back of the goal and gained entry into the grounds to watch the match for free!
Cork got through Tipperary, 2-04 to 2-03 and took their new colours to Limerick for the Munster Hurling final.
Cork convincingly beat Limerick on a scoreline of 3-05 to 1-06 and their next opponents were Galway in the All Ireland semi final.
On September 7th Cork took on Galway for a place in the All Ireland Final. Still clad in their new colours, Cork gave the tribesmen an unmerciful beating of 3-08 to 0-02.
The next stop for the red and white of Cork was the All Ireland Hurling Final at Croke Park on September 21st. Corks opponents were a much fancied Dublin side but the rebels unleashed a fine game of hurling in the dubs and beat them 6-04 to 2-04 to claim All Ireland honours.
The Cork hurlers ended a 16 year wait to bring an All Ireland title back to Leeside. The new colours were considered lucky and the Cork County Board decided to retain them.
A blue Jersey did make a reappearance in 1957 when Cork met a colour clashing Louth in the All Ireland Football Final. In the 1970s an all white kit was adopted as alternative colours and it was worn in the 1973 All Ireland football final against Galway and again in 2010 when the footballers met Down in that year’s final.
Today the red and white colours are deeply associated with Cork GAA but if the oppressive authorities of 1919 hadn’t seized the original county colours then perhaps blue would have remained the standard colours of the rebel county.
The first red & white Cork team 1919:
1 Ned Grey (Carrigtwohill)
, 2 Paddy O’Halloran (St Mary’s)
, 3 Jackie Murphy (Blackrock), 4 Mick Murphy (Blackrock)
, 5 Frank Kelleher (Shamrocks)
, 6 Con Sheehan (Redmond’s)
, 7 Jim Hasset (Collegian’s)
, 8 Tim Nagle (St Mary’s)
, 9 John O’Keefe (Carrigtwohill)
, 10 Paddy Ahern (Blackrock)
, 11 Daniel Ring (St Finbarrs)
, 12 Jimmy Kennedy (C) (Carrigtwohill)
, 13 Con Lucy (Carrigtwohill)
, 14 Dick O’Gorman (St Finbarrs) and 15 John Barry-Murphy (Cloughduv).