“Football shirts are always known for the success or lack of success of the team”
THE journey began in an itchy blue long-sleeved wool jersey worn by a young Irish team for the Paris Olympics in 1924.
hey were the games made famous by the movie chariots of fire and Ireland was making its first appearance as an independent nation amid a crippling heatwave, with temperatures hovering around 45C.
“A set of shirts, no washing, made of wool in the heat of Paris in June. Can you imagine?” asks Eddie O’Mahony – an ultimate fan who has every Irish shirt ever made in his impressive collection. He even owns the shirt Roy Keane should have worn in Saipan during the 2002 World Cup.
Unsurprisingly, none of these original 1924 jerseys still exist, although Eddie does have a replica. He’s tried it on, only to confirm his suspicions that he’s far from comfortable.
And now the question of comfort has arisen again – with an orange jersey unveiled by the FAI as the latest offering for the Green Army.
For many, it’s a trigger that brings back difficult memories of 1997. It was the last time the team wore orange amid a crushing defeat in Skopje that ended any chance of dominating the World Cup 98 group, with Jason McAteer’s red card triggering a mace. scuffle after his kung fu punch to Artim Sakiri’s chest.
“I had a Macedonia” has always been a phrase used to sum up disaster situations and the Irish side have never worn orange since – until now, of course.
As a connoisseur, Eddie is a fan of the new shirt.
“It’s very sweet. But anything modern, especially the evocative orange shirt, is going to divide opinion,” he said, adding that he also liked the original 1997 version which was “almost a psychedelic orange that summed up the era at that time. It was very rave.
“And that’s a funny thing – you would naturally think because it’s a third of our flag that we would have used it a lot more.”
In 1997, when that first orange shirt was introduced, Ireland was a very different place, he points out.
“Famous, the orange kit at the time was seen as a very bold statement, politically.”
On the eve of the 1997 kit’s launch, the warehouse was the target of a massive robbery, worth over a million pounds, when a gang burst in to clear it out of stock in what was the largest non-banking, non-jewellery. flight into the country at the time. INLA is believed to be the source.
“The orange shirt is part of our footballing history,” said Eddie, who has written a new ‘Green White Orange’ book based on his own unparalleled collection.
But he is ready to keep an open mind on how it could affect performance, saying the real test will come on November 14, when Ireland wear the orange lining against Luxembourg.
“If they wear the new kit and they lose, people will say ‘we had a Luxembourg’.”
“Football shirts are always known for team success or lack thereof.”
However, he doesn’t think orange will be the classic piece for 2021. “It will be the centenary blue shirt they wore against Qatar,” he said. “It’s one that will go down as a classic.”
With this one safely in his collection, his next hit will be on orange. The collection bears the name of James Nolan, the young Irish fan who died tragically in Poland during Euro 2012. Eventually, he hopes to be able to house it in a museum of Irish football.
“I have knocked on doors, but without success so far. Dalymount Park is due for redevelopment shortly and it would make a good home. The GAA has an amazing museum – don’t tell me there shouldn’t be one for football.
Eddie’s list of the top five iconic Irish jerseys:
1. The 1988 green home shirt worn by Ray Houghton when he scored against England in Stuttgart. “It’s in the collection. I’m very proud,” Eddie said.
2. The white 1990s World Cup jersey worn against Italy in the quarter-finals in Rome. “It’s part of the fabric of the nation,” he said.
3. Packie Bonner’s gray jersey during the penalty shootout in 1990.
4. Richard Dunne’s famous ‘homemade’ number 5 jersey worn in Ireland’s draw in Moscow against Russia in 2011. “I have that too. It was auctioned off for charity and sadly I didn’t win it, but the person who got it felt it would have a better home with me. There may have been a transfer of money. There’s still blood and market on it. It really is a classic,” Eddie said.
5. The orange ‘Macedonia’ shirt from 1997. “It’s a change that looks stunning. It was so revolutionary.
Eddie’s least favorite jerseys:
1. The ones people don’t like are the ones associated with lean times – we didn’t qualify for the Euros in 2000. Macedonia scored a late goal – we were wearing standard kit.
2. We didn’t qualify for anything from 1994 to 2002 and even though some amazing kits didn’t capture the imagination of the public because the results weren’t great.
3. The shirts worn at the Euros in Poland in 2012. “They were really nice, green with a yellow herringbone effect. But the results were poor, so people don’t particularly remember it fondly.
4. The 2001 jersey worn against Portugal and Holland. “Roy Keane had a great match but the fabric itself was very heavy, thick and itchy. People would say it’s a great design but not great to wear,” Eddie said.