“We always remember football shirts 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 1924 Paris Olympics.
hey were the games made famous by the movie Chariots of fire and Ireland was making its first appearance as an independent nation in the midst of a crippling heat wave, with temperatures hovering around 45C.
“A set of shirts, no washing, woolen in the heat of Paris in June. Can you imagine? ”Asks Eddie O’Mahony – an ultimate fan who has every Irish jersey ever made in his impressive collection. He even owns the jersey Roy Keane should have worn in Saipan at the 2002 World Cup.
Unsurprisingly, none of these original 1924 jerseys exist, although Eddie has a replica of them. He tried it on, only to confirm his suspicions that it was far from comfortable.
And now the comfort issue has surfaced 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 team. World Cup 98 group, Jason McAteer’s red card triggering a mass brawl after his kung fu kick in Artim Sakiri’s chest.
Historically, “I had a Macedonia” has been a phrase used to sum up disaster situations and the Irish side have never worn orange since – until now, that is.
As a connoisseur, Eddie is a fan of the new jersey.
“It’s very sweet. But anything modern, especially the evocative orange shirt, is going to divide opinions,” he said, adding that he also liked the original version of 97 which was “almost a psychedelic orange that summed up the era back then, 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 jersey was introduced, Ireland was a very different place, he points out.
“Famously, the orange kit at the time was seen as a very bold statement, politically. “
On the eve of the ’97 kit launch, the warehouse was the target of a massive theft, worth over £ 1million, when a gang broke in cleaning it out of stock in what was the largest non-banking, non-jewelry theft in the country at the time. It is believed that the INLA is behind this.
“The orange jersey is part of our football history,” said Eddie, who has written a new book “Green White Orange” based on his own unprecedented collection.
But he’s ready to keep an open mind on how this might affect performance, saying the real test will take place on November 14, when Ireland wear the orange liner against Luxembourg.
“If they wear the new kit and if they lose, people will say ‘we had a Luxembourg’.”
“Football shirts are always remembered for the success or lack of success of the team.”
However, he doesn’t think orange will be the classic 2021 piece. “It will be the blue centennial jersey they wore against Qatar,” he said. “This is the one that will remain as a classic.”
With this one safe in his collection, his next shot will be on orange. The collection bears the name of James Nolan, the young Irish fan who tragically died in Poland during Euro 2012. Ultimately, he hopes to be able to house it in an Irish football museum.
“I knocked on doors but without success so far. Dalymount Park needs to be redeveloped 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 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 am very proud, ”said Eddie.
2. The white 1990’s 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 on penalties in 1990.
4. Richard Dunne’s famous “homemade” number 5 jersey worn in Ireland’s Moscow draw against Russia 2011. “I have that one too. It was auctioned off for charity and unfortunately I didn’t win it but the person who got it felt he would have a better home with me. There may have been money transferred. There is always blood and the market on it. It really is a classic, ”said Eddie.
5. The 1997 “Macedonia” orange jersey. “It’s a breathtaking change of look. It was so revolutionary.
Eddie’s Least Favorite Swimwear:
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 there – we were wearing standard equipment.
2. We didn’t qualify for anything from 94 to 2002 and although some amazing kits didn’t really capture the public imagination because the results weren’t great.
3. The jerseys worn for euros in Poland in 2012. “They were really pretty, green with a yellow herringbone effect. But the results were poor, so people don’t remember it particularly fondly. “
4. The 2001 jersey worn against Portugal and Holland. “Roy Keane had a good game, 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.