Cork GAA Jersey Change to Commemorate Easter 1916

Cork 1916 Commemoration Jersey

As part of the Easter Rising centenary commemoration, Cork will wear a special jersey designed in the style and colours worn by Cork teams of 1916 for their match this weekend against Kilkenny. It’s not known whether they will also use the sort of hurley featured instead of their trademark big bas camans as they bid to get a result against the Cats.

Cork teams wore this jersey in blue fabric with an embroidered 'C’ until 1919. Then during a raid on the Cork County Board office, the British army confiscated the jerseys and they have never been seen since. If you happen to come upon one in your attic let us know! Having no jerseys to wear, Cork borrowed the colours and kit of the defunct Fr O’Leary Total Abstinence Hall Hurling Club, and these were subsequently officially adopted. The ‘TA’ from the original Abstinence jerseys was removed after a while so that a plain red geansai remained providing the blood and bandage jerseys so famous since.

Explaining the story of the jersey, the Examiner reports: 

"Fócas Films will be filming at the Kilkenny game for their documentary ‘An Fhuil agus Bindealán’ [The Blood and Bandage]. The documentary, commissioned by TG4, uncovers the story of how Cork adopted the red jersey in 1919 and how the red jersey has become a symbol of Cork’s status as the Rebel county. The confiscated original set of blue and saffron jerseys was never returned to the county board and no original jersey remains. The jersey to be worn next Saturday is based on photographs and, in particular, research in the books, Cork’s Hurling Story, by Tim Horgan, and Making Connections — A Cork GAA Miscellany, by Jim Cronin."

County Jerseys

The thought of a county team changing their colours in the modern day game would be unheard of, we all instinctively associate particular colours with a particular county. The green and red of Mayo, the boys in blue, the Cats, the list goes on.

But it wasn’t always thus. County jerseys have changed. The Tipperary team that played in Croke Park on Bloody Sunday wore a white jersey with a green band, although there are some suggestions that this strip was borrowed from the O’Toole’s club in Dublin.

Other counties initially wore other colours also. Armagh originally wore amber and black, the colours now worn by Crossmaglen but switched to the familiar Orange when presented with a set of shirts knitted by nuns in Omeath.

New Jersey Designs and Fabrics

The colours worn by county teams were often borne of necessity, the plain colours a result of the limited clothing dyes available and any adornments such as sashes, stripes and badges would have had to be sewn on unlike the modern jersey where here at O’Neills we can sublimate any graphic or fabric feature into the garment. 

The jerseys in former times were also subject to the vagaries of the person washing the jerseys - yes back in the day the person washing the jerseys was as important in the club and county as they are now! There is a story, possibly apocryphal by Jimmy Gray that the Dubs switch from white shorts or ‘knicks’ as they called them was due to the colour running from the blue jersey. Jimmy claimed in a Dubs DVD that this was fact because it was his wife that had committed the offence when washing the gear. This sort of disaster is less common with the development of modern fabrics, dyes and washing machines and the clear instructions we supply. 

Cork GAA Jersey Stories

There are a couple of other interesting jersey stories from Cork GAA that merit mention. The Na Piarsaigh club of John Gardiner and Seán Óg Ó hAilpín fame was founded in 1943 by a group of former North Mon pupils. The club was strongly committed to the Irish language Irish and the 1916 leader Pádraig Pearse they felt reflected those ideals hence the name Na Piarsaigh.

The club kit of black and amber was chosen and in 1951 the symbolic red hand of Ulster with its thumb severed was selected as the club crest. The red hand represents the island that is Ireland, the severed thumb the six counties still under British rule. The club legend is that when Ireland is united, the thumb will again rejoin the fingers to create a strong and useful hand. The club also decided to conduct its affairs through the Irish language as far as possible, including the reciting of the Hail Mary in Irish before all Na Piarsaigh matches.

Followers of inter varsities sport will be familiar with the distinctive Skull and Crossbones emblem that adorns the UCC GAA jersey. This trademark jersey design stems from the time when Queen’s College Cork was a medical school and the medical students adopted the skull and bones as their trademark on the sports pitch. It is surely one of the most original jerseys in the GAA pantheon.

Does your club have an interesting jersey story? For your chance to win a 1916 Commemoration jersey of your choice, mail us your story to (t&cs apply).