Colour Codes

Changing to an alternative strip usually works for All-Ireland finalists. But what happens when both change, as they will this Sunday? asks Denis Hurley

WITH Down not having won Sam Maguire since 1994 and Cork’s drought four years longer, Sunday will obviously see an end to a long wait.

Another gap will also be bridged with the attire of the finalists – Cork will wear a new white jersey and Down will line up in Ulster’s black and gold. It’s 14 years since a county has won the All-Ireland wearing an alternative kit.

Cork ended a 28-year drought wearing white in 1973, while red and black shirts were part of all of Down’s famous unbeaten record in finals.

Meath were the last victorious team in a change outfit – though it was only in their replay with Mayo that gold tops were adopted. Both counties wore their traditional jerseys for the first, drawn game.

“There are some lads that would never put a pass astray,” former Meath manager Sean Boylan once said. “But the first day against Mayo, we were noticing that these same lads were giving inch-perfect passes – to Mayo lads! It took us a while to twig that the similarity of the jerseys was the problem, so we changed for the replay.”

Meath returned to green jerseys after that match, but there have been instances where changes have become permanent. Upon meeting Cavan in the 1943 final, Roscommon – who wore blue with a gold hoop at the time – were told to change due to the colour clash. The GAA’s Central Council presented the Connacht county with what would become known as the primrose and blue, and after the historic first win, those colours were retained.

Another county that wears predominantly gold jerseys is Donegal, and this also came about due to a clash. Until 1992, Donegal were dressed similarly to Kerry, but that year’s semi-final pitted them against Mayo, with both teams having to change. After the Tír Conaill men’s victory (in a game remembered for the crossbar having to be repaired during the game), their change kit of gold jerseys and green shorts was kept, successfully, for the final against Dublin and right up to the present day.

Given that green is a feature of so many counties’ kits, it’s unsurprising that most of the All-Ireland final colour-clashes have been between green teams – as in ‘82, when Seamus Darby was wearing an all-white Offaly strip as he ended Kerry’s five-in-a-row dream.

Prior to counties having specialised alternative kits, the general rule was the provincial colours were worn, but this convention had not been established by 1939, when Kerry met Meath.

Instead, a coin was tossed, with Meath winning, while Kerry wore the colours of the county champions. Not much wrong with that, you might think – except that the reigning champions were Dingle, who wear red and white. Playing in the Cork colours didn’t do Kerry much harm though, as they won by 2-5 to 2-3.

While they have never worn green and gold in a final, Cork did wear Munster’s blue in losing against Galway and Louth in 1956 and ‘57 respectively. By the time they met Galway again, in the ‘73 decider, it was decided to wear a reversal of their usual colours.

To aid the Rebels’ preparations, Tyrone lent Donie O’Donovan’s side their kit so that they could wear it in training to acclimatise. It seemed to do the trick, and Rebel supporters will be hoping that things turn out to be all-white again on Sunday.

For more, visit, the first ever website dedicated to the history of GAA kits


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