On Friday night, Munster played the Maori All Blacks in a rugby game at Thomond Park in Limerick, Ireland.
It was a memorable night as the Irish province won 27-14 against the touring side, albeit the magnitude of the victory wasn’t of the same scale as when Munster beat the ‘real’ All Blacks in 1978.
Prior to the game, the visiting team’s traditional Haka wardance was preceded by a gesture of respect towards Anthony Foley, the Munster head coach who tragically died in October, with Maori All Blacks captain Ash Dixon laying down a jersey with Foley’s initials on the back and then presenting it to his sons, Tony and Dan.
The game was also noteworthy from a style point of view as the Munster players wore a selection of different sock styles. This was after a competition had been run with partners Lifestyle Sports, with the schools and clubs in Munster given the chance to enter and 23 winners chosen.
The mixed-socks looks is something which has generally been the preserve of the Barbarians, but historically, Munster, the three other Irish provinces – Connacht, Leinster and Ulster – and the national team all followed this tradition, as players were seen to be representing their clubs.
The match programme resembled a racecard as the players’ respective socks were listed. The winners were randomly drawn but, where possible, the socks were matched up with a suitable player – for example, Darren Sweetnam and Ronan O’Mahony wore the colours of their almae matres.
Incidentally, from a branding point of view, we couldn’t discern any makers’ logos on anybody’s socks, either Munster’s supplier adidas or the individual clubs’ manufacturers.
Incidentally, we don’t know when Ireland ceased the practice of players wearing club socks. We do know that they were the last of the competing countries in the International Championship to do so and can pin the switch down to some time in the mid-1950s.
This Irish Independent column of February 4, 1953, entitled ‘Sporting Roundabout’ and bylined ‘MVC’ (journalists tended not to go by their own names in those days), mentions a corrspondent who sought uniformity but the writer disagreed with the notion.
In the same paper more than five years later, December 19, 1958, the ‘All In The Week’s Sport’ column – bylined ‘Selector’, this time, but perhaps the same person as ‘MVC’, given the sentiment – it is noted that change had taken place but that it was not to the taste of old-timers.