The start of the 1993-94 season signalled quite a change for Cork City in terms of kits, even by their standards.
Having worn green and white hoops from formation in 1984 until 1989, white shirts with green shorts were favoured for the next four years, taking in the 1993 League of Ireland Premier Division victory.
That league-winning kit would be worn in the early games of the 93-94 season but only as the new green, white and red home kit was being awaited. When it eventually arrived, most wished that the shorts had been forgotten, with the ‘pyjamas’ nickname soon coined.
Across their nine years of existence up until then, City’s away shirts had always been primarily red with white trim, but given that red featured on the new home, something completely new was needed for the new change shirt.
An all-black kit in the new adidas template, as used by Liverpool and popularised at the 1994 World Cup, was conjured up. A golden-yellow was used for the accents, meaning that the kit was a nod to Cork Celtic, one of City’s many antecedents. The fabric featured the City crest subtly repeated throughout.
Given that this was only a few months after Manchester United had released English football’s first all-black kit, this was quite the change. In The Cork Examiner of Friday, December 3, 1993, Noel Spillane reported that the kit’s first outing would be two days later at home to league leaders Shamrock Rovers.
It is this writer’s clear memory of being told that, as a result of City changing, Rovers would wear their famous green and white hoops, but instead they played in an awful purple kit as the game finished 2-2.
That wasn’t the end of the issue, however. While the Premier League had introduced green referees’ shirts in 1992, officials still wore black in the League of Ireland. For that City-Rovers game, blue shirts had been used. However, luck played a part in the league finding out about City’s black kit, as revealed by a piece in the Irish Independent on Tuesday, December 7.
Cork City’s controversial black strip has been given the red card by the National League.
Cork pulled the nylon over everyone’s eyes when they trotted out against Shamrock Rovers at Bishopstown on Sunday clad in black with gold trim – a throwback to Cork Celtic. Now, the champions have been told that they cannot play in their new strip against Drogheda United on Sunday.
Angry League secretary Eamonn Morris said last night: “We are most dissatisfied with Cork’s actions.
“They never even bothered to inform the league that they were going to change their strip. Their registered league colours are green and white so they had no right to change.
“A black strip is unacceptable to the league in that it clashes with the referee’s colours. I have been in touch with Cork and they say a letter of explanation is on the way to our officers. We will wait and see what they say before taking any further action.”
Only the quick thinking of Cork referee Pat Kelly averted embarrassment for match referee Oliver Cooney and his linesmen. Kelly spotted Cork’s new strip in The Cork Examiner last Friday and contacted Paddy Daly, the league’s chief inspector.
“This was the first I knew about it,” explained Daly. “I dashed off to O’Neills on Friday to get three jerseys made up that would not clash with the Cork colours.
“This is the first time I can recall that refs were forced to change from the customary black uniform. If Paddy Kelly hadn’t acted so quickly, Oliver Cooney and his linesmen would have gone to Cork with their black kit and it would have caused all sorts of confusion.
“We have 55 referees in the league panel and we have just finished a sponsorship with Dublin Bus. Does Cork’s new strip mean we have to pay out for 55 new sets of blue jerseys?”.
Shamrock Rovers knew nothing about Cork’s new gear either. They only brought their newly-registered away strip, purple jersey and shorts, to Bishopstown.
“With Cork in black, we could have played in green and white but the first we knew about their colours was just before kick-off,” explained club chairman John McNamara.
City would wear the ‘pyjamas’ at Drogheda the following week, winning 5-0, but some solution must have been reached as the black was worn for home games in December and then January 1994. While the green, white and red returned, the black remained the away kit until the end of the 1995-96 season.