Cork City’s 2017 campaign will live long in the memory. The club won the domestic double of League of Ireland Premier Division and FAI Cup for the first time.
The Rebel Army were victorious in each of their first 12 league games, winning 21 of their first 22, and while their march slowed somewhat after the departure of star striker Seán Maguire to Preston North End, they still finished seven points ahead of Dundalk. It is the only time since 2013 that Dundalk have not been champions of Ireland and City made it a double as they overcame Dundalk on penalties in the end-of-season cup final.
Sometimes, a team will achieve great things in bad kits, which are given an artificial bump due to their associations with success. However, in our – admittedly biased – view, City’s outfits lived up to their feats and, just as pleasingly, there was plenty of interchanging.
This was City’s last season in Nike kits before switching to adidas and it was a good send-off. The home strip was a Trophy III template, based on the Vapor range from 2016, while the away and third utilised the Striker IV style.
The away had actually been released in the middle of 2016 as a European away but no opportunity arose to wear it, though goalkeeper Mark McNulty had worn it in long-sleeved format. Nevertheless, despite its lack of ‘newness’, it was popular among the Rebel Army support – perhaps because white shirts and green shorts had been the home kit in the early 1990s – and it was worn in all four possible formats of green and white shorts and socks.
By and large, the white kit was used for away games against dark-shirted teams. On the opening night of the season, City were away to Finn Harps (blue-blue-white) and so used the green socks; then, for the trip to Galway United (maroon-black-white), a white-white-green combination was seen. All-white was worn away to Bohemians (red/black striped shirts, black shorts and socks) and at home to Shamrock Rovers on a wet night as their black change kit was considered to have the potential to clash with City’s darker green.
Strictly speaking, the red third kit was only needed away to the green and white hoops of Shamrock Rovers, but it had other outings and in one of those the white home shorts were worn. All-red and red-white-red were also home kit combinations, during a period in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
With the change kits worn so much, there weren’t many instances of mashups involving the green shirt, but two appeared – both in home games. In the league cup clash at home to St Patrick’s Athletic, City played in green-green-white, and then in their Europa League first qualifying round second-leg clash with Levadia Tallinn, all-green was used against the visitors’ all-white.
In the first leg in Estonia, Levadia had been in green-white-white (a combination City didn’t wear all season) while City wore white-green-green.In those Levadia games, City had used the domestic away shorts, but then they wore the ‘proper’ home kit against AEK Larnaca in the next round, the white shorts had larger black numbers.
The shirts worn in Europe differed from those used domestically in that the sleeve patches for the League of Ireland and sponsors Clonakilty Food Company, the Evening Echo newspaper and 96FM were absent.
City also had two back sponsors, the Mardyke Arena and Aspira, and they too were unable to be displayed in Europe. Instead, the Irish flag appeared above the players’ names.
On the goalkeeping front, the favoured shirt was a black and grey Nike Park Derby template, but there were also blue/white and yellow/black Striker IV options.
In addition, there were two other goalkeeper kits used in Europe. A white Park V shirt was worn in the home game against Larnaca, while a black Striker IV also appeared and would also be called upon for the FAI Cup final, when City would have a one-off green shirt, too.
With a set of Trophy III shirts unable to be procured as the Nike deal was up, instead they played in green Park V shirts. They were up against Dundalk for the third straight year in the final – Dundalk had won in 2015 to complete the double whereas City’s 2016 victory had denied a double.
Both of the previous games had been 1-0 wins decided in extra time and there was another scoreless 90 minutes here. When Niclas Vemmelund put Dundalk ahead, it appeared that City’s double dreams were to be dashed but Achille Campion scored an equaliser to send the game to penalties. After a McNulty save, Kieran Sadlier had the opportunity to ensure the cup stayed in Cork and he converted to secure the win and the double.