For someone like your correspondent, whose first real memory of football is the 1990 World Cup, the idea of the Republic of Ireland wearing a change kit isn’t a new thing.
In nine games across that tournament and USA 94, Jack Charlton’s side wore white on six occasions – though, funnily enough, they have never won a game at a World Cup wearing white and have never lost one wearing green.
Ireland in white was a regular occurrence earlier in the 1980s, but, after partnering with adidas in 1986, they went more than two years without needing to change. So it was that the white reversal of their first adidas strip was never worn by the senior team, though the next incarnation would receive two outings.
A white set was obviously taken to Euro 88 but wasn’t called upon – the USSR changed when Ireland played them and the match against the Netherland wasn’t considered a colour-clash, though it would be two years later.
However, Ireland’s first game after the finals was their opening 1990 World Cup qualifier, away to Northern Ireland. The kit worn was that taken to West Germany, with the smaller adidas logo on the shirts to satisfy the rules for the finals. In addition, Ireland had been caught unawares by the prohibition on makers’ logos on socks, meaning that plain green pairs were procured at short notice. The socks used in Belfast were the away versions of these – white with green tops but no adidas stripes.
A 0-0 draw was a good start for Charlton’s side, though they lost 2-0 away to Spain in their next outing and their third qualifier, in March 1989, was also scoreless.
That was away to Hungary, who wear red shirts, white shorts and green socks. Ireland could feasibly have gone green-green-white but such a kit combination wouldn’t be seen until 2004 and the default away – with a larger adidas logo and branded socks – was worn.
White shirts were better from the point of viewing of aiding those with colour-blindness, but it seems the green socks were the main factor as Ireland didn’t change away to Malta in November 1989. In that game, a fifth straight win secured their place at the World Cup for the first time.