Twice as Nice – Republic of Ireland, 1997-98
This Friday, November 5, sees the Republic of Ireland launch a new orange change kit.
The chances are high that there’ll be more than a few references to Macedonia as, in 1997, the last orange Ireland shirt premiered in an infamous World Cup qualifier defeat in Skopje.
It’s likely that, if you asked most Ireland supporters how many times the infamous orange away kit was worn, they would say that that was its only outing.
It’s an occasion that has gone down in Irish footballing lore for the wrong reasons – a 3-2 defeat dented hopes of qualifying for France 98, with Jason McAteer’s red card for a kung-fu kick adding insult to injury. For a few years afterwards, the worst player in Ireland training sessions would be ‘rewarded’ with a yellow goalkeeper jersey bearing the legend, ‘I had a Macedonia’.
Macedonia had a white home strip trimmed in red, so Ireland would have had to change to green shorts at most to alleviate any perceived clash. This was a kit crime in the lack of a need to wear it, while there were some who were uncomfortable with the fact that the orange on the Ireland flag represented Unionism.
Speaking last year, Jonathan Courtenay of Umbro Ireland took the blame/credit for the idea to deviate from the usual white change strips – as well as revealing that some of the shirts had been stolen in a raid on the factory.
We wanted to do something different, and that had never been done before. My view on it is, whatever political connotations or whatever else, I don’t really look too deeply into that. My simple answer is, it’s a third of the flag, and orange is a very cool colour.
We’ve under-utilised it over the years, it stands out and looks great. All you have to do is to look at Holland fans at any major competition.
After Skopje, that seemed to be that, with the shirt apparently added to the longish list of one-offs in the country’s kit history – though, somehow, two replica versions were produced. However, a friendly against Mexico at Lansdowne Road in May 1998 saw the strip called upon again as the visitors wore green shirts.
This time, there were no numbers on the front of the shirts or shorts and white socks were worn, despite the fact that Mexico were also in white socks. Judging from pre-Macedonia publicity photos of Stephen Geoghegan – a striker with Shelbourne in the League of Ireland, who was called up to the squad but not capped – the white socks were the default and the black set used in Skopje were alternates.
The orange kit was followed by a black strip which was never used by the senior team and the next time Ireland changed, against South Africa in New Jersey in June 2000, white had returned as the second-choice colour.
3 thoughts on “Twice as Nice – Republic of Ireland, 1997-98”
My biggest 3 gripes against this strip when it came out was……
1. It’s a bit too Much… I.m.o it maybe would have been better if they used the England or Scotland 97 templates? Or the simple English euro 96 or 2000 templates?
2. It should have been an 3rd kit not away as traditional white away kit is simply the home kit reversed…… admittedly as no international teams play in green and white stripes (baring France 1978 World Cup kit fiasco) …… so it’s likely as 3rd colours it’s only use would be Belfast away games🤔? Not sure if that’s pc enough but then Northern Ireland have worn blue in Dublin a few times haven’t they?
3.orange top …… fine
Black shorts and trim …… great
But socks should have been orange with white turnovers …… so they could have option off been used also as alternative socks along with home shirts and shorts to create an “tricolour kit “for the few occasions when Ireland playing teams with green socks (or red socks when colour blind rules apply ) and the “tricolour “ would cause less of any overall clash then the normal white/green/ white away kit?
I think the white socks were from the goalkeeper kit that was intended to wear alongside the away kit… it was white with a black and green print, identical to a kit Peter Schmeichel wore when Man Utd wore their similarly designed blue third kit launched during the 96/97 season.
However as Macedonia wore white, Alan Kelly had to wear a purple and yellow jersey instead of the intended white one.
Thanks for this…..I always had in my head that this kit had white socks originally…..i knew I wasn’t going mad…..u like the orange kit, however I wonder what happens if ireland draw the Netherlands in Euro qualifying? ……… I would love to see an Irish yellow and green kit similar to Lithuania though