WE WORE BLUE
OWC issue 17
Its not known when Northern
Ireland, or Ireland as they were then referred to, first wore
Whats certain is that
in our earliest days, we wore a number of different colours,
including blue, white and, even on occasions, green. However,
by the time that international football returned after World
War One, blue was our established shirt colour and remained so
until 1931. In 1931, the shirt colour was changed to green and
the rest is history.
So how come we wore blue in
the first place, an early example of Linfield influence in the
IFA? Maybe so, but blue has been the national colour of Ireland
since the 12th century. The Normans used the 'Colour of Leinster'
to signify the whole island.
Dont know if the blue
shirts improved our performances on the pitch or not. Certainly
we had some good players who wore it - including Billy Gillespie,
Joe Bambrick & Gerry Morgan who, as a Catholic (contrary
to Keanes recent claims) captained Linfield to their 7
trophy success in 1922. The period until 1931 saw some memorable
matches also, including a 7- 0 victory over Wales at Celtic Park,
Belfast in 1930 (with Bambrick scoring 6) and, in 1927, our most
recent home victory over England.
Why the change from blue to
green in 1931? The official reason at the time was that, due
to Scotlands navy, they were forced to wear white shirts
in games against us. Back then, this would have represented one-third
of their games so their grievance was maybe understandable (though
they should have been grateful to get away with white - back
in the early 1900s, their first choice colours were yellow and
primrose hoops but thats another story for another day).
Probably as influential, though
never quoted as an official reason, was the off-the field contest
between the IFA and the Free State side to be recognised as the
true national side of Ireland (up until the 1940s,
both associations were selecting players from across the island
- though come to think about it, the FAI still are). The Free
State had been recognised by FIFA as from 1923 and by the late
1920s, they had already participated in the Olympic Games (prior
to the 1930 World Cup, the highest profile international tournament)
and had played against established international sides including
Italy, Hungary and Belgium.
Whereas, the IFA blue shirt
had an old-style celtic cross badge with a harp in the middle,
the Free State shirt badge was of shamrocks. The IFA changed
their shirt badge to shamrocks in the mid-1930s. Consequently,
the IFA & FAI shirts look very similar in style right up
until the early 1950s when the IFA re-instated their celtic cross
style shirt badge. In 1958, the harp was removed form this badge
and the celtic cross was modernised to give the badge the look
that we know and love today.
Although green has remained
our first choice colour since 1931, over the past decade or so,
blue / navy has made a re-appearance. This started with an Umbro
away shirt in 1990 - a horrible looking navy and white diamond
effect and everyone will remember the green & navy quarters
home shirt of the mid-1990s. More recently, our last away shirt
Shirt enthusiasts may be interested
to learn that the blue international shirts of the 1920s were
supplied to the IFA by the Athletic Stores, who continued to
supply the international shirts until the 1960s. In these early
days, the shirts were usually manufactured by Bukta, though this
changed to Umbro in the 1960s.
Shirt collectors, looking to
pick up an original blue shirt, can expect to pay approx. £1,000
at auction (Christies & Sothebys have both sold blue international
shirts in recent years), though the price will be largely determined
by the player who wore the shirt & the provenance behind
it. For those who dont want to spend just so much, Toffs
(and, therefore, probably Flynets) sell a replica of this shirt
- its quite a good similarity, though wont cause
as much damage to the bank balance.