"Nothing was more important than the Irish Jersey" - Willie John McBride
By all means read on if you'd like to learn more about how we set about organising this competition, but we won't be offended if you already get the idea and you'd rather scroll to the end and check out the runners & riders!!!
All you have to do to be involved is (1) stay tuned to our twitter feed and vote when the polls are run - they will generally take place in the evening from 5pm, and (2) leave your comments on Facebook or Twitter to tell us more about what kind of jerseys you have preferred over the years.
We've been doing what we can here at Harpin Manor to help fill the void, what with #RetroRugby podcasts, our new feature The Pod Of Three, and our regular daily post Front Five.
As a bonus we recently tried something we called the Leinster Jersey McJerseyface Cup, where we pitted the province's various shirt designs against each other in a series of polls on Twitter until a winner was found, namely the one from Bilbao as they earned their fourth Heineken Cup.
Since we had a bit o' craic with it, plus we're a Leinster and Ireland fan site, we figured we might as well have a go at running another one for the national side as well, so here we are. This post will serve as a "home page" for the competition and it will be updated as it progresses.
First, we needed to come up with a definitive list of jerseys, and I couldn't believe my luck when I found a page called "Ireland rugby jersey history, 1987-2017" via the google machine. There I was gifted perfect graphics ready made for all of the different designs in that time. All I needed to do was reach out to the site owner Denis Hurley, and he very kindly offered to get involved by doing more graphics for the kits since 2017, so I was set.
We also spoke to Denis for an episode of The Harpin On Rugby Podcast; have a listen for yourself via the player below or even better, subsribe to our feed we're on Apple Podcasts and most major platforms.
For the Leinster comp we used the current Champions Cup format of 5 pools of 4, leading to 8 quarterfinalists. Because we have chosen as many as 39 jerseys for this Irish one, we decided to expand to the "old school" Heineken Cup style with 6 pools of 4. Naturally the 6 pool winners plus the 2 best runners-up will make the knockouts.
So how to determine the 24 qualifiers? First we need four pots of six to make the pool draw.
For Pot One, we repeated our method of putting "trophy winning" designs as top seeds. So as you see from the list below, that means both pro era Grand Slams, the two other Six Nations title wins from Joe Schmidt's reign, plus two of Eddie O'Sullivan's Triple Crowns.
The third Triple Crown went into Pot Two, and also here is a selection of green jerseys from 1994-2004. Next in Pot Three we covered designs from 2009 all the way up to the one from this season's Covid-shortened Six Nations.
All of that leaves us with one more pot, and six jerseys to put in it from the 21 remaining. Here's where the "qualifiers" come in.
You don't need me to tell you that with the exception of a few glorious minutes at Lansdowne Road in 1991, there haven't been a whole lot of highlights for Ireland at World Cups over the years. But of course we still had to include the jerseys, so what we've done is divide the different designs into three groups of three and after some qualifying polls we'll be left with three to go into the main draw.
Another point to make about the World Cup jerseys...a lot of people (of my vintage in particular) would consider the archetypal Irish rugby jersey to consist of plain green, made from a basic cotton material, with a white collar, and no manufacturer logo, just the old IRFU crest on the front. Pretty much every design pre-1987 was like this, so there was really no need to go back any further. If that's the type you like the best, then keep an eye out for when the "1987-92" jersey is up and be sure to get your vote in*.
(* = Yes, we know this range includes RWC1991 as well, we'll get to that...)
Other green designs
As I launch this competition I know I'm going to get some reaction along the lines of "What about this one..." etc. Here's the thing - we had to make some 'tough decisions' along the way. But when we chopped down Pools Two and Three to six jerseys each, there were a few left over so we chose to give some a chance to make it into Pot Four (including the infamous 'rip away' commemorative jersey from the opening of the Aviva Stadium in 2010).
Next are the 'alternate' jerseys, mostly white of course. Normally that means one that we'd wear against South Africa. We picked out eight designs and divided them into two qualifying pools, which will leave us two to join the green qualifier plus the three from the World Cups in Pot Four.
Finally, we are more than aware that a lot of these jerseys look very similar. Sometimes the only difference between two is the sponsors name. In the case of the RWC jerseys from 1987 and 1991, the difference isn't even on the shirt; the former has an "adidas" logo on the shorts while the latter doesn't.
We decided to keep some of them in the competition anyway, because we felt each design has an identity with the year in which is was worn, and this is why we added an actual photo with each graphic. We tried to structure the competition so that no two jerseys that look alike show up in the same poll where possible, but it could happen at some point.
"In the event of a tie..."
One of the most hated phrases in sports. Since it's not easy to get jerseys to have a penalty kicking competition, in the very unlikely event of two or more designs being tied for a position that would advance them further, a series of sudden death 1-hour polls will be run to sort them out.
So that's how we've chosen to do this. It was never going to be perfect, and we genuinely apologise if one you thought deserves to be included didn't make the cut. We hope you'll join in anyway, because it's just for the laugh after all.
BE SURE AND GET INVOLVED AND GET YOUR VOTES IN!!! Enjoy. JLP
* = the "committee" decided that the '2002-03' jersey (that won Qualifying Pool 4) is virtually identical to the Triple Crown 2004 one so to avoid a clash they have been merged into one design called "2002-04" in Pot Two, with the extra qualifying spot going to the best runner up from the RWC pools, namely 1987. The RWC2003 jersey is also similar but has been left in Pot 4 and will be kept apart from 2002-04 in Saturday's pool stage draw.