The greatest vote of confidence cast for the Waterford senior hurlers in the winter of 1997 as they set out on a road that would lead them to the cusp of Munster glory and eventually all the way to Croke Park came when a fan went into Alfie Hale’s and bought a Waterford jersey on the strength of a win over Wexford in the Oireachtas tournament. Hopefully that jersey will be present in Croke Park on Sunday where it may, in fulfillment of a vow taken many years ago, be ushered into a graceful retirement on the back of a Waterford All-Ireland triumph.
What follows is a look at that jersey and the ones that have followed, the object of so much bilious comment because a few Waterford players dare to take it a bit too seriously.
1998 and all that. In one way, this shirt has held together well, still relatively intact (see below to see why that matters) and drapes the form nicely (see the bulge in each photo to see why that matters). But a closer inspection reveals that the main part of the shirt has gone the colour of a newspaper that has been left in the sun too long. The sleeves have remained oddly untouched by Time. Perhaps Waterford Foods, who picked up some gratis branding with the very un-Déise colours, insisted on a bit more money being spent on the cloth there. Another curiosity is that it is different to the shirt won by that team for most of that year – check this photo of Billy O’Sullivan to confirm that – so perhaps it’s one of a kind . . . or a dud.
The 2002 model, always to be the one worn when the famine in Munster came to an end. It isn’t that nice a shirt though. Containing too much blue, too many baubles – what’s with the V across the chest? – and a sponsor’s logo so domineering that it could be seen from space, it wouldn’t have looked out of place in a rugby league match. Still, it could have been worse – the design was used to even more horrific effect by Wexford.
Oh dear. It was commendable of the Waterford County Board to support a local company trying to break the quasi-monopoly that is O’Neills in the GAA world, but as in the world of computers being an early adopter is a risky business. Azzurri clearly screwed up somewhere in the manufacturing process with County Jersey 1.0 as all the patches came off after a few washes. Still, it’s a lot less busy than its predecessor and things could only get better, right?
Actually, right. Dispensing with the lick-on transfers found in 1980’s bubble gum packets, Azzurri’s superior design shone through by 2006. Except, once again, for the lamentable logo. (Tottenham Hotspur have the problem this season), a clean (muddy patches above caused by, uh, mud from recent music festival) uncluttered layout marred by the need to appease the sponsors who share a primary colour with one of your main rivals. Clearly the piper has to play the payer’s tune, but should they choose the colour of his pipe as well?
So where is the Yop shirt in this collection? I don’t have it, and don’t plan on buying it. The last two shirts were kindly purchased for me by my wife. Otherwise I would never have bothered. I haven’t bought a Liverpool shirt in several years, preferring to stick with classic shirts which look better than the official one and never date. The GAA have gotten in on the act, producing a 1959 Waterford jersey which looks the biz . . .
. . . but costs an eye-watering €50. And when you have an eleven year old shirt to be worn like a suit of armour (bought during the Oireachtas, so it was, no bandwagon jumping here!), who needs it?
Update 31/3/16: and lo! courtesy of the generous folk at Azzurri, we have a new addition to the hall of fame:
No sniggering down the back about ‘additions’! I might have to keep this one clean . . .