In the first of a new series, I delve into my wardrobe to bring you a few of my favourite football shirts from my collection, looking at the designs and the stories behind them.
First, I’m going with one very close to home…
The Shirt: Coleraine FC Home
The Years: 2017/18 and 2018/19 seasons
The Manufacturer: CX Sports
This was the first (and sadly only) home shirt produced for Coleraine by Dundalk-based company CX Sports, who had provided the kits for their home town club as well as the Irish Athletics federation.
Normally there can be some apprehension when your team agrees a kit deal with a relatively unknown brand, with most fans preferring the big names like Adidas or Nike, even though all they’ll provide for an Irish League club is a catalogue kit you can spot being worn by park teams all over the world. But CX certainly rose to the challenge with their first set of kits – with the exception of a lurid fluorescent yellow third kit, mercifully only worn in two European away games.
The home shirt is one of the best Coleraine have had in the last 20 years.
It features the classic blue and white stripes, which have been Coleraine’s home colours since the 1960’s (bar a couple of seasons here and there where hoops or plain white shirts have been preferred) and after years of teamwear template kits, it contains a few unique flourishes.
The way the stripes are broken by fading pinstripes sets it apart from previous shirts and is also a neat, if probably unintentional, reference to the pinstriped kits of the 60’s and early 70’s. The striped trim on the cuffs is also a nice touch as is the inclusion of the club nickname and foundation year on the back.
The solid blue panel on the back is an unfortunate necessity in terms of making the names and numbers visible on the pitch, but at least the stripes continue at the bottom, preventing the kit looking all-blue from behind.
The kit would accompany Coleraine through a memorable 2017/18 season, indeed it would be over 12 months before the Bannsiders would taste defeat in a major competition while wearing it!
Oran Kearney’s men only lost one league game all season and set a club record of — points, yet still finished second in the league. But the reason this kit is held in such high regard is that it was worn on the day Coleraine ended a 15-year trophy drought.
It was worn in every match of the Irish Cup run as Coleraine saw off Lisburn Distillery, Institute, Glentoran and Larne on their way to the decider against Cliftonville.
At the national stadium, Coleraine struck first through Darren McCauley just after half time but were pegged back as Cliftonville cut through their defence and Rory Donnelly scored with a tap-in.
Substitute Aaron Burns restored Coleraine’s lead, running through a static Cliftonville defence to slot home. Then with almost the last kick, and almost every Cliftonville player committed forward, a defensive slip-up gave Eoin Bradley a clean run on goal and he lobbed Brian Neeson to kick off wild celebrations as Oran Kearney and almost the entire Coleraine bench sprinted to join him.
With the events of 5th May 2018, what was already a smart kit gained iconic status.
Sadly the kit’s second season didn’t go quite as well. Kearney left in September to take charge of Scottish Premiership side St Mirren and Coleraine’s form under his replacement Rodney McAree was inconsistent at best, eventually finishing sixth and failing to qualify for Europe.
CX Sport unfortunately suffered problems as well, with their parent company announcing they would be winding up the business at the end of 2019, meaning Coleraine would have to look elsewhere for a kit supplier and leaving this shirt as the highlight of a brief, but successful partnership.