When A Jersey Is More Than Just A Jersey

Posted on February 4, 2010

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So I’m writing a one act play at the moment and there is a point in it where a jersey is very instrumental to the characters. And it got me thinking about jerseys in general and the purpose of them, and why we spend obscene amounts of money on, maybe a new one every year, or collect them.

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My little sister collected GAA jerseys up to very recently. She’d been doing quite well too. Me, I just have countless Wexford jerseys and a stray Laois one because the material in it is perfect for training in hot weather (something we get so much of in Ireland!) I also have a Compromise Rules shirt from back in 2004 maybe and a truly beautiful All-Stars jersey from the same year. My one pride and joy though is my 1996 Wexford jersey, something which still fits me, 14 years on (such a depressing thought that the All Ireland was 14 years ago..) but it is also something which I have vowed not to wear again until Wexford reach another All Ireland Final. The way things are going at the moment, I am never wearing that jersey again….

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In addition to this, I had a thought during the week, a general musing if you will, to buy a new rugby jersey in the run-up to Ireland’s defence of the 6 Nations which kicks off this Saturday on our TV screens. My current jersey has TSB Permanent or Permanent TSB or whatever it was in the time before TSB changed their name, and before the IRFU axed them to go with O2. My plans were short lived as:

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  1. I discovered I couldn’t possibly afford a new Ireland jersey and henceforth added it to my never ending list of “Shit I must/should/probably shouldn’t/really don’t need to, buy”
  2. My current Irish jersey, the old, decrepit thing that it is, has seen me through three Triple Crowns and a glorious Grand Slam. I’m not going to fix what isn’t broken.

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The thing is, I was never really into rugby until probably the start of the last decade. Yeah I’d watch it and yeah I’d have shouted for Ireland like I do for any sport but I was first and foremost a GAA person, considering it my equivalent to C.S. Lewis’ ‘Deep Magic from before the Dawn of Time’. That probably explains why I own so many Wexford jerseys and why I, inexplicably possess one of the horrific Gaelic Gear ‘pink’ jerseys that were the definition of apparel puke.

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But something different happens to you when you pull on a jersey, doesn’t it? It’s not even the sense of pride or identity, (although on a sunny day in Westminster one year, it was certainly about both of those things while listening to some clown droning on about the greatness of Oliver Cromwell. When I think of how easily I could have gotten myself arrested that day…)

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But back to the point, something ignites inside you when you put on a jersey. I feel it every year at the start of GAA Championship. (AKA the beginning of summer) It instils a sense of hope in a person, and for someone from Wexford that says a lot. Even the rugby jersey. On the 21st March last year, every Irish person who owned an Irish rugby shirt pulled it on with a sense of anticipation, a sense of history being made, of talent finally coming to fruition. And it did.

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You see this horrible thing in Premiership football when a player who scores kisses the crest of his jersey. He’s not kissing the crest; he’s kissing his bank balance. It’s something that’s crept into the GAA too: you see Waterford players (in particular) kissing the crest when they score a goal but it’s somehow tainted because you’ve seen it in such a commercial sense before this, even though for the players from Waterford or any other county around Ireland, when they kiss the crest, it really is the crest they kiss.

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And that brings me back around to my one act play, in which the jersey is used in a much different way. In this the jersey is, almost a penance. It’s a symbol of something that can’t be, for one of the characters and in a way, it’s what I see when I look at my ’96 jersey – something that can’t be. Because just as my character’s dilemma is an impossible one to overcome, it seems Wexford (hurlers in particular) are finding it impossible to offer some promise for better days ahead.

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The jersey can be a powerful symbol of pride, passion and identity. But similarly, it can signal torment and pain when you look past the surface emotions surrounding it. When you look at the subtext behind anything, you’re guaranteed to find something you don’t like. The same is true of a jersey – both in my play, and in reality.

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But having said that, roll on the start of summer, at which time I will suit up in my Wexford jersey and step out with the rest of the hopeful followers for Championship season. For now though, I’ll be contented with the League.

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I’ve just realised on re-reading that this blog didn’t really have a particular point – it was just a vehicle for me to sound off about jerseys and different things like that. Note to self: Give blog post more structure in future!

Also there is no pictures because I couldn’t find suitable ones on google, and the only Wexford jersey I could find had that stupid new Sportsaver logo blared across it and I refuse to give it a viewing on this. I miss the Creamery!

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