It was a shorter pre-season than usual for Cork City during the summer of 1997, owing to the club's participation in the Intertoto Cup. in which they were grouped with Standard Liège, Maccabi Petach Tikva, Aarau and Köln. In that regard, warm-up games in Kerry, against Killarney Celtic and a Tralee selection, were probably not the best preparation.
While both games provided wins, the opposition was not of the standard (no pun intended) that City would meet in Europe, but the game against Tralee did provide a kit oddity as the 1996-97 away was worn with the 94-95 red shorts (far right).
The previous season's kit was worn against Killarney (above right), but by the time of the game against Liège at Turner's Cross at the end of June, which finished 0-0, a new all-red outfit was seen, in a style more associated with Middlesbrough as it featured a large white stripe across the middle (top left). At the time, it was assumed by many that it was a new away kit as home sides often changed in European competition, but it turned out that the club colours had been changed, following the lead of Cork GAA teams. The new away kit (above) was all-white with red trim and was worn for the first time in another scoreless draw, away to Aarau.
Plain red socks were used in the European games and early league matches as City began with four straight wins, but by the end of September new ones appeared, featuring the adidas wordmark but oddly no stripes, while a new sponsor, Rover dealers Top Car, appeared on the shorts (left). Their logo was also on the away shorts (right), and while white socks with red stripes were worn in Switzerland against Aarau, now a plain white pair, with adidas in black, were used. In addition, another sponsor, local newspaper the Evening Echo, now had its logo on the sleeves of the away shirt and the league patch was also seen.
As autumn became winter, City stayed in the title race, recovering from three losses in a row after the good start. A new signing, striker Jason Kabia, made his presence felt, and when long-sleeved shirts arrived they too carried the extra sponsorship, while the Guinness logo was updated to a 'tidier' font (left). One thing that the change of colours provided was the ability to mix and match different elements of the kits, and this was illustrated as City wore the home shorts and socks with the away jerseys for the trip to Tolka Park to face Shelbourne in October (top right).
The next time City faced Shels, just after Christmas, it would be an excellent game as it finished 4-4, but it was also City's fourth draw in a row , a run which also including a cracking comeback in a 3-3 game away to St Patrick's Athletic. Pat's also wore white shorts, but oddly on that occasion City decided to just wear the regular away kit. The four draws more or less ended any direct involvement in the title race, but another opportunity
for silverware existed in the form of the FAI Cup, with City drawn away to Bohemians in the opening round on January 9.
Any successful cup run has to have its fair share of luck, and City had some good fortune from the start as an own goal by Bohs' Donal Broughan gave Dave Barry's side a 1-0 win, in a game where long-sleeved away jerseys, with the 'tidier' Guinness logo, were first seen (above right). City's opponents in the second round were Derry City at home, and while the Candystripes had brought their Argentina-style away to the Cross for the league fixture earlier in the season, they neglected to do so for the cup tie and were forced to wear City's previous home kit in a 1-1 draw. That meant a replay two days later, with City wearing red socks (right and above right), though oddly these carried the adidas stripes not seen on the home kit. In any case, the luck was in again as another own goal, this time from Derry's Robert Brunton, secured another 1-0 victory.
Sligo Rovers were seen off on a 2-0 scoreline in the quarter-finals, and then two Kabia goals were key to a 3-1 win away to Athlone Town in the semis, setting up a clash in the final against Shelbourne, now managed by former City boss Damien Richardson. Shels were going for a third cup win in a row but had just fallen short in the league, losing out to St Pat's (City had finished third).
For the final, City won the toss for choice of colours, with a special cup emblem (left) the only addition to the home kit (far left). Despite the fact that their contract with O'Neills was up and they would soon move to Umbro, Shels wore a yellow and navy change kit very similar to the design that Brazil would use in that summer's World Cup. Despite the build-up, though, the game finished scoreless, with the replay set for the following Saturday evening. This time, Shels wore a red and white version of the new design, though oddly with white socks, meaning City had to wear red socks with their away kit. It obviously had the desired effect, as Derek Coughlan headed the winner from a Kelvin Flanagan corner late in the game to give City a first FAI Cup win.