Cork City's final season with adidas would prove to be a memorable one for matters on the field, as the club fell agonisingly short of winning another league title, while us kit nerds would also be in for a treat, as no fewer than 15 different combinations were worn, despite the fact that only two main colours were used.
Buoyed by the cup win the previous May, manager Dave Barry brought in former Wimbledon striker Gerald Dobbs as well as promoting youngster Greg O'Halloran to the senior set-up while Pat Morley returned from his sojourn with Shelbourne to provide another option in attack. City began their campaign with a tricky tie against Ukrainian side CSKA Kiev in the European Cup Winners' Cup, and got off to a dream start as Kelvin Flanagan and Derek Coughlan put them into a 2-0 half-time lead. A 93rd-minute goal from the visitors dampened spirits somewhat, however, and that away goal proved crucial as Kiev triumphed 2-0 in the second leg.
In both those games, and early matches in the league, City wore similar shirts to 97-98, though with subtle differences. Due to UEFA rules, Guinness was the only sponsor while the adidas wordmark was directly below the collar and the white outline around the crest was now red (above left). Plain red numbered shorts were also used before the normal ones returned, along with the secondary sponsors, in September (above right), while adidas's new sock design seen as the World Cup in France also featured.
A reversal of those socks was seen on the away kit, which now had numbered shorts (right), though in the early-season game away to Bohemians a different set were used, white with black stripes (far right). That game, as well as every other one of City's opening eight league games were won as they raced to the top of the table, playing scintillating football. St Patrick's Athletic were just three points behind, though, and they pulled level with a 2-0 win over City in a televised game in Inichicore at the end of October, not the last time that Pat's would dent City hopes that season.
For that clash, the home shorts and socks were used with the away shirts (right). City responded well to the setback by winning the next four league games, but coincidentally, the next time they would fail to win, a 1-1 draw in Derry at the start of December , also saw a mixing of kits, as the home socks were worn (far right). As well as the good progress being made in the league, City were also motoring well in the League Cup and claimed that competition for the third time at the end of the year as Noel Hartigan scored the only goal in the second leg against Shamrock Rovers at the Cross, Brian Barry-Murphy having scored in the 1-1 draw in the first game.
In January, things turn a fairly odd turn kits-wise. Drawn away to Monaghan United in the opening round of their defence of the FAI Cup, City were turned out in a brand-new set of long-sleeved shirts, in a design also seen on Crystal Palace and Wigan Athletic that season. Initially, the shirts were worn, without league or Evening Echo sleeve patches, with the existing shorts (far left) before a matching style arrived (left). The new addition would not have been that strange in itself, notwithstanding the fact that it had not been flagged and replicas were not on sale, but a second meeting with Pat's another totally new kit being worn.
Despite it being a home game, televised live on a Saturday afternoon, City played in what was essentially a reversal of the home kit they started the season wearing, but there was a lack of consistency with the shorts as some had red waistbands (below left and far left). Once again, Pat's
had the upper hand on City in front of a crowd contributing to then-record gate receipts for a league game in Cork. Two second-half goals in the space of five minutes from Leon Braithwaite and Stephen McGuinness cancelled out Morley's opener just before half-time, leaving the Dublin side two points clear at the top of the table.
Despite the two new kits, it was the older white away that City wore for the 3-3 draw away to Shelbourne the following week, City players wearing both variation of the newer white shorts (right and far right).
The Stuttgart-style kit was worn at home (it was never used in an away game) to Finn Harps in February, but the new red kit had to be worn as Derry City turned up at the Cross in a white away kit and the same happened against Dundalk. The away kit was used with the new red shorts and home socks in the 5-2 win away to Sligo Rovers (right), and then away to Pat's, white-red-white was the comination (far right).
Unfortunately, it was a third defeat to the Saints in the league for City, and with two games left, the title was all but gone. The final two matches, against Shels and Shamrock Rovers, were won but Pat's beat Bray 1-0 to finish on 73 points, three ahead of City, who set a new record for a second-placed finish in a 33-game season, having finished the campaign in the old red shirts with newer shorts (left). After the 3-0 win over Rovers, captain Declan Daly stood on the wall in front of The Shed and told the assembled masses that the title would arrive the following season. If so, it would be won in Le Coq Sportif kits.