Sunday 17 December 2017

Boys in green get kitted up for the catwalk

Jonathan Walters, Shane Long, David Forde and David Meyler model the new Republic of Ireland home kit.
Jonathan Walters, Shane Long, David Forde and David Meyler model the new Republic of Ireland home kit.
Jonathan Walters exclusively presents the new Republic of Ireland kit for the Sunday Independent.

Sean Ryan

It was a case of Lights . . . Camera . . . Action, as David Forde, Jonathan Walters, David Meyler and Shane Long marched in to the improvised studio in the Portmarnock Links Hotel. Heads erect, chests out, they were modelling the new Republic of Ireland kit.

It's a role many of the players are averse to, causing difficulties for the FAI's brand communications manager, Lisa Bergin, but Walters adopts a pragmatic approach to a role he is familiar with at club level.

"There is a lot of posing going on," he laughs, "but to be honest it fills the day, otherwise we'd be sitting around the hotel doing absolutely nothing."

Daniel Holfeld is the photographer and director for the shoot. It's his first time on a soccer gig, but he's been involved with rugby, and has his own ideas on what he wants. "There is a lot of hype around the new kit and I want to make it look as good as I can. I want to make the players look heroic and larger than life. That's the plan. We'll use a lot of moody lighting and shoot from below to achieve that."

He only has an hour with the players, but he has left nothing to chance. "I did a test shoot with a model to make sure that everything looked the part. It's very important to get it right," he added.

Meanwhile, James Byrne from Umbro is excited about the new style, which Ireland will wear for the first time today against Turkey at the Aviva Stadium.

"The new kit is back to all-green top, knicks and socks, with the classic white collar," he says, with the persuasive air of a salesman, "while there are lovely accents on the back, the top one a shamrock motif. The goalkeeper jersey is a strong purple, which is a big change from the yellow/gold jersey."

Goalkeeper David Forde likes the purple, but puts in a proviso: "I'll tell you after the game." Is there a hint of superstition there, we query? "When I was younger, I was superstitious about everything, and had to follow a certain routine," he responded, "but now I don't believe in superstition or routine."

Add to that his belief that his club Millwall are on the up, despite having spent the season fighting a relegation battle.

"On paper we had the best team in the six years I've been there, so to find ourselves in that position was a surprise. But things are looking bright with Ian Holloway in charge. He's a manager who has brought teams up and under him we can achieve or challenge for promotion."

While Thomas Wilken, Holfeld's German assistant, works the smoke machine to create the right atmosphere, the players act out their roles like professionals from Equity. All four seem comfortable wearing the green in this unusual setting.

Of course, the first moment a player pulls on the green jersey is special, as Walters recalls: "There is such a sense of achievement and pride, you are representing your family and friends, and it's something that's there till the day you die."

For Forde, getting the call in his 30s was extra special. "To be selected by Giovanni Trapattoni was a huge shot in the arm for me. Now with the new management it's up to myself to consolidate and keep that consistent level going, and qualify for the Uefa finals."

The new management team are also in Walters' thoughts: "Martin (O'Neill) and Roy (Keane) are more personable (than the previous regime). They know everyone so well, and the drive of both of them has just lifted everyone. They are two great characters and it's a great set-up."

Still, three weeks away from home with Ireland when you could be resting up after a long season, that is surely a big sacrifice you have made? "As a footballer you tend to miss a lot," Walters responds. "My children's birthdays and the mid-term break seem to coincide with international matches, and we have very little family time on holidays, but it's not so much a sacrifice, it's more part and parcel of the job. It's all about managing family time during the season."

No wonder these down-to-earth footballers take modelling a new jersey in their stride.


Ireland's new look...

The FAI and sponsors Three and Umbro teamed up with some players and fans to launch the new Irish home jersey and team kit.

The players were joined by fans who participated in the shoot following a competition on Three's Twitter page.

In this picture, exclusive to the Sunday Independent, Jonathan Walters, David Meyler and Shane Long togged out in the new kit for the official jersey launch and they were joined by Paula Brady from Dublin.

"It's a privilege to wear the national jersey and this one is a true classic and it feels as good as it looks," said Walters. "Green head to toe."

The new Umbro Ireland Three-sponsored jersey can be pre-ordered on this week. The kit will also be available to purchase on and in all sports retailers nationwide from late July.

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