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1916 jersey 'by far' the best selling in O'Neill's 100 year history with sales of €2 million

The commemorative jersey released ahead of the 1916 centenary had a harp on the front and 1916 proclamation on the back.

GAA JERSEY MAKER, O’Neill’s clocked sales of over €2 million from “by far the biggest selling jersey” of the company’s 100 year history – a special commemorative green jersey made to celebrate the 1916 centenary.

The special edition jersey easily outsold jerseys for the Dubs, Cork, Kerry, Mayo and Tyrone in the past.

Finance Director and co-owner of O’Neill’s Paul Towell credited sales of the green jersey with the harp on the front and 1916 proclamation on the back as the main factor behind the company’s pre-tax profits tripling to €1.85 million in 2016.

The commemorative jersey released ahead of the 1916 centenary celebrations in 2016 was the brainchild of Towell and his brother, Andrew.

In an interview, Paul Towell said: “We just got lucky with it. We were pleasantly surprised by how well it did.”

Commenting on new accounts for 2016 filed with the Companies Office, Towell said that he thought initially if the company sold 5,000 of the jerseys, it would be doing well.

We had no idea how it was going to go but we sold 1,000 on the first night they were put on sale online. That is unheard of. It became by far the biggest jersey selling jersey we have sold in our 100 years and we nearly had to wait for 100 years for that to happen.

The company is this year celebrating 100 years in business and Towell said that revenues from the jersey top €2 million.

The bumper sales of the jersey was also the main factor behind the gross profit at O’Neill’s firm, Balbriggan Textiles Ltd increasing by 14% in 2016 going from €9.7 million to €11 million.

Towell said that February, March, April and May are usually a quiet time of year for the business but he said that the company’s production plants “were at full stretch” during that time in 2016 to meet the demand for the commemorative 1916 jersey.

He said: “It was a great success and 100% the reason why our profits increased during the year.”

Towell said that he is very proud of the success of the 1916 jersey. “We are an Irish company, north and south, so were delighted with its success.”

Brexit concerns 

O’Neill’s county jerseys occupy the same place in Irish life as Tayto crisps, Barry’s tea and a pint of Guinness and Towell said that the company also takes great pride being in business 100 years this year.

O’Neill’s was established in 1918 in Dublin’s Capel Street by Charles O’Neill and its jerseys are worn every year by top GAA stars, including Dublin’s Stephen Cluxton, Donegal’s Michael Murphy and Galway’s Joe Canning.

Gaelic games are now played in 30 countries around the world and this has contributed to O’Neill’s increasing its overseas business and some of the clubs that wear O’Neills gear include the Orange-eire in Kuala Lumpur, the Flinders O’Neills in Australia, the Calgary Chieftains and the Fort McMurray Shamrocks in the north of Canada.

Yesterday the company opened a new flagship store in Derry creating 40 jobs which will take its overall headcount at O’Neill’s to 800 north and south.

Another shop opening is planned for Craigavon in September which will take the number of retail outlets in the North to seven.

Towell said: “The only negative on the horizon is Brexit and we would be very concerned over a ‘no deal’ Brexit.”

The company currently knits its items at its 250,000 sq ft Strabane plant and dyes its goods at its plant in Walkinstown in Dublin.

He said: “We have trucks going back and forth all the time. It is a huge concern for us if tariffs are going to be imposed.”

Towell said that profits were not as high in 2017 as the 1916 jersey drove sales in 2016.

On this year, Towell said that retailers are suffering from the heatwave sales wise. He said: “The heatwave is no benefit to retailers of all descriptions.”

Shareholder funds at Balbriggan Textiles Ltd at the end of 2016 totalled €16.17 million while the company’s cash pile reduced from €5.7 million to €5.5 million.

About the author:

Gordon Deegan

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