BY CHRIS MCNULTY
DONEGAL GAA officially launched their lucrative new three-year partnership with sportswear manufacturer O’Neill’s this evening at a function in the Clanree Hotel, Letterkenny.
O’Neill’s are back on board with Donegal as the official kit supplier, after a twelve-year absence – the last time the Donegal senior footballers wore an O’Neill’s playing kit was in the All-Ireland quarter-final replay against Dublin in 2002.
The new partnership will see O’Neills manufacture Donegal’s playing kit as well as leisurewear for all teams, male and female, in both codes.
The agreement runs until October 31 2016. Under the new terms, Donegal GAA will receive royalties from any items that are sold, meaning the deal has the potential to be quite lucrative depending on the success of the teams for the Association.
“That would be a new departure from our most recent deal that there will be royalties coming back off each item,” said Donegal County Chairman Sean Dunnion
“It means that we can really push them to our benefit.
“Donegal is still very marketable. People are very interested in Donegal.”
At the launch this evening, Donegal players Michael Murphy (senior football), Conor Parke (Under 21 football), Lorcan Connor (Minor football), Joe Boyle (senior hurling) and Karen Guthrie (ladies football) were joined by some managers, team-mates and officials.
“It is fantastic that we’re teaming up with a manufacture with such tradition in the GAA,” Murphy said.
“They are extremeley efficient and long may this arrangement continue. Please God it will be a successful partnership.”
During the consultation process, Donegal players had taken a hands-on approach on the design work for the new jerseys.
Mr Dunnion said: “The players have sat down with the design teams – the players actually designed the jersey. We had fourteen samples and we narrowed that down to six. This one was the preferred option.”
Kieran Kennedy, the Managing Director of O’Neills, said that he felt the new arrangement was ‘a sort of homecoming’.
“We are very pleased to resume our partnership with Donegal,” he said.
“We were there in 1992, we supported you from across the bridge in Strabane in 2012.
“We have many linkes with GAA clus in Donegal and it is a honour for us to join Donegal as official kit supplier. We always consider ourselves as a North-West company and we are one of the last surviving members of the North-West textiles industry. We have long served the hinterland of Donegal, Derry and Tyrone in providing jobs.
“Our office has been inundated with calls and there are two questions: When are they out and when can we get it? That shows the passion for Gaelic Games that is in Donegal. We are releasing one of the most popular and in-demand jerseys.
“2014 is a World Cup year and it will be popular for the famous yellow jersey – and it won’t be Brazil!” O’Neills has manufacturing plants in Dublin and Strabane; with around 130 Donegal people employed in the Strabane base.
“That gives me confidence that we’re going into the right partnership,” Mr Dunnion said.
Donegal’s main sponsor are Donegal Creameries – and Sales Manager Niall O’Donnell says the new partnership ‘is very good for the local economy’.
Senior hurling manager Ray Durack joked that he’d ‘have one of the best looking teams anyway!’
“It is brilliant to have such a strong backbone, with the sponsors that we have,” he said. “We had success last year and we want to build on that. I think that jersey will be up the Hogan Stand to accept some trophies.”
The new agreement also takes in the Ladies Board, meaning that the teams will have a united design. “This is a great day for us, the GAA family as a whole,”
Micheál Naughton, the Donegal Ladies Board Chairman said, with the Clanree Hotel confirmed as the main sponsor for the ladies team.
“Without the mens’ association we wouldn’t be able to participate like this. It is great that we are starting to work together. It’s a great day for the GAA in Donegal.”