‘Mescal effect’ sees O’Neills shorts become best-selling item of 2021

Mayo the most popular replica jersey, followed by Tyrone and Cork

Mayo has been the best-selling replica jersey for O’Neills this year, followed by that of All-Ireland winners Tyrone. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

The Paul Mescal effect on the sales of O'Neills shorts has continued into 2021 with the company reporting that its branded shorts is by far this year's best selling product.

Sales of the €20 Mourne shorts have increased by 30 per cent on last year, Paul Towell, co-owner of O'Neills, said on Friday. "The shorts are seen as very trendy now", particularly among women, he said.

Sales of the shorts increased in 2020 after they were worn by Mescal on lockdown TV hit Normal People.

He said the “Mescal effect” had played some part in higher shorts sales this year but added sales were also boosted as people were also playing more games and exercising more in what was a good year on the weather front.


Sales of O'Neills sports goods are now back to pre-Covid levels, he said, with the sales of replica jerseys up 20 per cent on 2020. The best-selling jersey this year has been the Mayo jersey, followed by that of All-Ireland winners Tyrone and Cork.

“We have had a good year in 2021. There was pent-up demand after shops were closed for the first third of the year,” Mr Towell said.

Marginal decline

Accounts for 2020 just filed by O'Neills main firm in the Republic, Balbriggan Textiles Ltd, show only a marginal decline in pretax profits last year to €1.15 million.

Separate accounts for O'Neills Northern Ireland arm, O'Neills Irish International Sports Company, show revenues there increased by 12.5 per cent in 2020, driven by "an increase in online sales as consumers adapted their purchasing behaviour during the pandemic". Pretax profits declined marginally to £1.18 million (€1.38 million).

Mr Towell said online sales last year increased by 20 per cent. Employee numbers across Ireland are now back to pre-Covid levels of about 1,000, he said.

He also confirmed that O’Neills is in expansion mode once more, with the construction under way of a new warehouse at Strabane that will create 20 to 30 jobs. The project was postponed last year due to the pandemic.

Gordon Deegan

Gordon Deegan

Gordon Deegan is a contributor to The Irish Times