Meet the women of Tyrone who are working hard around the clock to satisfy Mayo fans’ fierce demand for jerseys ahead of the All-Ireland final on Saturday.
aria McLaughlin, manager of the O’Neills outlet in Strabane, called the appetite for swimsuits this year “completely crazy”.
Last Friday the Independent Irish visited the O’Neills factory where thousands of Mayo and Tyrone jerseys were expertly sewn, wrapped and wrapped.
Maria says demand has never been higher.
Gesturing to us behind an almost hidden door on the back wall of the store, she said, “Anyone who says the swimsuits are made in China can come and see this.
We walk about 15 feet and the passage opens onto a huge factory floor.
Dozens of tables with manual sewing machines with stacked jerseys are visible.
The people operating the machines are eclipsed by the mini mountain of materials piled up beside them.
The noise, energy and concentration in the room is breathtaking to see.
“It’s crazy, online orders for Mayo jerseys are amazing.
“The poor staff who handle Internet orders work flat out,” says Maria.
Pointing to this journalist’s Mayo-crested jacket, Maria laughs. “You would swear many had never been to an All-Ireland before.”
Making swimsuits is intense, physically demanding and highly skilled work.
The machinists behave with almost clinical efficiency.
Sharon Donnell, a good sportswoman who dons a Mayo jersey – so I feel less alone – says she can finish up to 1,000 jerseys a day.
“About a thousand a day, I would say. We would still be busy before an All-Ireland, but that’s a whole different story.
Married says Tyrone fever hit the Strabane store weeks ago, even before the semi-final.
“We were still selling Tyrone jerseys, but you could really see the demand increasing before the semi-final.
“We don’t sell too many Mayo jerseys in the store, but online has gone crazy.
“We supply to Elvery’s and Sports Direct, so we have to prepare all store orders and then individual orders. It never stops.
“We only finished the Mayo jerseys yesterday because there was such a demand for them coming only from the stores.
“We’re starting the Tyrone jerseys today.”
The Strabane factory also manufactures the players’ jerseys, which are of the same material and fit as the replica jerseys but with the player’s number and a GPS pocket on the back.
They will be completed later this week and delivered to both teams by Thursday.
Among O’Neills’ staff is Bríd McShane, the sister of Tyrone player Cathal McShane.
2019 Championship top scorer McShane recently returned to inter-county football after a horrific injury in February 2020.
Club man Owen Roe O’Neills is being tipped off by some to start on Saturday.
“He worked hard to get his place back, and I’m sure I’m proud of him,” said Bríd.
“It’s very exciting now, these days before the game.
“If Mayo was playing in any other county I would scream for them, but not this time.”
Enda Doherty, Marketing Communications Manager for O’Neills, explains that there are several reasons for the “remarkable” high demand for jerseys.
“Our factories in Strabane and Dublin have worked tirelessly to ensure that as many jerseys as possible are produced to meet customer demand, despite a reduced lead time to manufacture them before this year’s final.
“The return of fans to the games and the quality of this year’s championship has undoubtedly increased customer appetite for replica Mayo and Tyrone jerseys.
“Interestingly, before the pandemic, the main demand for Tyrone jerseys would have come from our eight retail stores in northern Ireland.
“However, we have seen a significant increase in the demand for jerseys through oneills.com.”