Picture by Michael Cooper
Pictured (left) is Carol Keery, Invest NI, with Kieran Kennedy, O’Neill’s.
Strabane-based O’Neill’s Irish International Sports Company Ltd has developed a new lightweight hurling helmet, with research and development support from Invest Northern Ireland.
The helmet features a removable, washable inner lining for increased hygiene and is available in a range of colours and can be customised with names and club crests.
The company’s core business is producing and selling a range of sports and leisure wear with a particular focus on the GAA sports clothing market. It specialises in customising products for clubs. This is its first R&D project and represented an investment of over £300,000.
Invest NI offered almost £77,000 of support, part funded by the European Regional Development Fund.
Kieran Kennedy, Managing Director of O’Neill’s, said: “The market for protective headgear is developing rapidly, partly due to legislative changes and partly due a general increase in the demand for greater health and safety driven by the individual sportsperson. O’Neill’s aim is to be the market leaders in this area.
“The R&D project was a first for us and would not have gone ahead without Invest NI’s assistance which helped us access the technical expertise we needed to develop the product.
“The helmet is now in full production at our premises in Strabane and we are confident that it will be a commercial success for the company.”
The new product has novel safety and comfort features not found in existing competing helmets. Its lining uses a special moisture wicking and odour reduction technology never used before in a sports helmet, and the faceguard is designed to maximise players’ vision while retaining impact security.
Carol Keery, Director of Research and Development, Invest NI, said: “The challenges faced by the local textiles sector over the past decade have been well documented. Those companies in the sector which have embraced innovation are those which are sustaining growth in export markets.
“This R&D project will strengthen not only O’Neill’s, but the textiles sector itself. Innovation such as this plays a key role in helping businesses differentiate themselves from the competition and therefore contributing to long-term success.”