Managing Director of O’Neills, Kieran Kennedy
The award-winning managing director of O’Neills, Kieran Kennedy, has announced that he
plans to retire after 42 years with the leading Irish sportswear manufacturing company.
The prominent Co Tyrone businessman has been synonymous with the successful
expansion of O’Neills Irish International Sports Co. Ltd.
He is also well-known in Donegal and many of the firms employees come from the county.
Under Kieran’s leadership, O’Neills has become the largest manufacturer of sportswear in
Ireland, with plans for sustained business growth in both domestic and overseas markets.
Confirming his plans to retire at the end of the year, Kieran said that first and foremost he
wished to thank everyone for the support they had given him over the years. “My time inO’Neills has been immensely rewarding and I am very proud of the employment created in the north-west and the relationships developed with customers and stakeholders over the years. We faced many challenges and none more so than the last 14 months during the pandemic.”
He added: “The years here have given me many great memories to treasure and without
doubt it’s the friendships and collaborations that made my time so enjoyable.”
Looking ahead to his retirement eight months away, Kieran said: “I am excited for this next
chapter, I will continue in my role as chairman of 21 Training, chairman of Strabane BID
and board member with Invest NI.”
At the helm of O’Neills since 1988, Kieran Kennedy has been instrumental in driving
innovation and overseeing significant investment in growing the brand across the world. The
Strabane based sportswear company has grown from a workforce of 30 people when it
started out in a former schoolhouse in the 1970s, to around 700 staff today.
O’Neills now operates from state-of-the-art production facilities on a 16-acre site in Strabane
and in Walkinstown, Co Dublin. The company has nine retail stores across Northern Ireland
and, sales offices in the UK, France and Australia.
O’Neills were hailed as CBI Business Heroes last year for their rapid response to the urgent
need for PPE supplies after the outbreak of Covid-19. The company transformed its
production facilities to produce scrubs and gowns for frontline healthcare staff throughout the
country, it is also working in partnership with a leading UK supplier to manufacture high-
quality reusable isolation gowns.
Kieran is a strong advocate for the revitalisation of the textile manufacturing sector in
Northern Ireland and has driven significant improvements in product innovation, customer
service, IT and business transformation at O’Neills.
Earlier this year O’Neills was awarded Platinum Level Innovator status in the Innovate NI
Innovation Accreditation Programme by the Department for the Economy and Invest NI.
Having joined O’Neills upon leaving school at 16, Kieran has completed several business-
focused qualifications throughout his career, including the Business Growth Programme run
by Invest NI and the Critical Leadership Programme at Queen’s University Belfast.
He also completed the Leadership 4 Growth programme supported by Invest NI with modules in New
York and Barcelona.
Kieran is a prominent advocate for the North West business community through his
membership roles with Manufacturing NI and Londonderry Chamber of Commerce. In terms
of international engagement, he has also led several high-profile trade missions alongside
local councils to examine how businesses in the border region can gain a stronger foothold
in the US market.
In 2019 the O’Neills MD was awarded the Global Ireland Award at the Golden Bridges
conference in Boston in recognition of his business leadership over the past three decades.
O’Neills has expanded its product offering globally to become a major supplier of all types of
sportswear and equipment for Gaelic games, Soccer, Rugby League, Rugby Union, Boxing,
Cricket and Athletics.
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