The 'Paul Mescal effect' has been credited with contributing to a 20% increase in the sales of O'Neills shorts in 2020.

According to Director with O'Neill's, Paul Towell, the 20% sales increase of O'Neills shorts last year "was one of the few bright spots in a very difficult year" for the sportswear brand.

The sports brand enjoyed a sales boost after Sally Rooney’s 'Normal People' break-out star, Paul Mescal made the €20 O'Neills shorts one of the most sought after fashion items of 2020.

The former Kildare minor football captain was photographed out and about during 2020 sporting his O'Neills shorts before wearing them for a GQ cover photo shoot last Autumn.

Mr Towell said that Paul Mescal "has had a very positive effect on sales".

The 20% increase in O'Neills shorts last year is all the more remarkable when sales of O'Neills replica jerseys plummeted by 70% due to Covid-19 in 2020.

Mr Towell estimated that the ‘Mescal effect’ "brought the O'Neills brand to a wider audience allowing us to expand our range in ladies shorts in particular with new colour  combinations"

During the year, O'Neills sent Paul Mescal a complimentary pack of sportswear along with an O'Neills All-Ireland football which he used in kick around in Hyde Park in London.

Mr Towell reported that in another bright spot for O'Neills in 2020 was doubling its workforce in Covid free Australia.

The strong Australian performance along with the firm producing PPE for front-line health-care workers limited the brand's revenue drop to 40% in 2020.

Mr Towell said: "We had a large investment in Australia the last couple of years and Australia basically has helped to keep the production units going here because there is no lockdown over there."

He said O'Neills are producing jerseys for Aussie Rules, Australian rugby union and rugby league teams.

Mr Towell revealed that the Tipperary footballers' Bloody Sunday commemorative jersey was the company’s second best selling jersey last year after a newly launched Dublin jersey.

He said the Tipperary commemorative jersey sold across the country and overseas in the US and Australia.

"It is still selling well - not to the same extent. It is a unique jersey and has gone very, very well," he added.

Mr Towell made his comments when asked to comment on new accounts for O'Neills firm, Balbriggan Textiles Ltd which show that the company recorded pre-tax profits of €1.1m in 2019 as its gross profit increased to €12.1m.

Mr Towell stated over the past 12 months, the company’s retail outlets have been closed 60% of that time.

"We closed down on March 12th last year and we opened again on July 2nd.

"We closed down again for the month of November and we closed again for January, February and March.

"It is very, very difficult," he said.

O'Neill’s has established a distribution centre in Adelaide and has doubled its workforce to 25 led by Athy woman, Antoinette Kelly.

Mr Towell said that O'Neills produces jerseys here for Australian rugby union team, the Brumbies, Aussie Rules team, Adelaide Crows and Rugby League teams, the Newcastle Knights and the Penrith Panthers.

"At the moment we are in a holding pattern and we are hoping that there will be a loosening of restrictions to allow outdoor activity here next month," he said.

He expressed his frustration with Government rules here concerning the closure of non-essential retail.

"There are huge anomalies in the system where garden centres, electrical shops and bedding suppliers are open and sports shops can’t be open.

"The whole thing doesn’t make a lot of sense. It is very frustrating. I don’t understand the logic," he added.

Mr Towell stated that O'Neills opened up a new flagship store in Belfast on March 5th last year and closed it 15 days later.

He said that O'Neill' spend €500,000 setting it up "and it we had it open only two weeks and these are the setbacks you have to live with".

Mr Towell revealed that O'Neills has lost 160 out of its pre-Covid 980 workforce due to redundancy and people opting not to come back to work.

He said that morale is "slowly eroding". 

"Everyone is in limbo - you can’t plan anything.

"We could be worse off - at least we selling some products," he added.

Mr Towell stated that currently 65% of the company’s workforce are working with the remaining 35% furloughed.

"We had a strong balance sheet before Covid and we are still trying to keep it strong.

"Also Bank of Ireland have been very good to us and they have come up trumps.

"I have to give credit where it is due," he said.