One of Irish sport’s great commercial monopolies will be come under threat for the first time in Croke Park this Saturday when Martin Donnelly’s Gaelic football is used alongside the long- established O’Neill’s brand.
GAA patron Donnelly yesterday delivered 100 of his footballs to GAA HQ yesterday ahead of Dublin’s Division 1 programme there. The All-Ireland champions have been training with it since the start of the month.
Kerry, Roscommon, and Wexford have also practised with the product, which Donnelly claims has received positive feedback from all those who have played with it.
“It is history because it’s probably the first time since O’Neill’s came into existence that a ball is being used in an official inter-county season competition,” said the Clare native.
“It will probably be used in all the televised games. We’re just delighted we’re getting equal billing. Our ball is as good as the one that’s there already. It’s been licensed and I know when you get a licence it’s not the end of the thing — you have to go out and promote the product. We have done that and we have canvassed clubs.
“On Saturday, we were exhibiting at the coaching conference in Croke Park and we were overwhelmed with the fantastic reaction we received. It gives clubs and counties a choice now. The ball has performed well. We haven’t had one negative comment on it. I’m sure there will be some but to take something from zero and get it into Croke Park, we’re delighted.” Donnelly’s football will carry a large Allianz Leagues logo for the duration of the competition as he believes it is fitting the sponsors are provided with promotion. His own logo is intentionally small as his myclubshop.ie company are encouraging counties and clubs to emblazon their crest on the ball for them.
“We do that in-house. Any team that buys 10 balls we’ll do that (for free). It saves them from using a big black mark on the ball that kind of defaces it in a way. There’s also more room for signatures.”
Donnelly acknowledges the process was long but extremely worthwhile. “From initial contact with Pat Daly (director of games development) in Croke Park to independent testing in DCU and getting the pass and then the licence, it’s been a two-year process. While we were put through our paces, it only made us stronger and better and helped us make sure we had the right product.
“The football is a vital component of the game and I had no problem with the rigorous testing. We were treated fairly all the way. At times, it was frustrating but when you look back on it, you can see why the checks and balances were there. There wasn’t a hope of getting a ball to this market that wasn’t up to scratch. It means people can’t question it. You do get people saying ‘it’s not an O’Neill’s’ but it is every bit as good.
“It’s been accepted so well because there is an understanding it’s stood up to all the tests.”
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