A Cork man has helped Ulster firm McKeever Sports secure the official GAA licence and the authority to manufacture official club and county playing kits and leisurewear.
Ronan Milner is a team sales specialist with the Armagh company and he has promoted the McKeever Sports brand in Cork and throughout Munster.
McKeever Sports now has the full complement of GAA, LFGA, and camogie-manufacturing licences.
“It is fantastic news. It has been a long, hard road trying to get the GAA licence and, after 16 years, we have finally achieved it.
“A lot of hard work from our managing director, Paidi McKeever, has finally come to fruition.
“He started the business in 2004, from his bedroom. Today, the company employs over 90 people. He is a credit to himself."
A Rosscarbery native, he has promoted the McKeever Sports brand in schools, colleges, and with club teams throughout Cork.
Milner has built their profile in huge catchment areas and has ensured a plethora of GAA teams have joined forces with the progressive clothing company. He is looking forward to getting inter-county teams on board and to working with them.
“We are now officially licensed to supply clubs and counties with the official jersey and off-field gear. Hopefully, by 2021, we will see a senior inter-county men’s team wearing the McKeever ranges.
“The whole project to gain the official GAA licence took 16 years. There were certain procedures that we, as a company, had to meet to satisfy the decision-makers.
“Our jerseys, shorts, and socks have to be Irish-made. They are all made in our factory in Armagh,” Milner said.
The outbreak of Covid-19 has put on hold their plans for expansion amongst GAA teams. But Milner and his colleagues are looking forward to pitching their clothing ideas to GAA teams after the virus has subsided.
“We have very exciting plans, going forward. At the moment, all plans have ceased, due to the virus.
“We have a great base of clubs built-up already. We have worked very successfully with clubs like Bishopstown, Glen Rovers, Thurles Sars, and Clonmel Commercials.
“I have also done a lot of work with UCC. They have been great to work with. West Cork people have been great to me, since I started in my role.
“I have received loads of support from the local clubs, especially my own club, Carbery Rangers,” Milner said.
McKeever Sports have established strong relationships with the LGFA and with many camogie teams.
Milner has built up connections with various ladies’ football and camogie teams.
He is keen to strengthen these partnerships. “At the moment, we have three LGFA county teams: Cork, Tipperary, and Waterford. They are all based in my region.
“I am very busy looking after them. This year, I signed up our first camogie county team, in Waterford.
“It was great to have, first, our camogie county on-board. Earlier this year, we also signed another three-year deal with the Cork ladies.
“I am the key account manager for that deal. They are absolutely brilliant to deal with.”
Once a contract is signed with a team, Milner meets a representative from that GAA team, who will, on behalf of her team-mates, choose the leisurewear and jersey requirements they want. This is done in conjunction with the McKeever Sports design team.
“I normally meet with the captain of the various teams. This year, I met with the Cork captain, Doireann O’Sullivan, a good few times, before we decided on the design of gear.
“It is very important we get it right. Good communication is key. The big thing that we supply are lady-fit garments.
“We are the leading sports company in this area. Hence, why all the ladies teams are signing with us.”
He was present, along with his McKeever Sports colleagues, for the official granting of their GAA licence recently, in Croke Park. They were joined by inter-county stars Conor McManus and Cork dual star Hannah Looney.
“We had a great day at the launch. Hannah is a great ambassador and player.
“She is training most nights of the week. She is a credit to herself. Hopefully, Hannnah will get what she deserves, going forward in her GAA career.”
The Carbery Rangers club man loves his role with McKeever’s.
And he is looking forward to playing Gaelic football again with his friends, once the coronavirus has passed.
“I love my job. I am there three years. The hours can be long, but it is very rewarding.
“It is great to get the McKeever brand out there. I have met some fantastic people and, hopefully, we can survive the recession that is, unfortunately, coming in the sports industry,” Mr Milner said.
“The last few weeks have really put things into perspective. Instead of worrying will I be playing in the championship, now all we want to do is to be able to go back kicking ball with our friends.
“It is the small things that matter. We miss it."