Sportswear giant O'Neills and pubs entrepreneur Daly are north west business stars

Kieran Kennedy (second right), managing director of Business of the Year O'Neills, pictured with Londonderry Chamber of Commerce chief executive Sinead McLaughlin and president Jennifer McKeever, along with City Centre Initiative chief executive Jim Roddy and treasurer Ian Crowe

THE century-old O'Neills sportswear business in Strabane picked up the night's highest accolade - Business of the Year - at the 2018 North West Business Awards, while publican Kevin Daly emerged as Entrepreneur of the Year.

They were among the winners at a dazzling gala awards ceremony at the City Hotel in Derry, organised by City Centre Initiative (CCI) and Londonderry Chamber of Commerce (LCC) to celebrate the best and most adventurous of north west businesses, and which this year had close to 200 nominations.

O'Neills, which has extensive plants in Strabane, Tyrone and Dublin, recently announced plans to open its first city centre store in Derry's Waterloo Place next month.

Having been founded in 1918 as a manufacturer of Gaelic footballs, the O'Neills brand became synonymous with GAA, and over the decades the company has expanded its product offering to become a major supplier of all types of sportswear and equipment.

Managing director Kieran Kennedy said: “Our mantra has always been to never refuse an order and never let a customer down. If we have to work all night to deliver a customer's order, we will. I'm very privileged to have an excellent team of staff which is committed to our customers, and that's what makes O'Neills successful.

“We are hugely excited about opening our first Derry store early this summer and investing in the local economy and the employment of many more people. We are delighted at winning this prestigious award.”

Publican Kevin Daly owns the Dungloe Bar, Tracy's Bar in the city centre and the newly opened Daly's Bar and Bistro in Shantallow.

Accepting his award, Kevin said: “I always knew Shantallow House had great potential and it's been great to see it come to life again following our renovation. The local community have been really supportive as have the staff, regulars and our new clientele. I'm honestly dumbfounded at receiving this. I'm very grateful.”

Judges had applauded his determination, dedication and hard-working attitude. They noted his efforts as an example to those who are willing to put in the hard work needed to flourish as an entrepreneur.

CCI chief executive Jim Roddy said: “It's vitally important to recognise the hard work that individuals and businesses put in throughout the year and that's what we want to achieve with these awards – recognition for the commitment, innovation and dedication that keeps our local economy afloat.”

And Chamber chief executive Sinead McLaughlin added: “Our congratulations to all the winners at the NW Business of the Year awards. We have been overwhelmed with the standard of entries and it was refreshing to see a wide variety of nominations from so many inspiring companies and individuals."

The 2018 NW Business Awards winners were:

• NW Pub of the Year - Peadar O'Donnell's

• Restaurant of the Year - Walled City Brewery

• Guest Accommodation Provider of the Year - Hastings Everglades Hotel

• Outstanding Contribution to Arts & Culture Award - In Your Space Circus

• Best Tourism Event or Initiative -Derry City & Strabane District Council's Slow Food Festival

• Excellence in Innovation - LacPatrick Dairies (NI) Ltd

• Creative Industries Business of the Year - Blockception and Gradon Architecture

• Craft Industry of the Year - Banba

• Growth through Export Award - LacPatrick Dairies (NI) Ltd

• Best Use of Digital and/or Social Media - St Mary's College

• NW Retailer of the Year - JKC Specialist Cars

• Professional Services of the Year Award - MPA Recruitment

• Hair & Beauty Business of the Year - Bareknuckle Barbershop

• Business Hero of the Year - Mary McKenna

• Visit Derry Conference of the Year - The Irish Cardiac 68th Annual Conference (Dr Albert McNeill & Prof Aaron Peace)

• Ulster University MBA Business Award - Shelly McCaughey (Fultus)

• Entrepreneur of the Year - Kevin Daly

• Business of the Year - O'Neills

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