Thursday 21 September 2017

Here is how global warming could spell an end to the clash of the ash

Hurleys are made from ash because of its renowned flexibility but sometimes the top players can push them beyond their limits Photo: Tomas Greally / SPORTSFILE
Hurleys are made from ash because of its renowned flexibility but sometimes the top players can push them beyond their limits Photo: Tomas Greally / SPORTSFILE
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

The hurley could become a high-profile victim of climate change.

Researchers at NUI Galway have warned that ash used to produce almost 500,000 camáin a year is facing a growing threat from ash dieback, and the problem will become more pronounced as temperatures rise.

First identified in Ireland in 2012, ash dieback can be fatal, particularly in young trees. It rots the tree from the inside out.

In less than five years, it has spread to 21 counties, and has been found on trees in forests, gardens, commercial nurseries, hedgerows and on roadsides.

Professor Charles Spillane, head of the Plant and AgriBiosciences Research Centre at NUI Galway, said that, as global temperatures rose, the disease would spread, jeopardising supply of the raw material needed to serve players of our national game.

Unique

"Ash dieback is a problem, it's affected by rising temperatures and the distribution will change as temperatures rise," he said. "It's spreading across Europe and it's an example of how climate change can affect sport.

"Here is a game unique to Ireland and climate change could impact on that.

"There are efforts under way [to contain it]. There may be genetic stocks of ash or a related species which could confer tolerance.

"We could also try to cross one type [of ash] with another."

Ash has been used to produce hurleys for thousands of years, because it is strong and flexible with a good capacity to absorb shock.

The GAA Ash Society includes Teagasc and the Irish Guild of Ash Hurley Makers and is involved in efforts to prevent spread of the disease.

There are around 19,000 hectares of ash woodland across the State, and about 400 people are employed in the hurley-making industry. Around 80pc of ash for hurleys is imported.

Irish Independent

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