Farm Ireland

Sunday 18 March 2018

Hurley makers prepare for a Croker date on Ash Dieback

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

Hurley makers from all over Ireland are to meet in Croke Park on Wednesday, July 17, to address the effect the disease Chalara Fraxinea (Ash Dieback) has had on plantations.

More than 2,200 cubic metres of ash is used every year in Ireland to make 700,000 hurleys, but 80pc of that supply is imported.

Britain and Denmark supply the majority of imported ash to Ireland, although this has been curtailed in recent months by the outbreak of Ash Dieback.

Strict new rules on imported timber mean that all ash must now be de-barked before entering Ireland, adding extra costs to the timber.

A single cubic metre of ash plank is worth around €1,100, according to Teagasc forestry expert Michael Somers.

Irish ash is particularly sought after by hurley makers because its fast growth rate creates big annual growth rings in the butt, making the wood more supple and easier to work.

However, not enough ash has been grown in Ireland in the last 100 years to cater for the huge demand for hurleys, according to Mr Somers, so ash must be imported.


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"In the 1950s and 1960s, youngsters might only play one match a year but today we have 300,000 boys and 150,000 girls playing thousands of matches so there is a huge demand for hurleys," he said.

Speakers at the conference are expected to outline how breeding programmes could help to develop ash trees with a higher resistance to pest and disease problems.

"If you look at a field of grass or barley, thousands of years of breeding have gone into that field.

"There has been very little done in the way of breeding ash trees by comparison with other crops," Mr Somers pointed out.

"Like we've done with potatoes and blight, we need to study the ash, find out the genome that causes resistance to disease and breed it into our trees," he added.

Irish Independent