Irish ash woodlands still a hit with hurley makers
It is estimated that up to 30pc of hurleys being used in Ireland have been manufactured abroad in countries including Poland, Slovakia, China and Pakistan. In addition, up to two-thirds of all the ash required for hurley making here has been imported.
These facts show the challenges that hurley making -- one of our last true cottage industries -- faces to survive.
So the relief that the tending and thinning grant has been reinstated is considerable. Without the aid of this scheme, much of our ash woodlands would lie untended and the potential resource of quality ash timber, along with many thousands of hurley butts, would be lost.
Shane McEntee, Minister of State for Food, Horticulture and Food Safety, has kept his word and has ensured that farm forestry continues to be given proper recognition within his department, and has also acknowledged the importance of hurley manufacturing and its dependence on the scheme.
Hurley making is estimated to sustain at least 400 full-time jobs, the majority of whom are members of the Irish Guild of Ash Hurleymakers. The guild was formed in 1998, and one of its principal aims is to ensure the survival of this ancient craft and to fight back against the threat of foreign imports.
Self-sufficiency in hurley ash is forecast from 2018 onwards, and with proper promotion, clubs will hopefully support and give preference to the Irish product which, though scarce right now, is, I am told, infinitely superior to the imported alternative.
Each county has its own distinctive shape and style of hurley and this has continued to evolve with the game itself.
Nowadays, the hurley tends to be much shorter and lighter and the width of the bas is greater than before.