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Coillte promises ash as hurlers fret over disease

HURLERS have got a reprieve from the prospect of a hurley shortage this winter after forestry body Coillte pledged to make 40,000 ash planks available to them.

The sport was threatened by the deadly chalara ash dieback disease which has seen major restrictions on ash wood imports.

However, Coillte said it was bringing forward harvesting of ash wood to meet demand for disease-free wood.

It had begun harvesting ash in one of its forests in Co Westmeath and had identified a number of other locations for harvesting over coming months.

"We have committed to supplying 40,000 ash planks to the hurley-making industry in the coming months to ensure the survival of this important part of our social and sporting heritage," said Coillte Forest managing director Gerard Murphy.

Hurley maker Jim O'Brien, from Thurles in Co Tipperary, welcomed the move.

"That's a great idea and I'm glad they're on the ball with it, as hurley makers are worried there'll be shortages," he said.

There was growing demand for hurleys because so many young people were playing the sport, and because they can break during play, he said.

Makers did have long-term concerns about ash supplies and prices if the disease spreads further but were satisfied the Department of Agriculture was taking a firm line to try and halt it, he said.

Junior Agriculture Minister Shane McEntee said some hurley makers were having short-term difficulty in meeting new supply requirements, including the need to use debarked wood, but Coillte's prompt action would help alleviate this.

Around 350,000 hurleys are used annually in Ireland, and 70pc of the ash wood used to make them is imported.

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