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Mystery of Cork's mutant hurleys

ONE of hurling's greatest sources of debate has always been the humble hurley itself, or more specifically, exactly what constitutes the ideal hurley.

The shape of a hurley (or hurl, if you're that way inclined) differs considerably from county to county, a fact that was illustrated by Sunday's Munster semi-final between Cork and Clare.

Cork players Diarmuid O'Sullivan, Mickey O'Connell and Joe Deane used hurleys that differed radically from those of the Clare players and indeed some of their own team-mates.

Any suggestions that the Cork hurleys are less than kosher is wide of the mark though. The only guideline for hurleys laid down by the Official Guide is that they be no more than 13cm at their widest point.

Four different hurley makers supply the Cork panel, and the ones that rose eyebrows last Sunday are made by Liam Walsh from Lisgoold in East Cork.

"Mark Landers and Diarmuid O'Sullivan were the first guys on the panel to use his hurls, and I copied the shape of my hurley from theirs," says midfielder Mickey O'Connell.

"John Gardiner and a few others on the team are using them now as well. It might look unusual, but everyone has their own particular preference. The way it's shaped gives it a good balance and you get a good strike from it."

The type of hurley used by the Cork panel may vary from individual to individual, but Munster Final opponents Waterford will all be sporting virtually identical camáns that have been 'touched up' by manager Justin McCarthy.

"I'd modify all the players' hurleys myself to a style I'd consider to be the optimal," says McCarthy. "The average hurley needs to be balanced that bit better, touched up here and there to distribute the weight as best as possible and altered slightly to get the shape just right.

"You can get used to any hurley, but if the weight is distributed as best as possible, you can definitely get a longer shot and have much better control.

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"There still are different styles from county to county, but not as much as before. Most hurley makers seem to be making them along the same lines now.

"In Kilkenny though, I think the style of hurley has definitely changed dramatically over time. They have a bigger and sturdier bass than they had in the past and it's obviously paying off for them too!"

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