McManus hails new hurl in fight against Ash disease
The knock-on effect of Chalara, otherwise known as ash dieback disease, for the manufacturing of hurling sticks could be solved by the work of a Newry hurley-maker, Reynolds Sports.
Antrim hurler Neil McManus, along with Kilkenny's Richie Hogan and Seamus Callanan, three-time All-Star and last year's Man of the Match in Tipperary's All-Ireland final win, have been deeply involved in the research and development of a product that could in time eliminate the need to harvest ash trees for the manufacture of hurls.
Ash dieback disease has spread to every county in Ireland since its first discovery at a tree plantation in County Leitrim in 2012.
It's thought that 90 per cent of the ash population in Denmark, one of the worst affected countries, was wiped out by dieback disease and there are fears that Ireland could go the same way.
This is, of course, a cause for concern for the GAA given upwards of 350,000 new hurls are required in Ireland every year.
Little wonder that alternatives have been sought.
"The whole idea of it is to replicate ash, and it does it very, very well I would have to say," said McManus about the performance of the stick, which conforms to regulations of the game.
The father of the company founder Barry Reynolds made traditional hurls in Belfast decades ago and Barry became fascinated by the process. They are already taking pre-orders.
"It was a massive research and development project and a lot of money invested in getting the product right. It didn't happen overnight and there was a huge amount of trial and error before we got the finished product," insisted McManus.
At present, it is one uniform shape and weight, but as the Reynolds hurl is a solid piece, there is potential to shape it to suit the player's own preference.
"That's the whole idea of Richie, Seamus and myself getting involved, that you could get something that was agreeable to all. We all hurl with different shapes of handles and different shapes of bás, different weights," explained the Cushendall man, who has been using the hurl all throughout this year and will be in action for Antrim in the Division 2A final this weekend against Carlow.
"But we came together and found something you could use."
The hurl is a composite material, with McManus adding: "The best compliment I can pay this hurl is that it behaves like ash.
"Whenever you are playing with it, you think you are playing with ash."
It will be officially launched for general purchase at the Na Fianna club rooms on Mobhi Road, Dublin tomorrow.