It has been estimated that 30,000 hurleys have been sold at this year’s National Ploughing Championships. And while slow-growing ash is the only wood that suits the needs of manufacturers, the slightly disappointing note to strike is the reality that these companies can only secure 10% of their timber needs from home grown sources.

“Obviously, we would like to make all of our hurleys from Irish ash,” Wexford-based Brian Walsh said.

“But, at the present time, we import 90% of the wood that we use from Scandinavia. There just isn’t enough home grown timber coming on to the market from local suppliers.

“There was a flush of home grown ash available a few years ago. This tied in with a Government planting scheme that was introduced 30 or so years ago. But these supplies have all but dried up.

“I am aware that farmers are now starting to plant young ash trees again. But it will be at least 25 years before the timber from these plantations becomes available to us. Demand for home grown ash from hurley makers will remain strong on an ongoing basis. And I cannot stress strongly enough the opportunities that exist for farmers and landowners to grow stands high quality ash.”

Brian went on to point out that the stem of a twenty five year old ash tree can be used to produce upwards of eight hurleys. “It takes us approximately 20 minutes to produce a finished hurley,” Brian continued.

“This is our eighth year at the Ploughing Championships and business has been very brisk over the three days of the event. Demand for high-quality hurleys is steady throughout the year. But the Ploughing Championships represent a tremendous show case event for us.”

Patrick Walsh makes hurleys for a host of top hurlers, including Wexford’s rising star Conor McDonald and Dublin’s Danny Sutcliffe.