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'The Kilkenny lads don't buy them outta pure spite'

John O’Brien shows us around his hurl-making workshop in Cahir and shows us the science of a perfect hurl.
Sep 3rd 2016, 6:00 AM 26,303 26


THE TIPPERARY AND Kilkenny hurlers wouldn’t get far without a decent set of hurleys, and the art of making the perfect one rivals the game of hurling itself for skill required.

The O’Briens of Cahir have been making hurleys since the mid-1930s, and John O’Brien, aka Johnny B, now operates the business out of a cottage that’s been standing since 1845.

O’Brien, who plays hurling for Cahir, has been making hurleys full-time for the past eight years, but his experience with the trade goes back his whole life.

It was his grandfather, JJ O’Brien, who started making hurleys in the ’30s, and his father Ger kept the business going until it eventually passed down to John.

There is a certain science to sculpting the ash into the hurl.

O’Brien says that when you’re thinning the hurley, you’re :”leaving it thick at the heel so the player can get a good think, long strike out of the ball.

“If he’s a defender, he might want a bit more meat on the bone; a bit more timber on it.”

The hurleys made by hand, using a size template but finishing the edges by eye, allowing each player to get a hurley that fits their own taste.

“The handwork is where you really put life into it”, he says.

“It’s a very personal thing. You want to make sure the weight, the balance, the spring, the handle is all exactly the way you want it.”

O’Brien, a member of The 2 Johnnies, will be on RTÉ’s ‘Up For The Match’ on Saturday night and will be in Croke Park on Sunday for the final, watching the country’s finest hurlers using the tool he spends his life perfecting.
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Eoin Lúc Ó Ceallaigh


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