Devine Intervention

New type of synthetic hurley used by Waterford attacker after season away from inter-county game

Tom Devine hit 1-2 for Waterford against Tipperary on Sunday.

HE WAS ABSENT from the Waterford ranks for the 2017 championship season as he went travelling but Tom Devine has returned to nail down a spot in the Waterford attack in this Munster championship campaign.

And the 23-year-old has been using a new type of synthetic hurley while making his mark in Waterford’s encounters with Clare and Tipperary.

om Devine and Semaus Kennedy Waterford's Tom Devine in action against Tipperary in the Gaelic Grounds on Sunday. James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

Devine struck 1-2 in Waterford’s dramatic draw with Tipperary in the Gaelic Grounds on Sunday, causing particular damage in the early stages when he grabbed that scoring tally.

The Modeligo club man won an All-Ireland minor medal at midfield for Waterford in 2013 and started at centre-forward in the 2016 All-Ireland U21 final triumph.

The Waterford players celebrate in the dressing room Waterford players celebrating their All-Ireland U21 final win in 2016. Donall Farmer / INPHO Donall Farmer / INPHO / INPHO

The UCC medical student announced in April last year that he was taking a summer away from hurling and went travelling to Africa as part of his medical studies, while also playing hurling for a spell in San Francisco.

Devine returned to the Waterford panel for the 2018 campaign and had been using a traditional ash hurley during this year’s league before making the switch to a composite hurley before the round-robin Munster championship commenced.

Tom Devine under pressure Tom Devine in action for Waterford against Cork in their relegation play-off in March. Cathal Noonan / INPHO Cathal Noonan / INPHO / INPHO

Former All-Ireland winner Ronan Curran, who works for the Cork-based company Mycro Sportsgear – founded in 1986 by Dr. Paddy Crowley – that have produced the hurley that Devine is using, hopes the stigma surrounding the usage of a synthetic hurley will start to ease.

“Tom called in for a helmet the latter stages of the league and we just showed him the hurley. The minute he took it up, he thought it was beautiful and straight away he’d an interest and started to use it.

“There’s a whole stigma around the synthetic hurley. This is different, it’s carbon-fibre based. We went out to replicate the ash hurley and we’ve got it to the stage now where it’s up there in terms of striking and distance.

“Players understandably take small bit of time to get over that stigma. Players are funny, some won’t change their helmet over superstition or colour. Changing their type of hurley mid season is a big thing but we’ve had a few club players starting to use it and from talking to him last week, Tom is delighted with it.

“I suppose you look at other sports, tennis rackets, baseball bats, they all evolve. Give a wooden tennis racket to a professional now and they’d only laugh at it. Hurling has been slow to get rid of the traditional bias.

“When people hear about synthetic hurleys, straight away they think it’s not for me. But if you pick it up, play with it for a few days, straight away you’ll know it performs better.”

Curran believes the usage of synthetic hurleys will be crucial in the future due to the growing problem of ash dieback disease which makes it more difficult for hurley makers to source ash timber in Ireland.

Ronan Curran after the final whistle Former Cork All-Ireland winner Ronan Curran. Cathal Noonan / INPHO Cathal Noonan / INPHO / INPHO

Coillte estimates more than 80% of the ash used to make hurleys is now imported, largely from Poland and Croatia.

“With the ash dieback problem, it’s now harder to get good ash and they say it’s going to to get worse,” says Curran.

“With bad ash, hurleys break non stop. We reckon from testing that this hurley is as durable as four of the ash hurleys so there’s an obvious cash saving there.

“We’ve been working on this with Premier Technology, our partners in Bandon where it is made, for the last four or five years. The plan is to launch it around the time of the All-Ireland final this year, have it up and running then in August-September time.

“It’s about creating awareness in the months ahead for players now who might have a fear of change.”

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