WATCH: Denis’s hurley-making business developed from a labour of love

WATCH: Denis’s hurley-making business developed from a labour of love

Denis Ahern pauses for a portrait in his workshop in Cork. Picture: Mostafa Darwish.

“I HAVE been making hurleys for over 20 years. I started off making hurleys and doing repairs for myself and then for others, and this grew and grew over some time until I was able to establish it into a full-time hurley making business.”

Hurley maker Denis Ahern from Rathcormac has been involved in hurling and GAA all his life — as a player, a coach, and with his local club, Bride Rovers. He says there is great satisfaction and enjoyment from making hurleys.

“I enjoy meeting the hurlers and camogie players who call here for either my own Cork style or to copy another style they use,” he said.

“There is great satisfaction in seeing them go away happy with their hurley and then seeing them later in a club, college or inter-county game playing with that hurley.”

The juvenile, adult, and goalkeepers hurleys that he makes are all handmade using traditional methods.

It begins with choosing a quality Irish ash plank with a good grain, marking out the hurley on the plank and then cutting out the shape. Next comes the plane and the spokeshave, rough sand first, and finally finishing off with fine sand.

Denis Ahern works on the wood smoothing machine to finish a hurley. Picture: Mostafa Darwish.
Denis Ahern works on the wood smoothing machine to finish a hurley. Picture: Mostafa Darwish.

“It takes time to learn the skills and build up the expertise required to reach a comfortable level of handcrafting a hurley with confidence. Many hurlers and camogie players want a specific shape, style, weight, balance etc., and these requests can all be accommodated.”

“My workshop is based in Rathcormac, so I’m in a good location in Cork with Limerick, Tipperary, and Waterford nearby.

“In addition to players in Munster, hurleys have gone to players in all corners of Ireland, the UK, Europe, USA, and Australia.

“The majority of hurlers/camogie players call or order by phone, and final touches can then be done when they call to collect.”

Speaking about the challenges, Mr Ahern said that the most challenging time in his hurley making career had been the past two years due to the pandemic.

“With Covid-19, the last two playing seasons were cut short, so there wasn’t the same demand. However, it did provide an opportunity to build up stock for when the season re-opened again”

There are approximately 300 hurley makers across the island of Ireland and about another 300 involved on a part-time basis. More boys, girls, and adults are playing hurling and camogie now in Ireland and across the world than ever before.

As a result, the demand for hurleys has never been greater, but the ash dieback disease is a real threat to the future of hurley makers using the traditional Irish ash as their material of choice.

“Hurling itself will survive, but it will be interesting to see what materials will be used by makers in five to 10 years,” Mr Ahern added.

Go to Echolive.ie to see a video of Mr Ahern at work.

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