IT'S often the case that the simplest inventions are the best ones and that’s certainly the case with the Hurl Safe visor.
Superficially, it’s just a piece of plastic to go inside a hurling helmet to prevent the spread of Covid-19 but a lot of work has gone into the product, which is the brainchild of Derek ‘Doc’ Sheehan and Fergie Twohig.
With the return of Gaelic games on the horizon, they were wondering how best to cater for the health of their children, who play at underage level with Valley Rovers, and things have expanded exponentially.
In the space of a month, the visor has gone from concept to execution and Sheehan can hardly believe how quickly things have moved.
“It was about four weeks ago,” he says.
“Myself and Fergie were sitting down and the kids were pucking around. Both of us are involved in coaching and working with kids and we have children playing and we were asking each other what we were going to do.
“I was after doing a lot of security for offices and I was wondering if there might be some shield that could be put inside helmets to stop the spread of the virus or to prevent it being contracted.
“After that, it just spiralled. I had massive help from a local lad, Damien O’Brien of Sign Spec. I went to him with the idea and he fitted it up to see if it would work inside a helmet but then we hit an issue with the fact that the one for the Mycro helmet wouldn’t work for the Cooper helmet.
“I went back to Damien again – I made a lot of endless trips to him! – but we got it right. Our kids had them and the GAA was coming back and other parents had seen these things and we were asked to make a few.
“It went from there and we said we’d roll it out in the club here and see if it had an impact in slowing down the virus. We did a lot of research to make sure we had something that was shatter-proof – it’s made from polycarbonate – and there’s anti-fog material as well, but it is pretty close to you so it will steam up to some degree.
“It doesn’t go above the eyes, so visibility isn’t affected, but it covers the nose and the mouth.” With demand picking up a head of steam, the next step was gaining official approval.
“I went to the GAA with our first prototype and they thought it was terrific,” Sheehan says.
“I got a response within a few hours of them getting it, they wanted more information. We did a lot of work to make sure it was ultra-safe, with no sharp edges or corners and it’s cable-tied to the inside of the guards.
“We’re after getting an order from a club in Reading in England for a couple of hundred.”
Of course, with the variance in helmet style, there has to be different-sized visors, another challenge for Sheehan and Twohig.
“We’ve six so far,” Sheehan says.
“We tried to get one that was universal but it was too flimsy and it wasn’t staying in so we broke down the helmet guards.
“We kept everything Irish. The printing is done in Bandon and Damien from Sign Spec was a phenomenal help, he kept having to make tweaks, I was telling him to move the drill-holes and so on. He’s not a sports fan or a hurling fan, so he thought I was half-mad!
“We got it right eventually. In the circumstances, it would probably have been cheaper to get them produced abroad but we didn’t. They’re cut below in Fermoy by Michael Burke in Adva Signs, he has the cutting machine, which can be very hard to source.
“They come back then and all of the families help out with the packaging!”
One possible fear with such a straightforward idea is the potential for copycats but Sheehan is on top of that, too.
“I have a patent pending on it,” he says, “and we’ve one sent to Germany to be tested in order to be issued with a safety certificate.
“We’re going to get the material itself registered too, so it’s just a case of covering all angles. That’s where we’re at with it.”