JUST 12 days before Christmas, the All-Ireland hurling final will take place at Croke Park, where the likes of Austin Gleeson and Aaron Gillane will do battle wearing their Mycro helmets.
For the Ballincollig-based manufacturer of hurling gear, it will at least round off the strangest of years for everyone involved in sport on a positive. The Christmas rush is in full swing now at Mycro, custom helmets, hurleys, and gift packs featuring gloves and sliotars too, all boxed up for delivery, but it’s been a challenging run since March.
As Thomas Murray explains: “March into the summer is our busiest time normally, so once that was taken away you’re chasing after that. It did pick up when we came back but clubs finished up earlier and then schools weren’t able to play sport, so the window was very small.
“Second lockdown came and now we’re hoping the Christmas rush will carry us. We’re no different from any other business, we’re surviving and thankfully there has been a bit of a bounce for Christmas. People do seem to be telling us they’re supporting us because we’re local, we’re Irish.
“On social media the message is to buy Irish and that push online has translated into sales for us, which we’re delighted with.”
Founded in 1986, Mycro have always adapted to changes in hurling and the various trends in the fastest field sport on the planet.
“Helmets and our Evolution hurleys would be consistent sellers. We’d supply a lot of sliotars as well, and the yellow sliotars were popular once the inter-county players started using them. They’re tipping away nicely.”
White helmets remain the primary choice for youngsters, with Patrick Horgan and Joe Canning, until he returned to red for 2020, opting for that colour in recent campaigns.
“You’ve the likes of Aaron Gillane and Kyle Hayes as well, Cathal Dunbar in Wexford. White helmets are still the most popular. The traditional black is almost different now.”
Midway through this year, Mycro introduced an option on their website for players to completely customise their own helmets.
“We’re selling more and more customised helmets because of the app on the website. With the splash design you can do some really interesting mixes. It makes it so easy to design something that’s unique and sure that’s very appealing, for players of all ages really, but obviously kids.”
They’ve an updated catching glove due to be unveiled shortly, with Anthony Nash influencing the design.
“We have a new catching glove coming in that we’ve been working with Anthony Nash on. It’ll offer extra grip in wet weather and there’s fleece material on the back to keep the hand warm. We saw this time of year in winter conditions there’s nothing worse than cold hands. Keepers will certainly want to us it but it’s designed for outfield players as well.
“Nash would have worn an orange glove, back when Donal Óg and Martin Coleman and himself were in the Cork panel, but they don’t make those anymore.”
The hockey market is crucial too.
“Our gloves are popular, particularly with hockey internationals. We worked with CIT and Rob Hobbs on a glove that was skintight but offered more movement. Even compared to the old ashguard, you get movement and that protection.”
Kilkenny colossus TJ Reid has been sporting a Mycro glove for some time.
“Obviously, TJ Reid is some man to catch puck-outs. Richie Hogan was wearing one recently as well. You’ve Colm Spillane and Bill Cooper on that Cork panel. It’s a personal preference for some people and other it’s after getting an injury.”
Hurling is central to Murray’s life. Away from Mycro, he lines out for Bishopstown along with his brother Brian.
A former Cork minor and U21 starter, Murray was on song for the Town this season, hitting 0-19, 13 from play, in four games. Unfortunately, they needed a relegation play-off win over Ballyhea to retain their Premier Senior status.
“We left a few games behind us and we’d only ourselves to blame. I suppose you look at our group: Blackrock won it after, Erin’s Own got to the semi-final and Newtown are never a pushover. You’ve to keep going for 60 minutes and whether we ran out of gas or not I don’t know but we could have got wins in the first two games.”
Like most club players on Leeside, he was a fan of the new format, round-robin, separate from the inter-county series.
“It was a small bit condensed but as players, we love regular games. The only issue was the dual players were caught, seven weekends out of eight I think, but maybe they’ll be able to spread it out next season. When you’re missing a few key hurlers you’re going to be caught out.”