Innovation keeps Cork's Fitzgerald Hurleys on the front foot

Popular hurley makers in Araglen have rebranded their newest model camán as an Elite Hurl
Innovation keeps Cork's Fitzgerald Hurleys on the front foot

Mark Coleman of Cork shoots under pressure from Calum Lyons of Waterford using a Fitzgeralds Hurley. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

THIS year’s championship marks the 20th year since Fitzgerald Hurleys was founded by Michael Fitzgerald.

Tucked away in the small village of Araglen, where North Cork meets the Tipperary and Waterford borders, the business has grown to the point where Covid-enforced lockdowns and the suspension of GAA hasn’t knocked it off course.

Indeed, Fitzgerald Hurleys expanded into the online arena last winter, and is now sending hurleys around Ireland and internationally.

That kept the workshop tipping over in the early portion of 2021 when hurling matches and training were on hold. Mark Coleman and Seamus Harnedy have helped popularise their camáns with teenagers and youngsters, with Niall O’Leary and Damien Cahalane among the other Rebels impressing recently with Fitzgerald Hurleys in their grasp.

“Key to this success is our customer focus,” they explain on their website. “We take as much pride and care in supplying a child with their first hurley as we do when carving our tailor-made sticks for senior inter-county stars. That is why Fitzgerald Hurleys are a product that our customers trust, whether belting the ball on the local field or scoring a match-winning goal in the All-Ireland championship.”

Seamus Harnedy scores a goal past Clare's goalkeeper Donal Tuohy with a Fitzgeralds 'Lam-Hurl' in 2018. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Seamus Harnedy scores a goal past Clare's goalkeeper Donal Tuohy with a Fitzgeralds 'Lam-Hurl' in 2018. Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

With GAA club teams at underage and adult level back in league action since Bank Holiday Monday, they’re cranking into overdrive now.

They recently rebranded their ‘Lam-Hurl’ as an ‘Elite Hurl’, the innovative model that Seamus Harnedy utilised in his All-Star campaign in 2018. A piece of laminate is blended through the bas and this type of hurley allows Fitzgeralds to make full use of the ash tree.

Traditionally, hurleys are made from the bottom 1.3 metres of the ash tree, which is where the curved grain on the bas comes from. Ash dieback disease has impacted ash supplies Europe-wide, but the new hurley is made from ash higher up the tree.

In modern terms, it is a sustainable product and actually strengthens the bas, to provide a truer and longer strike.

They produced 500 of the original Lam-Hurls three years ago but they have become extremely popular, to the point where they cannot supply online orders for now.

That necessitates a trip to the Avondhu hurling hamlet that is 20 minutes’ drive beyond Fermoy, but Michael Fitzgerald, Tom Browne, and the crew will take the time to shape the ‘Elite Hurley’ to anyone’s needs.

Fitzgerald Hurleys are open for business again in Araglen.
Fitzgerald Hurleys are open for business again in Araglen.

If cracked or damaged, they can be repaired in the usual way, with glue, clamping, and banding.

Innovation is all the rage in hurling now, with Torpey in Clare offering the Bambú hurley, made from bamboo instead of ash, and Mycro, based in Ballincollig, selling large volumes of the Bandon-produced Evolution stick. The Elite Hurl is along those lines, though closer to a regular camán, and it will be interesting to see how it takes off.

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