It may not at first appear to be the most likely threat to future of hurling but a very serious fungus is threatening the livelihood of hurley makers in Ireland.
According to the The Irish News, Ireland is currently in danger of being hit by a deadly fungus which has already wiped out 90 per cent of the ash trees in Denmark and is likely to do the same in Ireland should it take hold on these shores.
The fungus, chalara fraxinea, causes leaf loss and dieback of the tree’s crown and can kill ash trees. Trees affected by the fungus have already been found in Britain, where an import ban could be imposed to prevent it from spreading further. Around five million ash trees have been imported to the UK since 2003.
If the fungus does spread to Ireland it would have a profound effect on the hurley-making industry, which is worth approximately €5 million to the Irish economy annually. Joe Canning and former Cork hurler Ben O’Connor are just two hurley makers that are involved in the industry in this country.
Commenting on the threat of the fungus, Antrim-based hurley maker Michael Scullion told The Irish News, “We’re not like Nike or something which could absorb a hit. This is basically a cottage industry, just one or two-man operations. Most of us are just living day-to-day really so it would be devastating for us.”
For the sake of hurley makers like Scullion, Canning and O’Connor and for the sake of hurling in general, we can only hope that the chalara fraxinea fungus does not end up crossing the Irish Sea.