See the Hurl in the Ash and Set it Free

Putting the tin on.

A while back my wood supplier sold me a shipment of wood. He told me it had been seasoned. It wasn’t. It hisses and spits like a mean ole cat and the stove in the kitchen smokes like a train. In fact I was taking calls from the Vatican looking to borrow it for the recent election. Instead I referred them to my wood guy. Hopefully next time it will be better.

Leo decided he was doing goals for the u14 hurlers. Either that or he was picked. It required a trip to Scullion Hurls in Loughgiel to have a keeper’s hurl cut. Hurley maker Mick Scullion started the process while we waited, cutting the outline of the junior keeper’s hurl from a shaped plank of raw ash. His dad, Joe, the founder of the business then took over shaping the hurl down closer to its finished shape before Mick again stepped forward to sand it down to the required weight and finish. Joe advised getting the bas covered in muck to seal it before we might bring it back to get tinned.

Two generations of craftsmen a pleasure to watch, seeing the hurley in the ash, they set it free.

There’s something about Loughgiel. It’s not just a place. It’s a state of mind. I had cause to speak to Liam ‘Winker’ Watson about a game their underage players play. I had texted him asking the rules, his reply wasn’t precise enough so he called me to explain the rules in detail. Benches wouldn’t do Winker said, it had to be tables, the sort you might see in a canteen because the wee men might raise the ball he said. Instructions complete he gave a fleeting insight to their current state of readiness for the Antrim League and then was off. Sound fella Winker, in a league of his own. He came over to Owenbeg last year with the trophy and spent time with the youngsters. We all marvelled at the weight of his hurl, one of a fresh batch fashioned for each match by Mick Scullion. Whatever about the weight he knows how to wave it. Winkers Wand we named it last year. It carries a heavy responsibility.

The problem with hurling these days is the cold. Camoging too. I was only coaching on Sunday and my hands were freezing. Gráinne was fit to tell me the finger she had busted last summer ached in the cold. At the u14 match last week two boys had to be subbed it was that cold. Another cried when he got home he was that foundhered. Leo was OK in goals, we invested in a pair of expensive Skins leggings and he wore four layers on top. The keeper’s hurl did the job too.

I went back over last Saturday to Loughgiel to pick up a few Clones Mick had agreed to make for me. Again he had the rough shape done before finishing out the final sticks – one a 30, the other a 26, effortlessly mimicking Leo’s existing 28. Another Scullion original lifted off the shelf completed the deal. £70. For the four and three grips.

The other main point of note is the new workshop and showroom. Scullion Hurls have become part of the Économusée network a series of working craft museums across the north coast area. The new centre is superbly finished telling the story of the hurley makers, their craft and the games they serve. The attention to detail brilliant and the finished product excellent. There were three happy hurlers in our house for sure.

Next time I’m over I’ll be buying a few bags of seasoned offcuts of ash for the fire. It’ll burn better than the wet stuff. Should have done that in the first place. Maybe.

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