Doomsday scenario if ash is wiped out, says GAA
on 29/11/2012 00:00:00
About 350,000 hurleys are manufactured from ash trees each year, with about two thirds of that figure coming from imported ash.
However, the Department of Agriculture was recently forced to put a ban on the import of all young ash plants and seeds from areas infected by the chalara fraxinea fungal disease, more commonly known as ash dieback.
The Europe-wide disease has been found at five sites in the Republic, and five more in Northern Ireland.
"It's a huge issue," said Mr O'Neill.
"Seemingly, the disease is almost on a par with the Dutch elm disease that wiped out [sections of the species]. I mean that would have huge implications for us and I think we'll have to take that really seriously.
"I think the Department of Agriculture issued guide- lines on it and there'll be huge restrictions on trees of any sort coming in with bark on them. We'll support any measures that are taken, but I think that already 30,000 ash trees have been lost in the country through a cull of trees.
"Sure, if it goes to its horrible conclusion, ash would be wiped out, in a doomsday situation. But I don't think it will go to that. But it means we'll have to be more careful about how we buy ash abroad and how we bring it in."
A small number of inter-county players have used synthetic hurleys in recent championship campaigns. They are manu-factured from man-made materials, including nylon and graphite, and would be the obvious alternative in the event of a "doomsday scenario" materialising.
"I'd say if you have a few pound, put it into plastic hurleys," joked the GAA president.