Hurling Hands: Damien Hayes - ‘I used a 32-inch hurley. The lads were laughing at me but I got 2-6 from play’

Hurling Hands: Damien Hayes - ‘I used a 32-inch hurley. The lads were laughing at me but I got 2-6 from play’
Damien Hayes’ hands are big and getting even more swollen from washing his hands during the coronavirus crisis.

They tell me at home that I have big hands for my size - my parents always tell me I have my grandfather’s hands, and now with all the handwashing for the coronavirus they’re probably even more swollen.

I was always very lucky with my hands. I never broke a bone in either of them.

The only thing that ever happened to me in my time playing was an injury to the baby finger on my left hand - a guy tackled me and pulled it out of place. For weeks and weeks it was hanging down, I had to hurl with a strap on the finger.

I should have taken some time out but I didn’t want to and eventually it came right. I was very lucky, though, never to have a break.

My hands are very strong from working on the farm - I never did exercises for them because I was cleaning sheds, driving stakes, forking silage, building stone walls, moving sheep, dosing cattle, all of that.

It’s a funny thing to say, but farming strength is different to gym strength, and that’s where I got a lot of it. 

Hurling Hands: Damien Hayes - ‘I used a 32-inch hurley. The lads were laughing at me but I got 2-6 from play’

Lifting weight in the gym will make you strong, obviously, but if you’re pushing, pulling, twisting, lifting stuff on a farm all day you’re exercising all the muscles you’ll need for hurling.

Was there a particular age I thought I was getting to grips with the hurley? That’s a good question, because I see my young lad Eanna now, who’s six, and in the last six months he’s really able to hit the ball.

I was eight or nine when the real craze for the game got to me and I started to really love it - to pick the hurley up every day and go out to the wall and hit the ball off the wall for ages. I’d be rising it and hitting it, pretending I was Joe Cooney.

I got my hurleys from Francis Larkin, of TJ Larkin Hurls of Killimor. I went for a very small hurley - never past a 34, and I could get a craze for a 33 or a 32 hurley.

The one thing I loved about using a small hurley was that my striking was always better. 

I never liked a hurley that was too heavy, I went for a medium weight, and Francis, who’s a good friend of mine, always made very good hurleys. He always had great ash.

I remember winning a county final one time against Loughrea and I used a 32 inch hurley. 

The lads were laughing at me but I got 2-6 from play the same day. It’s very difficult to hook a very short hurley and my striking was very accurate with a short stick.

One thing I always had to do before a game was to put on a brand new grip on a hurley —every match, just to make sure my grip on the stick would be perfect in the game itself.

Dalo's GAA Show: Turning hurling's pretenders into contenders 

Players I’d admire? I’m a massive Patrick Horgan fan, I just think the man is absolutely brilliant - frees, flicks, scores.

In my own time playing I’d love to have had Ken McGrath’s hands, but I think Patrick Horgan’s skill levels are outstanding. 

Padraic Maher of Tipperary is a great man to catch a ball and leave it off, Tony Kelly of Clare, Diarmuid O’Keeffe in Wexford - those are other guys I really admire.

Interview: Michael Moynihan

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