His native Cork may not be contesting the All-Ireland hurling final but that doesn’t mean that Kevin Cummins wouldn’t have a certain amount of pride as he takes his seat in Croke Park tomorrow afternoon.
Cummins is managing director of Cummins Sports, the company whose ‘All Star’ sliotars are the official match balls for the clash of Galway and Limerick.
The ‘All-Star’ was first used in the 1976 All-Ireland final when Cork defeated Wexford in a thrilling spectacle. The balls for that game were manufactured by Willie Cummins whose sons, Ray and Brendan played for the Munster champions in that final. And four decades later the match balls, which still bear the signature ‘Wm Cummins’, will be featuring in hurling’s greatest day.
Kevin explained: “My father retired from Dunlops in the 70s and found himself with nothing to do.
“As young fellas, we were always on the lookout for sliotars so he decided to start making his own in a shed at home.
“Incredibly, within two years of starting the business, the balls were being used in the All-Ireland final and they have featured in most of the finals since then.”
The technology has changed hugely since those early days.
“Back then, the interior of the ball was a small cork with wool or twine or whatever was available wrapped around it. In those times my father and few friends, hand stitched every ball they made. But the problem then was that balls could differ hugely because the elements involved could vary and that would become apparent for example in wet conditions.
Nowadays the ball’s centre is made of a solid core which means the quality of the balls are uniform which I think has added hugely to the spectacle of the game of hurling.
Both tomorrow’s finalists are clients of Cummins and have used their products throughout the season along with the likes of Tipperary and Cork.
Though they will have their own balls for the pre-match puck around, all of those will be cleared away before 3.30pm with the ‘official’ sliotars introduced by the referee and his umpires.
Cummins explained: “We delivered five dozen balls to Croke Park on Friday morning. All of these carry the names of the teams and the date of the final. These will be the ones which will be used on match day. And yes, it is always a proud day to look down from the stands and see our product playing such a central role.”