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, Portumna and Galway
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.
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.

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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