Loughborough University has collaborated with leading sports equipment manufacturer Torpey as it launches the hurley of the future.
Six years in development, Torpey Bambú offers hurling players an innovative new stick made from sustainable bamboo, boasting a high strength cell structure, an improved sweet spot for power and control, and increased strength compared to a traditional ash wood product.
The Torpey Bambú is the brainchild of Loughborough University alumnus Seán Torpey. Seán graduated with a First-Class Honours degree in Sports Technology in 2013 and cited how this relationship convinced him to use the Sports Technology Institute, part of the Wolfson School of Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering, to put the product through its paces:
‘’Having spent 3 years studying Sports Technology at the Sports Technology Institute, I saw first-hand world-class testing procedures that were in place at Loughborough University. It was for this reason that I knew the only way to truly understand the performance capabilities of our bamboo technology was to engage their experienced researchers to help characterise the material. For us at Torpey this was a critical part of the development of this unique sports innovation.’’
Hurling, one of Ireland’s national sports, is gaining popularity worldwide and sees competing teams use a wooden stick called a hurley to hit a small ball (sliotar) between the opponents’ goalposts. Reputed to be the fastest game on grass, the ball can travel up to 180 kilometres per hour.
With the highly destructive ash dieback disease set to become a major barrier to the production of ash hurleys in the years to come, Torpey started looking into alternatives with the future in mind.
Bamboo proved to be the perfect match – it can grow at rates of ~90cm per day and reaches maturity within three to five years – and the wood performs as well as ash timber, remaining strong and flexible with high toughness to handle the multiple impacts experienced during hurling.
Traditional hurley manufacturing relies on hand finishing and bespoke craftsmanship at many stages. The new hurley, which features a patented material incorporating millions of bamboo particles, can be repeatably manufactured to deliver the consistent strength and sweet spot required.
Researchers from the University’s Sports Technology Institute were involved in the impact testing of the stick, which included replicating the forces of collisions in hurley, firing balls at speed at the stick, and monitoring the impact of collisions between sticks.
The tests used simulated in-game events including ball impacts and stick-to-stick impacts. Other tests were conducted to determine the mechanical properties, which were benchmarked against the best performing ash hurley and other alternative hurley products currently available.
The advantage of the new product is that its properties can be tailored to match or exceed existing products or even to tailor the properties to achieve certain characteristics. The tests were used to optimise the new product to match or slightly exceed the performance of existing ash hurleys.
Dr Paul Sherratt, Senior Lecturer at the Sports Technology Institute, explained:
“The partnership with Torpey has been a great opportunity to apply research and development expertise to push the boundaries of sports innovation, while maintaining the integrity of this traditional and culturally-important sport.
“Furthermore, it has provided Sports Technology students with a career-enhancing opportunity to directly input into an exciting new product that could be a gamechanger in the sport of hurling.
“We know Seán well from his time on our undergraduate programme, so it’s brilliant to see that he’s making a mark on the world of gaelic sport with this innovative product. It has been great to be involved in the journey as when we started, we didn’t even have a basic drawing of a hurley so to get to where we are now is a great achievement.
“The finished product is great, it has the look and feel of traditional ash hurley but is sustainable and ensures the future of hurling is not tied to the fate of ash trees.”
Aonghus Clarke, centre back for the Westmeath senior team, has also used the stick in the matchday environment. He explained how it differed to alternatives on the market:
“Initially, the idea of the Bambú hurley was strange to me, I had always used ash hurleys and never had a reason to use anything different. I gave the Bambú hurley a go and it grew on me the more I used it.
“I’ve used it for about 8 months now and I feel it has improved my game, in particular my striking is very crisp and sweet. The hurley definitely has a larger sweet spot and the connection with the sliotar is unlike any other hurley.”