John Torpey’s hurleys are in such demand they are shipped to the Irish across the world but last weekend a specially crafted Torpey hurley was presented to a novice at Croke Park.
Xi Jinping, vice-president of the People’s Republic of China, received a traditional hurley-making demonstration by Belvoir’s Torpey and, having been presented with some hurleys, the vice-president gave it a lash on the Croke Park field.
Speaking about the experience, the former O’Callaghan’s Mills hurler said it was “amazing”.
“I have done workshops in the museum in Croke Park for all the All-Ireland semi-finals and finals for the last five years now and I have my own video in the museum in Croke Park with all my old tools. Alan Gallagher, stadium manager, rang me on Wednesday last to know would I be able to do a workshop for the Chinese vice-president,” he said.
“It was amazing, we were all standing around and the photographers were there and RTÉ, we were all having a great chat. The vice-president was to start at another stand just before me but when he came through the doors Christy Cooney was leading him in along with Leo Varadkar and guided him straight over to my workbench so I was caught really on the hop and was told ‘John’ you better shake hands with him’, so I shook hands.
“Christy said would I show him how this hurley worked so I picked up a hurley and I started hopping the ball on it with him.
“His reaction was brilliant. Christy was explaining to him all about what I do and the hurleys going all over the world. He asked what the wood was and I said it was all ash, the only and best material for making hurlies.
“He was delighted with that and appreciated me explaining all about it and how what I was doing was the old traditional way of making hurlies,” John recalled.
The stadium manager then presented a specially crafted hurley to Mr Xi, which John’s daughter had embossed with the words Croke Park Visit Ireland 19/2/12.
Vice-president Xi got to play with a few hurleys and a sliotar on the pitch.
John has been in the hurling business for the last 30 years, although his love for hurling itself began in his teens and he played his last game at 52.
Even though his business is 30 years strong this year, the company is only getting bigger and he has no desire to retire just yet.
“The hurley making is my core business. I have started up other businesses since then, like making wood briquettes from the waste from hurley making, which has been generously funded by LEADER. The hurleys are taken in by Elverys, Lifestyle, O’Neill’s, Heaton’s and all the local stores.
“I also make hurleys for about 12 of the Tipperary team and about the same on the Clare team. I ship them to Australia, America, Dubai and faraway places like that and I’ve taken on two new people in the last week. It was a long, hard slog but I’m adding a bit to it all the time.
“The best thing I ever did though was to put good quality hurleys into the shops,” he concluded.