Enterprising student revives traditional craft

Northern Regional College student Emmet Martin from Randalstown pictured with his mother Siobhan at his recent graduation where he was awarded a HND Diploma in Business.
Northern Regional College student Emmet Martin from Randalstown pictured with his mother Siobhan at his recent graduation where he was awarded a HND Diploma in Business.
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Having spent the last four years studying Business at Northern Regional College in Ballymena, Emmet Martin now has ambitious plans to expand his own business, Martin Hurls.

Twenty-one year-old Emmet, from Randalstown, was awarded a HND in Business at the College’s recent HE graduation ceremonies. Previously he had completed a Level Three Diploma in Business at the College.

Martin Hurls is a traditional Irish hurley making business specialising in hand crafted hurling sticks or camáns. The company was established in 2012 when Emmet was still at pupil at St Louis Grammar in Ballymena.

Although only operating on a part-time basis while Emmet was at College, Martin Hurls are recognised by players as a quality product. Hurling sticks produced in Emmet’s workshop have already been exported around the world to Scotland, England, Wales, Belgium, Italy, USA, New Zealand and Australia.

Emmet said: “My dad had a bit of a reputation for fixing broken hurls so when I was younger, I spent hours watching him mend hurleys for players from our local club Tir na Og. When we tried making a few from scratch using ash from a tree in a field at home, I was just hooked.”

Since finishing the course in June, Emmet has been working around the clock to meet orders, producing up to 45 hurleys a day. They are custom made with sizes ranging from juvenile 18 inch to senior 36 inch sticks. He has also introduced a range of handcrafted souvenirs, as well as an ash golf putter.

“I always try to use the best ash available, focusing on the grain and density of the wood so I can produce the highest quality,” he said.

During the summer, Emmet visited the USA in the summer and came back with so many orders that he plans to return next year.

“The potential market in the States is huge. In Buffalo they hold an annual youth hurling tournament which is attended by hundreds of young players from GAA clubs all over the US. It’s the largest competition of its kind in the world outside of Irelan,” he said.

With Martin Hurls now stocked in Croke Park, players at all levels from clubs all over Ireland are using hurling sticks produced in the County Antrim workshop. Earlier this year, Emmet was invited by GAA headquarters to give a hurley making demonstration in the Croke Park Museum.

HND course co-ordinator, Catherine Scullion, said Emmet’s lecturers were all very proud of his achievements: “He is truly an inspirational person and we will take great pleasure in telling our current and future generations of students about him.

“When Emmet joined us as a young 16-year-old, he already had a fledging business and we hope that the knowledge he acquired as a student at Northern Regional College will have helped him in some way on his journey to becoming a successful entrepreneur.”

In 2014, Emmet’s entrepreneurial endeavours were recognised when he was named Ballymena Young Entrepreneur of the Year. He also made it through to the televisions final of Junior Dragons’ Den on RTE1, beating off the challenge over 200 other would be entrepreneurs.