Ash trees in Co Clare have suffered particular affects from Ash Dieback which are feared to pose long-term problems for the species of trees and subsequently the game of hurling.
Ash Dieback was first detected in Ireland in 2012 and is said to have been introduced with imported ash planting stock from continental Europe. The invasive tree disease is expected to affect all ash trees in the country, causing the majority of them to die over the next two decades.
A very small proportion of ash trees show natural tolerance to the pathogen. This means that they show minor symptoms and the disease does not have noticeable impact on their growth or health.
In Clare, “the amount of ash plantations and the prevalence of ash planting on acid soils in the county” were referenced by heritage officer, Congella McGuire when putting forward the view that Clare has been “particularly affected” by Ash Dieback.
An appeal was issued by Cllr Donna McGettigan (SF) before the Shannon Municipal District asking that they work in tandem with Teagasc “who are developing a gene bank with the ultimate goal of producing tolerant ash seed, in order to remove and replace dying or dead ash trees with ash dieback tolerant trees”.
Contact has been made by the local authority with Teagasc in Nenagh who have responsibility for Clare on the matter, Congella confirmed. She pointed out that Teagasc are working in other counties to graft “the small percentage” of trees found to be resistant to the disease.
“It is very important to protect our ash trees,” Cllr McGettigan stated when speaking on her motion at the May meeting of the Shannon Municipal District. “Having trees is very important,” she added and voiced her optimism action would materialise.
Numerous “unsuitable trees” were recently removed from Shannon, Cllr Gerry Flynn (IND) noted and flagged that a replanting programme is planned which presented an “opportunity to get the right species into Shannon because it is an expansive area”.
Most ash trees in the country are affected by the disease, Cllr Michael Begley (IND) agreed. He informed the meeting that ex Clare hurler Colm Honan planted 500 ash trees seven years ago and all trees had to be taken down because of Ash Dieback. A scientific study is required to save the ash population, he felt and acknowledged it was “very important for the hurling fraternity” with hurleys made from the ash.
Hurley maker John Torpey has highlighted the matter regularly, Cllr PJ Ryan (IND) commented. “It is virtually impossible to get ash in our area,” he lamented. “It would be a pity to have ash disappearing, long term it would be a huge loss,” Cllr Pat McMahon (FF) said.