NECESSITY is the mother of invention and so it was the with Hurl Safe visor, though it has two fathers rather than a mother.
Valley Rovers clubmen Derek ‘Doc’ Sheehan and Fergie Twohig are behind the new product, which is intended to keep GAA players safe and to prevent the spread of Covid-19. As with all the best ideas, it’s a simple concept – a piece of plastic cable-tied to the faceguard of the helmet – but the end product is based on a lot of hard work and research.
In little over a month, things have snowballed, from a conversation between Sheehan and Twohig as to what could be done to safeguard their children, to bringing the masks to market.
‘It was about four weeks ago,’ Sheehan says.
‘Myself and Fergie were sitting down and the kids were pucking around. Both of us are involved in coaching and working with kids and we have children playing and we were asking each other what we were going to do.
‘I was after doing a lot of security for offices and I was wondering if there might be some shield that could be put inside helmets to stop the spread of the virus or to prevent it being contracted.
‘After that, it just spiralled. I had massive help from a local lad, Damien O’Brien of Sign Spec. I went to him with the idea and he fitted it up to see if it would work inside a helmet but then we hit an issue with the fact that the one for the Mycro helmet wouldn’t work for the Cooper helmet.
‘I went back to Damien again – I made a lot of endless trips to him! – but we got it right. Our kids had them and the GAA was coming back and other parents had seen these things and we were asked to make a few.
‘It went from there and we said we’d roll it out in the club here and see if it had an impact in slowing down the virus. We did a lot of research to make sure we had something that was shatter-proof – it’s made from polycarbonate – and there’s anti-fog material as well, but it is pretty close to you so it will steam up to some degree.
‘It doesn’t go above the eyes, so visibility isn’t affected, but it covers the nose and the mouth.’
With demand picking up a head of steam, the next step was gaining official approval.
‘I went to the GAA with our first prototype and they thought it was terrific,’ Sheehan says.
‘I got a response within a few hours of them getting it, they wanted more information. We did a lot of work to make sure it was ultra-safe, with no sharp edges or corners and it’s cable-tied to the inside of the guards.’
Another challenge for Sheehan and Twohig was adapting the mask to the various different helmet-makers.
‘We’ve six sizes so far,’ Sheehan says.
‘We tried to get one that was universal but it was too flimsy and it wasn’t staying in so we broke down the helmet guards.
‘We kept everything Irish. The printing is done in Bandon and Damien from Sign Spec was a phenomenal help.
‘In the circumstances, it would probably have been cheaper to get them produced abroad but we didn’t. They’re cut below in Fermoy by Michael Burke in Adva Signs, he has the cutting machine, which can be very hard to source.
‘They come back then and all of the families help out with the packaging!’
Of course, when you have an idea so simple, the fear could be that it would be hijacked, but Sheehan has tried to cater for that, too.
‘I have a patent pending on it,’ he says, ‘and we’ve one sent to Germany to be tested in order to be issued with a safety certificate. We’re going to get the material itself registered too, so it’s just a case of covering all angles. That’s where we’re at with it.’