It's a common mis-conception that backs should use a heavy hurl because "they need to clear the ball further up the field". But there are a number of variables here and our advice is only a guideline and needs to be aligned with the particular player's style and strengths.
The Full-Back Line
The full-back line needs to use the lightest hurls on the field as they must be able to flick the ball away from the danger zone in a fraction of a second. A backs motto should be " thou shalt not score goals".. and hence they should be skilled in the art of flicking the ball away from their opponent while the opponent is in mid-strike or solo-ing. Also blocking and hooking should be to the fore with skilled full-back line players as opposed to fine striking of the ball.
The Half-Back Line
Half-backs also need to be able to perform similiar skills but in addition they too must be able to find their forwards with well executed deliveries and hence need a hurl with slightly better striking capability. Therefore the need for a balanced hurl which will have sufficient weight in the bás to strike the ball sweetly without hampering their skills in the art of dispossessing their opponent.
In an ideal hurling world a mid-fielder would never take his two hands off the hurl. The mid-fielder is the connecting link between the backs and the forwards and his job is to move the ball through mid-field as fast as possible so as not to give his opponent's backs a chance to get to grips with his team-mates in the forwards. He needs a similiarly balanced hurl to the half-backs hurl although it may require a slightly stronger shaft to be able to cope with some of the clashes that come with two-handed hurling. Two-handed hurling is possibly one of the most beautiful skills of all to watch and the best exponents could play an entire game without having to handle the ball at all. Adrian Fenelon, the ex-Wexford player, was a great exponent of two-handed hurling and mid-field play.
The Half-Forward Line
A half-forward needs the best striking hurl on the field, which can sometimes be a little heavier but not necessarily, as he must strike accurately, from a distance, and often times on the run or going backwards. While they too must have skills to dispossess a player the skill to the fore with a good half-forward is the ability to strike accurately at the posts from a distance.
The Full-Forward Line
The full-forward line needs speed and, more often, accuracy of strike. A lighter hurl is more suitable for these skills. In a tight situation they need to be able to swing quickly, sometimes one handed or just a deft little touch, to direct the ball to the net. Distance is not always essential as they operate more closely to the goal.
Just to tell you a little story here....
In ' 96, when Liam Griffin was tutoring his charges to All-Ireland glory for the first time in 28 years, he was avid that his players should use light hurls. Two players come to mind..... The first one was young Rory McCarthy, a wing-forward. Rory had wonderful skill, blessed by the hurling gods, he could do almost anything with a sliothar. He could make it sing. Rory favoured the heavy hurl and it certainly never inhibited anything he did on the hurling field but Liam Griffin felt he could be even better if he were to use a lighter one. Rory resisted despite continuous onslaughts from his manager to change. Under the mounting pressure Rory compromised and asked me to make him a couple of lighter hurls, so I did. Wexford continued to progress through the championship improving all the time. He had hurled well in the Leinster Final with a couple of lighter hurls in his arsenal, although secretly he had continued to use the heavier ones, only showing the lighter ones to Mr. Griffin when being questioned on the matter. Wexford progressed to the All-Ireland semi-final.
They were up against Galway who were highly fancied to win but Wexford were up for the challenge. Rory hurled like a star that day and received man-of-the-match for his outstanding play. He was like a wizard losing his opponent and putting some wonderful scores on the board. Then a moment of brilliance. A high ball dropped in from mid-field, Rory anticipated the break and in full flight controlled the sliothar with one touch on his hurley and in the blink of an eye, without touching it again, he let fly and rifled the ball to the back of the net. It was one of the best goals ever seen in Croke Park. Wexford won to rapturous applause and after the match Griffin was being dragged and hauled from on his way into the dressing room where he spotted young McCarthy. "Well", he said, "were you using the light hurl?". "No", replied Rory, more confident this time,"I was using the heavy one!". "Well keep using it", said Griffin moving on into the dressing room to greet the rest of his players.
Liam Dunne was the other player who used a distinctively heavy hurl that year. He was one of the finest centre-backs I've ever had the priviledge of watching. Liam won the "man-of-the-match" award in the final.....