Clare inventor scores Man City deal for his fitness product

BackBaller foam roller a hit with athletes including rugby and GAA players


Some professional footballers spend an inordinate amount of time lying on their backs feigning injuries. But help is now at hand for those who are genuinely injured, courtesy of a Co Clare-based businessman who has hit the back of the net with a new deal to sell his strength and conditioning product to Manchester City.

The Premier League club is the latest sports team to join the queue to buy Noel Marshall’s BackBaller, a dual-mounted foam roller for the back and legs, that he invented two years ago.

Irish sporting personalities including athletes Sonia O’Sullivan and Catherine McKiernan, rugby players Tommy Bowe and Keith Earls, and senior hurling stars Pauric Mahony, Brendan Maher and Noel McGrath have also become big fans of the product, which Mr Marshall designed with input from renowned physical therapist Gerard Hartmann.

“The entire Clare senior hurling team uses them religiously before every training session and we’ve a lot of other sports teams and individual players using it in Ireland and now it’s getting picked up in Britain too,” he said.

Manchester City

Having recently ordered a handful of the product to test out, Manchester City has been back in touch to put in an order for hundreds of Backballers, with a plan to give one to every player on the club’s books. Mr Marshall is hoping this is just the start of a burgeoning relationship with the Premier League as he is also meeting with representatives from Wigan Athletic this week about supplying the product to their squad.

“Selling to Manchester City is brilliant in terms of the publicity and the credibility it brings,” he told The Irish Times.

The BackBaller is primarily sold online at a cost of €60, but Mr Marshall said he had been in discussions with a number of sports retailers in Ireland about stocking the product.


Mr Marshall, a former athlete who previously won a Irish Under-23 1500m title, came up with the idea for the product after injury forced him to abandon a promising athletic career. He became an inventor instead, developing a range of tools primarily for the construction trade.

“I come up with a number of DIY products after I gave up athletics that were reasonably successful such as a popular wall building tool called ‘Bricky.’ The idea for the BackBaller came from my work doing that,” he said.

“I used to break down a lot when running and the only thing that used to work for me was deep-tissue work so I had a bit of a grá for it. I had recurring back trouble and always found the foam roller to be extremely effective in enabling myself and other sports people to self-treat but it wasn’t great at hitting the back area so I had the notion of mounting a roller into a frame and having it contoured so it would avoid spinal contact,” Mr Marshall added.

The original prototype was according to the inventor, literally a cut-up foam roller in a timber frame. It has been developed substantially since then.

“The biggest feature of the BackBaller is that because it is in a frame it gives the user far greater control than a regular roller does. In addition, there are two rollers mounted into it and it is specially contoured to fit the back so it really works well in helping to loosen tight muscles,” said Mr Marshall.

“Sales have been great so far since we launched the product and because so many people have back ailments it has also proven popular with those who have no interest in sports,” he added.