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Dublin: 1 °C Wednesday 23 January, 2019

A farm in north Dublin could solve Croke Park pitch problems and attract more concerts to the venue

The GAA hope the Croke Park pitch will be homegrown from 2019 on.

THE GAA’S DECISION to purchase of a farm in north Dublin to help with the problems of relaying the Croke Park pitch in the summer after concerts is not a response to criticism by inter-county football managers of the surface last year.

General view of the Croke Park pitch Croke Park will host Taylor Swift and Michael Buble concerts this summer. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Dublin boss Jim Gavin was unhappy after the Leinster final against Kildare last July with the surface and felt usage of the stadium for GAA matches must become a priority.

Roscommon manager Kevin McStay was also critical of the pitch in the wake of their All-Ireland quarter-final draw with Mayo.

It was first reported in The Star newspaper in December that the GAA had bought a 50-acre farm in the Naul in Dublin to help with the challenge as previously they had imported the turf needed to replace the pitch from Lincolnshire.

Coldplay and U2 played concerts at the stadium last summer while Taylor Swift and Michael Buble will both play this summer at the Jones Road venue.

Speaking today at the publication of the GAA’s annual financial report, McKenna outlined the thinking behind the move.

The farm cost approximately €700,000 to buy and it typically takes nine to twelve weeks to harvest a pitch surface.

It is envisaged as well as helping replace the Croke Park pitch from 2019 on that it can also cater for other pitches like Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

“It’s not in response directly to the criticism,” stated McKenna

“(We consult) on a continuous basis, absolutely. We have players involved regularly so any time we went across to get the pitches, this time we took two or three with us.

“We measure the pitch and the pitch characteristics on a continuous basis. I would have been happy if not ecstatic with the way the pitch was after the concerts last year. The real issue came that there was a very, I wouldn’t say severe, but there was a drought in the UK when we got the pitches in early spring.

“So it meant the ideal type of surface we wanted wasn’t available. It was just too flimsy. That’s just something you couldn’t really contemplate until the weather happens as it were.

Peter McKenna Croke Park Stadium Director Peter McKenna. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

“So you add to that the risk of harvesting out there, shipping it, taking it across the sea, to reduce the time but also to have it growing closer to us and have a lot more pitches growing, that takes that risk away.

“That really was to de-risk the issue and then see can we make this something which is going to be profitable as well.

“We also (will) have (a) pitch replacement needed in Cork when they run concerts, and other surfaces across the country so it is very useful for us to have our own facility to do that.

“The pitches in Abbotstown will be due a replacement on a lot more regular basis as well.”

The GAA may look to export pitches to other sports and the development of their own facility can make Croke Park a more attractive venue for music promoters.

“There is no reason when it comes to the time that we won’t be able to export the pitches,” said McKenna.

“What we have here, climatically is a far better set-up than a lot of Europe, where it is frosty and frozen. But that is down the line.

“That’s a potential plan, whoever wants a pitch. It’s not inexpensive to take pitches in, it’s a large part of the cost of staging a concert so if we can reduce that cost it just makes us more attractive to concert promoters.

“One of the difficulties we have being on an island is that when a concert comes across they lose a day on the way in and they lose a day on the way out  and they don’t have that same issue when they’re travelling in Europe so anything we can do to make us more cost-effective, so much the better.”

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Fintan O'Toole

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