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Dublin: 11 °C Saturday 4 April, 2020

'I have tried several times but he is a very busy man' - Croke Park chief's efforts to contact Gavin

The Dublin manager has questioned the usage of Croke Park for concerts during the summer.

Peter McKenna has defended the Croke Park pitch surface after criticism by county managers.
Peter McKenna has defended the Croke Park pitch surface after criticism by county managers.
Image: INPHO

JIM GAVIN HAS frequently questioned in recent seasons the practice of staging concerts in Croke Park during the summer when the GAA championships are in full swing.

And Croke Park stadium director Peter McKenna has revealed he has been unable to contact Gavin in an attempt to ease the concerns of the All-Ireland winning boss over the pitch surface.

The Dublin manager questioned the scheduling in 2017 after their Leinster final win over Kildare, pointing to the pitch contributing to a black card picked up by forward Dean Rock. Coldplay had performed at the venue eight days before that game.

Then-Roscommon manager Kevin McStay expressed views similar to Gavin after their quarter-final draw with Mayo, and last summer Gavin queried Croke Park’s move to stage two Taylor Swift concerts just over a week before their provincial decider against Laois.

McKenna has insisted the Croke Park pitch remains of the highest standard even after a year in 2018 that saw three pitch replacements necessitated.

“I stand over it from a technical point of view. We test that pitch, all the metrics of it. Managers need to deflect from other conversations, so it is easy to say that I didn’t like this or whatever.

“The pitch is put down to the highest standards and we know exactly what the performance metrics of that pitch are in terms of stud turn, hardness and so on. And I have them there for every week for the last five or six years, so no, there is no issue with the pitch.

“Managers deflect, they don’t want to talk about the issue that you want to talk about, so the pitch is an easy way to create a diversion if you like. But the figures are there and I am happy to show them to anybody.”

Has McKenna ever tried to contact Gavin to discuss the issue?

“I have tried several times but he is a very busy man, he is a pilot as well as everything else.”

The Croke Park chief has no issue with criticism of the surface.

“I think criticism is really positive. I welcome anyone making comment because it helps us raise our game. But I think if you do make criticism, it is nice to find out exactly what your issues were and let us response.

“I am always very conscious that the fellas that do the pitch are just regular lads and they have millions of people scrutinising their work and they are back page invariably during the year. That’s an awful lot of pressure to be on fellas.

“They are part of my team and I will defend their ability to do their work because I think they are brilliant and if there is criticism, I will go and chat to the guy who is making it. And say let’s talk us through and tweak whatever the issues are.”

McKenna spoke in early 2018 about the GAA’s decision to purchase a farm in north Dublin to help with the problems of relaying the pitch.

Previously the GAA had been reliant on importing surfaces from the UK to lay on the pitch but McKenna believes the facility could be hugely beneficial in the event of a disorderly Brexit.

“The main advantage to us is that if a Brexit happens in a rushed way, a couple of problems arise – 20 per cent surcharge on agricultural products so the pitch we would be taking across for concerts and such would have an additional cost.

“Setting up our own facility eliminates the risk of having to take the pitch across the sea and any disruption with weather or strikes and also makes the cost keener.”

And the GAA’s farm in Naul could also be utilised for pitch surfaces in GAA grounds around the country, such as Páirc Uí Chaoimh in Cork which has had problems.

“That would be a decision for the Cork county board and the board of the stadium but that would be a possibility. A lot depends on what type of grass you want. The type of grass in Croke Park would be different – very very similar to what we’d need in Cork because of the roof shadow and so on.

“Other grounds would be far more open so they don’t need the same type of turf, or type of turf replacement. But it’s a big farm, we can have several different type of grass species to be harvested there.”

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Fintan O'Toole

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