Life's a pitch

Dundalk confirm new pitch will be installed for 2017 season - but it's still artificial

“We believe it is not the right time for the club to return to grass.”

Oriel Park Oriel Park Morgan Treacy / INPHO Morgan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

DUNDALK’S NEW PITCH will be ready for the beginning of the 2017 season, but the Louth club will once again be playing their home games on an artificial surface.

The reigning SSE Airtricity League Premier Division champions announced in November that they intend to replace the current artificial surface at Oriel Park after the club took over full ownership of its home ground following the conclusion of a drawn-out legal battle with former owner Gerry Matthews.

In a statement released today, Dundalk FC said that a new pitch will be in place for their 2017 Premier Division opener against Shamrock Rovers on 24 February. However, the Lilywhites say that although “it is the club’s preferred option to install a new natural turf pitch… it is not the right time for the club to return to grass.”

Work on the new pitch is scheduled to begin early next week. According to Dundalk, the new “state of the art pitch” will be manufactured by Italian company Limonta Sport, who supplied the pitch installed at the FAI National Training Centre in Abbotstown.

Dundalk’s artificial playing surface has often come in for heavy criticism from around the League of Ireland. The club’s statement explained: “As well as our first team, we have several underage and ladies’ teams whose match and training requirements need to be catered for.

A cat runs onto the pitch Despite its popularity with cats, the pitch at Oriel Park has often been criticised by humans. INPHO / Morgan Treacy INPHO / Morgan Treacy / Morgan Treacy

“A new grass pitch will form part of a wider development plan that includes overall stadium improvements as our new Limonta surface can be relocated in the future. The installation of the new pitch is the first part of a long-term strategy to improve the facilities at Oriel Park for players, staff and both Dundalk and visiting supporters.

“The club are undertaking a major review into the long-term future of Oriel Park. Given that our long-standing legal issues have only recently been resolved, this process is still in its early stages.”

Due to the installation of the new pitch, Dundalk will not be hosting any of their pre-season fixtures. A new venue will also subsequently need to be agreed upon for their President’s Cup meeting with Cork City.

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