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Dublin: 3 °C Wednesday 11 December, 2019

Páirc Uí Chaoimh to host 2019 games before 'seven-figure-plus' pitch replacement

The Cork venue has been in the spotlight due to the poor pitch surface.

Difficult conditions for the teams in last Sunday's GAA league games in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
Difficult conditions for the teams in last Sunday's GAA league games in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
Image: Ken Sutton/INPHO

THE GAA ARE confident that Páirc Uí Chaoimh will be able to stage games for the 2019 championship season despite the recent problems with the pitch surface but the pitch replacement necessary at the end of the season will cost a seven-figure sum.

Last Sunday’s double-header of league games at the Cork venue was marred by the pitch noticeably cutting up and hampering the efforts of the sets of players involved.

It was announced on Monday that the hurling league tie on 16 February between Cork and Clare has been switched to Páirc Uí Rinn with a decision to be made on a weekly basis about the remainder of Cork’s home league ties this spring.

Cork are scheduled to play Tipperary on 12 May in their opening Munster hurling championship match and Croke Park stadium director Peter McKenna, who is now directly involved in the running of Páirc Uí Chaoimh, is confident the pitch can be repaired after a wave of criticism in recent days.

McKenna revealed it will be a six- to eight-week remedial job to get the pitch ready for this summer before more substantial work is undertaken.

“It will (be ready), yeah, that’s not an issue. It is unfortunate (with) the pitch but we have taken a real positive view. Tracey (Kennedy), myself and Kevin O’Donovan spent a lot of time on Monday thinking what would be the best way out of it.

“We pulled the next one, that was following a discussion with Kevin and Tracey and then we’ll look at it on the Monday (of each game).

“You couldn’t contemplate having players there until you got the surface far more stable. Then we need to do a pitch replacement. That’s the general consensus. This is a six- to eight-week job, and so you need a timeline to do that but it is correctable, absolutely.”

McKenna explained the main problem for the pitch.

“What’s wrong with the pitch is instability in the upper root zones. It’s moving. Once the weather gets good and the grass starts to grow, the roots will actually hold it and will perform very well and that’s what you would have seen during the summer.

“With good growth, the pitch is fine. But you need something that’s going to be good for 12 months of the year, not just for a short summer period.”

The area underneath the South Stand in Páirc Uí Chaoimh has been particularly affected.

“That’s a consequence of some of the building work. You had huge cranes going up and down there lifting on the roof and other things,” stated McKenna.

“That sealed off drains and fissures in the grounds, a bit like sealing a tea-bag. A lot of remedial work needs to go on that.

“It’s a problem here (in Croke Park) too. So you need grass species that responds well to growing in shadow. The grass we have here in Croke Park wouldn’t really grow well in your back garden.

“What grows in your back garden is a meadow grass, what we have out there is a ryegrass mix, so it needs to be tended to regularly and the same will be needed in Cork.

“Then we look at other areas around it, but it’s a well-aired area, I don’t see any problem with the pitch once we get in to replace it effectively.”

The Croke Park chief was unable to give an exact figure of the cost in replacing the pitch.

“It’s certainly a seven-figure-plus (sum). It (the costs of replacing a pitch) varies because it goes in and it goes out. There’s another variable on it, how much time there is for the pitch to sit.

“If we have a concert and no match here (in Croke Park) for six weeks, we can do a far cheaper turf. If you have a game in a couple of days, you have a far more expensive turf that’s well formed with good grass coverage and sward density. So it varies.”

Before Christmas in an interview with The Irish Examiner, McKenna stated that the overall cost of the Páirc Uí Chaoimh redevelopment figure would spiral to €110 million but Cork GAA chiefs responded that it would be closer to €86 million.

“(GAA President) John Horan, has appointed a couple of directors to look at that,” remarked McKenna yesterday.

“Let’s wait to see what they come back with. The issue is not so much the figure, the issue is looking after the debt.

“I think everyone is moving in a positive way so we’ll try to keep that momentum going. It will be interesting to see the report that comes back from the two directors that are looking into that, Michael O’Flynn and Tom Gray.”

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Fintan O'Toole

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