Cork hurling manager John Meyler has called for artificial pitches to be installed at major GAA stadiums after problems with the Páirc Uí Chaoimh surface.
The Cork County Board and stadium management admitted the pitch was in “unacceptable” condition to host a recent League double-header, and switched the hurlers’ game against Clare next Saturday to Páirc Uí Rinn due to concerns over player safety.
Amid the likelihood of Páirc Uí Chaoimh’s pitch being replaced later this year, Meyler believes the GAA need to move towards installing 4G artificial pitches everywhere.
“Watching club matches [on Saturday], I think there’s a case for 4G pitches to be built everywhere, as distinct from grass pitches. That’s a huge strategic decision to be made by the GAA but looking at the two matches in Thurles and Parnell Park, there’s a lot to be said for 4G pitches.
“You see Musgrave Park is now an all-weather pitch, you see the 4G pitch in Páirc Uí Chaoimh... I was down at a Cork and Kilkenny U17 challenge match [on Páirc Uí Chaoimh’s 4G back-pitch on Saturday morning]. The match was played at a high intensity, high speed.
“I think that’s probably the way to go, but it would be a huge strategic decision to be made for Croke Park. But once it goes down, it’s there and there’s no complaints then about the pitches.”
While acknowledging it mightn’t find favour with traditionalists, he believes a proliferation of all-weather surfaces would help avoid fixture postponements and competition delays caused by unplayable pitches. In the last fortnight, Páirc Uí Chaoimh’s 4G back-pitch hosted a Fitzgibbon Cup game for UCC after snowfall in Cork.
Meyler refused to complain about the impact of the pitch in Cork’s four-point loss to Wexford, which saw players losing their footing on the disintegrating turf and the sliotar falling into the remaining divots. He remains sure remedial work will have it in playable condition in time for Cork’s Championship opener against Tipperary on May 12.
“The pitch is what it is. It was the same for Wexford. We’ll get the pitch right for the Championship matches and we’ll be in Páirc Uí Rinn for Clare, and that’s really it.”
Meyler was speaking at CBC’s ‘The Road to Success’ event last Saturday. You can listen to his interview on this week's Examiner Sport GAA Podcast (from 44m 30s)
Meyler also said his team intend to “step up the pace” ahead of three games in a row against Munster rivals.
“In a way, now, it’s a second League. We had two Leinster teams, now we have three Munster teams, Clare, Limerick and Tipperary, so that’ll go up another level again.
“You’re really in the middle of serious Fitzgibbon now. UCC are in the semi-final on Tuesday, we’ve Mary I [players too], so we’ve a lot of distraction at the moment in terms of not having your full panel.
“It’s an opportunity then for other players to put their hand up. Cormac Murphy and Aidan Walsh have done really well, and Tim O’Mahony in the last few weeks. We’re absolutely delighted with that.
“We’d like to be more competitive. We’d like to win matches. But we’ll keep going the way we’re going, we’ll get a few injured players back and we’ll step up the pace now against Clare on Saturday week.”
Meyler hopes to get more out of Walsh, who impressed with four points against Wexford, in the coming months as he gets his hurling up to speed following his return from a year with the county’s footballers.
“I’ve been an admirer of Aidan Walsh’s for the last number of years. I’ve seen him play for CIT, for Kanturk and for Cork. He’s a tremendous athlete, very mobile, very quick, got a very good hand.
“It’s just his hurling needs to be brought up a couple of levels, the speed of his hurling needs to be brought up. Bit by bit, please God, we’ll get more out of him in the remaining three League matches and the Championship matches.
“Himself and Tim and Cormac have been a huge plus in the last few weeks and we’re delighted with his progress. He’s a great young fella.”