Killarney sod ‘apple pie’ for qualifier tie

SHERYL CROW, Bryan Adams and Kris Kristofferson can sleep soundly.

Worries that their recent performances in the Killarney Summerfest may have a detrimental effect on the Fitzgerald Stadium sod for Saturday’s All-Ireland SHC qualifier between Cork and Tipperary have been dismissed.

“Everything is apple pie for the day on Saturday,” Dan Kelleher, a member of the Killarney Stadium Grounds committee, said last night.

“The pitch is in ship-shape.”

Many things have changed since the ground last hosted a senior inter- county hurling championship tie.

Way back in 1987 when Tipperary and Cork clashed in a Munster final replay, communism was in vogue, the Berlin Wall was upright, and Pat Spillane was a footballer, not a media star.

There have been changes in Fitzgerald Stadium too - for the better.

Following mammoth work in the ’90s, the sod is one of the most revered in the Kingdom. Its revolutionary, sand carpet pitch surface, one of the first in the Republic, is playable all year round thanks to a state of the art system comprising a labyrinth of drains which crisscross the field.

One of the most impressive stats is that the design capacity allows the ground to take 100mls of water in a 24-hour period and remain playable.

Despite that incredible reputation, concerns had been expressed about the proximity of a three-day concert on the hallowed turf - and the field’s suitability for hurling.

Kelleher eases such fears.

“The contractor took over the pitch for the duration of the concerts. The pitch was then covered in the type of plastic sheet that was used in Croke Park for the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics last year.

“When the concert was over they removed all the rubbish, and all the stages, stands and the covering and we started back to work,” he said.

“We fertilised it, mowed, whatever work that needed to be done was done. But that was nothing more than usual. We have had concerts for the last number of years and we have had no problems. The pitch is excellent.

“We have been mowing every two or three days to make sure everything is apple pie for the day on Saturday.”

But does the small ball require much additional work to its bigger cousin?

“The only difference,” Kelleher adds, “is that we compromise between the height of grass for hurling and football. So we have now cut it down to an inch. James Mulligan, who has been here for the past 40 years, is working on that side of things.

“After that we just put out a compound fertiliser and work on the lining and that kind of thing.”

And the Kerry man remains diplomatic when questioned on his preferred victory on Saturday evening.

“Let the best team win and that’s the most important thing.”

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