Croker chief admits pitch problems

Croke Park Stadium Director Peter McKenna conceded that there were problems with the pitch, when speaking at an impromptu media briefing in the press box at Croke Park after yesterday's All-Ireland SFC semi-final.

Croke Park Stadium Director Peter McKenna conceded that there were problems with the pitch, when speaking at an impromptu media briefing in the press box at Croke Park after yesterday's All-Ireland SFC semi-final.

The Kerry and Meath players seemed to lose their footing quite easily on the new surface, which was installed just a month ago following the U2 concerts at the Jones's Road venue.

Initial criticisms of the pitch were put down to 'cosmetic issues' by stadium chiefs, but last night McKenna did a dramatic U-turn and said that some issues remain over the pitch.

However, he insisted that there will be no problems with the pitch for next Sunday's All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship final between Kilkenny and Tipperary.

"In the first half (of the Kerry v Meath game) certainly there was slipping that you wouldn't be entirely happy with, particularly with the penalty," McKenna stated.

"Some of that you come to expect with a squally, wet day. What you get with light rain like we had today, it sits on top of the grass.

"If the grass is lush like it is there, you will get a greasy interface. It's something for us to look at, no doubt about it."

As has been the case since the new surface was installed, McKenna has kept in contact with the pitch stakeholders and yesterday he spoke to a number of players after the game.

"I talked to some of the players and any of the Kerry guys that were wearing six stud boots had no issues. Fellas wearing moulded boots or blade boots certainly did have issues.

"But we'd like to think that the surface wouldn't be boot-dependent, so we've got some work to look at during the week."

The Longford native is preparing his groundsmen this week to undergo a spiking programme on the surface, but has ruled out the option of scarifying the pitch.

"I was down on the surface there with our pitch people. One suggestion is that the grass cover is too lush, that we could do with thinning it out somewhat.

"That's not something we’re going to do between now and the finals obviously.

"Ideally we'd look at scarifying it if we had more time, but I'm not inclined to do that, I think that could change the characteristics of the pitch.

"During the week, we did a lot of spiking on the surface. That breaks it up and gives it a little more traction for the studded foot. We'll do a little bit more of that this week."

And although the current pitch was laid in record time - with less than a week between the last U2 concert and the Cork v Donegal SFC quarter-final - McKenna said he has no regrets in laying a new surface in the middle of a busy Championship summer.

"No, the positives we've had from the pitch and the work we've done have been very, very strong. This is the first time we've had criticism," he added.

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