Páirc Uí Chaoimh will be 'European stadium pitch standard'

The Corkman who designed the new Páirc Uí Chaoimh playing surface says it’s now capable of hosting matches and he described the quality of the sod as “European stadium pitch standard”.



Stephen Forrest, a sports turf consultant and contractor, owns Turf Tech, the company which oversaw the construction of the new pitch as part of the venue’s €80m revamp. Forrest and the Turf Tech team also look after Páirc Uí Rinn, as well as Munster rugby grounds Thomond Park and Musgrave Park. Forrest is aiming for Páirc Uí Chaoimh “to close the gap considerably” on Croke Park’s pristine surface.

The Blarney native said: “It will be European stadium pitch standard, without question. There is a gap between Croke Park and every other GAA surface in the country. Our aim is to close that gap considerably. That’s my goal, to close the gap between Croke Park and the other stadia.”

Forrest added: “It’s a purpose-built GAA surface and the grass species that we chose is very specific. We used three grass species and they bring something very strong to the table.”

Forrest admitted the project was a labour of love.

“I’m a very proud GAA person. I played GAA all my life. I was very proud to be asked to look after the pitches for the Cork County Board, and very proud when they asked me to design the new pitch.”

The pitch was seeded at the end of October and cutting began before Christmas. It’s now capable of hosting games but work is underway on the ‘haul road’ on the perimeter of the pitch, which were used by construction workers.

“Those haul roads were taking the grass up to the white lines of the pitch. They were handed back to us two weeks ago, and they’re only affecting the grass at the other side, the non-playing side of the white lines.”

Forrest also added that a state-of-the-art irrigation system will be fully operational by the end of this week and that work on the pitch is well ahead of schedule, ahead of a summer debut. “Páirc Uí Chaoimh’s pitch is constructed very differently to Croke Park, because it wasn’t a ‘no-holds-barred’ build. It was built on a budget and we have maximised that budget.”

Forrest is a member of the GAA’s ‘national pitch maintenance workgroup’, chaired by another Corkman, Kieran McGann, who’s also the treasurer of the East Cork board. Next Sunday, the workgroup will host a pitch renovation open day at Croke Park, with contributions from sports turf industry professionals. McGann acknowledged more can be done to improve surfaces all over the country.

“While some pitches are in outstanding condition, there is room for improvement in many. What we are trying to ensure is that people have adequate knowledge on how to maintain pitches to the highest standards.”

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