Pitch maintenance group set to improve standards

The GAA has established a pitch maintenance work group with the goal of improving the standard of playing surfaces across the country.

The organisation has teamed up with the Irish Golf Course Superintendents Association of Ireland (IGCSAI) to develop “an educational structure and platform for groundsmen in Ireland”.

The work group, chaired by Cork County Board executive member Kieran McGann, held its first meeting on Tuesday, a timely coincidence with the decision on Sunday to move the Division 1 FL game between Roscommon and Dublin away from Hyde Park due to a waterlogged pitch. Among the members are Stuart Wilson, Croke Park pitch manager, and secretary Damian McLaverty, who is the general manager of the IGCSAI.

A national groundsman education day will take place in the GAA’s new National Games Development Centre in Abbotstown on May 14.

McLaverty says it’s the first major step in the IGCSAI’s partnership with the GAA.

“We’re the main professional sports surface organisation in the country and we bring the experience and knowledge from within our organisation, which will enable the understanding and growth of professional sports turf practices.

“Our overall aim is to raise the standards of pitch surfaces as well as the understanding of these practices at national grounds and among clubs around the country. After next month’s education day, we will be organising provincial days then through the summer months.” After one of the wettest winters in recent times, the quality of playing surfaces even at national level has left a lot to be desired. The GAA came in for criticism for allowing the Roscommon-Mayo and Tyrone-Armagh games at Hyde Park and Healy Park to go ahead the weekend before last. Cork and Kerry’s senior teams struggled to train in January due to a lack of playable fields.

McLaverty says the benefits of strengthening the quality of pitch maintenance procedures in the GAA are multi-fold and reflective of the changing weather conditions.

“Climate change is having a major impact on all outdoor sports that are being played whether it’s golf, soccer, rugby or GAA. You can see even at club level in rugby the amount of games that have been postponed because of weather over the last four or five months. Climate change is a challenge for everyone involved in providing surfaces for outdoor sports and the more people are aware of that and more educated about it hopefully there will be less fixture problems and the costs and issues that are involved in them.

“Poor playing surfaces also led to poor spectacles and from a playing perspective it also reduces the quality of play. There is a potential loss of revenue for the venue that has had to give up the game. Most critically, you don’t want players playing on poor surfaces where they may end up being injured. Pitch maintenance can go a long way to avoiding all of that.”


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