All pro footballers want plastic pitches banned, claims John Caulfield

It's a new era in the rivalry of the League of Ireland's 'New Firm' but the old bugbears remain just as relevant, with Cork City boss John Caulfield calling for a ban on artificial pitches.

All pro footballers want plastic pitches banned, claims John Caulfield

It's a new era in the rivalry of the League of Ireland's 'New Firm' but the old bugbears remain just as relevant, with Cork City boss John Caulfield calling for a ban on artificial pitches.

Champions Dundalk host Cork City at Oriel Park on Friday night (7.45pm, live on RTÉ2) in the first SSE Airtricity Premier Division meeting of the pair this season.

Dundalk are second but already trail leaders Shamrock Rovers by seven points while City are a further two points back. After meeting Dundalk, City will face Rovers the following week in the league. All in all, that raises the stakes at Oriel Park on Friday night, as the two sides who have dominated the Premier Division for the past six years jockey for position.

These are different times for both Dundalk and Cork; after the glory days of Stephen Kenny, Vinny Perth is now handling the reins at last year's double winners, while Cork started the campaign poorly, blowing out the dirty diesel in early season games before clicking into gear in recent weeks.

City face a daunting task in Co Louth on Friday night though. It wouldn't be a New Firm rivalry if there wasn't added bite, and City boss John Caulfield has reiterated his call for artificial surfaces like Oriel Park to be banned.

"I don't want to just bring Dundalk or Derry into it but in professional football, no one wants to play on plastic pitches, because it is a different game," said Caulfield.

"Years ago in England, the Oldhams, the Lutons, the QPRs, they came in and they were banned. For social football and kids football it's good, but in professional football you want to play on grass. But then the hierarchy some people are pushing for plastic and you'd have to wonder why.

"I'm sure Dundalk would want to play on grass as well. I don't think anyone would say they'd love to be playing on a plastic pitch.

"Dundalk have used it to their advantage but they've had exceptional players. But if you're asking me in the early years was it an advantage, of course it was."

City have trained on an artificial surface this week in preparation for Friday night's game.

"We trained on it yesterday. It is a different game, of course it is.

"It makes for no tackling and possibly a slower game. You can't beat the uncertainty of the bobble on the pitch and the players slipping which is part of our game.

"Unfortunately it looks like it's going to be the norm, we already have Dundalk, and Derry, there's talk about Bohs but in the bigger picture you'd prefer grass.

"If plastic pitches would be banned in professional football worldwide, I think all professional players would welcome it."

Cork will go into the game with their season now up and running, with three wins in four league games pushing them back into the title race.

They will be without James Tilley, the on-loan Brighton man suspended after his reckless challenge on Midleton's Kevin Murray in the Munster Senior Cup final win last Friday night saw him red carded, while impressive winger Daire O'Connor is out, having dislocated a shoulder in the win against Bohemians earlier this month.

"We're waiting on a few others, Alan Bennett, Gearoid Morrissey, and Karl Sheppard," said Caulfield. "We'd hope one or two of them would come through.

"We know how difficult it is going up there. It will be a huge test and nothing but a top performance will give us any chance of a result."

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