THE PITCH

Stephen For­rest, owner, Turftech

Irish Examiner - Supplement - - PÁIRC UÍ CHAOIMH SPECIAL - In­ter­view: De­nis Hur­ley

Ibe­came a golf green­keeper in 1994 and started out my own com­pany in 2004, con- tract­ing to golf clubs and it mor­phed into pitches then. We work with Mun­ster Rugby and the Cork County Board now and I have three full-time em­ploy­ees.

Whether it is a golf course or a rugby or GAA pitch, the ba­sic prin­ci­ples are the same, as long as you understand what game is be­ing played, with a bit of good, solid knowl­edge you’ll be able to adapt.

If you com­pare treat­ing a rugby pitch with treat­ing a GAA pitch, you’re do­ing the very same things but in a slightly dif­fer­ent man­ner to meet a to­tally dif­fer­ent set of cri­te­ria. The trac­tion and tol­er­ance ex­pected from a rugby pitch is far greater than that of a GAA pitch. Ev­ery sport has its prob­lems, there’s no one sport ideal in terms of the main­te­nance of a nat­u­ral grass pitch.

The pitch in Páirc Uí Chaoimh is brand new, start­ing from scratch. We sat down with the county board and dis­cussed what they felt were go­ing to be us­age lev­els as well as whether it would be a multi-use fa­cil­ity and what they felt those other us­ages would be. We then de­signed the pitch around those cri­te­ria.

In a sta­dium en­vi­ron­ment, there’s re­ally only one grass, dwarf peren­nial rye­grass. There are thou­sands of va­ri­eties, but as a rule, it’s nearly al­ways used. Croke Park, Thomond Park, the Aviva, ev­ery pro­fes­sional sta­dium in the UK, they all use that and it was felt to be the best choice for Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

We set the seeds on the Fri­day of the October week­end. We spent about 25 or 30 hours a week there at the start. Be­cause of the time of year, it didn’t need as much at­ten­tion in re­la­tion to phys­i­cally do­ing work, but we did need to be on it on a daily ba­sis, mak­ing sure that everything was okay, that it was all on sched­ule and that it was con­tin­u­ing the way that we wanted it to.

While this was go­ing on, we were deal­ing with Páirc Uí Rinn too. We sat down with the county board at the end of last year and dis­cussed mak­ing a big ef­fort on pre­sent­ing Páirc Uí Rinn to a high stan­dard for the na­tional leagues and we achieved that.

At that time of year, there aren’t a whole lot of club games, so we did have that op­por­tu­nity to mind the pitch a lit­tle bit more. Once club games start, it’s in very heavy use – up un­til May 23, there were 86 matches played there. It’s an old-fash­ioned nat­u­ral pitch and there are no wa­ter­ing fa­cil­i­ties but it’s still able to pro­duce the goods.

From March on­wards, we started to pick up the pace with the Páirc Uí Chaoimh de­vel­op­ment and drive on with what’s known as the grow­ing pe­riod, in which you’re pre­par­ing a pitch for its first use.

“In the old Páirc Uí Chaoimh, there was just the one cov­ered stand but ob­vi­ously there’s a dif­fer­ent set-up in the new sta­dium. The old un­cov­ered stand, which is now re­ferred to as the North Stand, has a roof and this was some­thing which had to be taken into con­sid­er­a­tion go­ing all the way back to the ini­tial dis­cus­sions with the county board at the be­gin­ning of the process.

“We’re lucky that the North Stand roof doesn’t have an im­pact un­til late in the evening for a short pe­riod of the time. The roof on the South Stand is ob­vi­ously con­sid­er­ably big­ger than it used to be and that will have an im­pact dur­ing the win­ter months. The use of the grow-light­ing rigs will be needed to com­bat that in the win­ter.

“The train­ing pitch uses a 4G sys­tem and we didn’t in­stall that, that was part of the Sisk build­ing con­tract and a Cork com­pany by the name of Kelly Broth­ers in­stalled that and they did a fan­tas­tic job.

“It’s a top-of-the-line 4G GAA pitch, meet­ing the spec­i­fi­ca­tions laid out by the GAA, which are of a very high stan­dard.”

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