Stephen Forrest, owner, Turftech
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.”