Monday 22 January 2018

Closing the main county grounds in May a sad reality

Brendan Furlong's Hop Ball column

Brendan Furlong
Brendan Furlong

The re-development of Wexford Park has certainly not gone to plan as, not for the first time, the 'locked out' sign has become an all too prevalent feature.

When the re-development of the grounds was originally undertaken one was led to believe that the clubs of the county would be provided with a state of the art stadium.

While the terracing and seating arrangements are first class along with dressing-rooms and office space, the pitch once again is the cause of much concern having encountered problems since the initial phases of development despite a high maintenance cost.

The Wexford Park ground always held a very special place in the annals of the G.A.A. in the county and has been an integral part of many great occasions.

Creating a top-class sports pitch carries with it an immense responsibility.

But for some reason the playing surface on Wexford Park has failed to respond to the many tests carried out, and at present one can say it is carrying one of the poorest playing surfaces in the county.

One can give many examples of excellent playing surfaces throughout the county.

Suffice to say that all club playing grounds are consistently excellent, while the sod on O'Kennedy Park for last Sunday's hurling programme was what one would expect to see on the county grounds.

Everyone has a vision when it comes to creating a top-class playing pitch.

Last Friday one will recall the deluge of rain throughout the day, so heavy that pitches would have encountered difficulties is standing up to a game later that evening.

On that same evening I was covering a Division 1 Airtricity League game in Ferrycarrig Park. Despite the day's downpour, the pitch passed all tests with the playing surface remaining intact despite 90 minutes of football.

Perhaps the Wexford Park committee should have a word with Ferrycarrig Park groundsman Seánie O'Shea to find out how he achieves such an excellent surface week after week, as the well-known G.A.A. referee has a foot in both camps.

We were not to know when this development was undertaken that such difficulties with the playing surface would be encountered. But perhaps the time has now arrived for an up-to-date professional report to be presented on the problems besetting the pitch and what's needed to be carried out to bring an improvement.

But to have such a report framed and published for County Board, maybe the time has arrived for a change of personnel to the Wexford Park committee, as the current incumbents, having been entrusted with the development of the grounds, have failed and failed miserably.

The days of locking the gates are over. We have endured past lock-outs yet no improvement is seen to the playing surface.

What other organisation would close their main county grounds during the peak opening rounds of the club championship in the month of May?

For the record, first and second round Senior football games were played at the venue, but the gates were locked for two rounds of the club hurling championship.

Now to add insult to injury the Wexford v. Dublin Leinster Minor football championship quarter-final has been switched to Bellefield. The Enniscorthy venue is excellent and well capable of hosting such a game but it still sends out the wrong message for Wexford Park.

Through the years one has looked at an increased cost base for Wexford Park, but yet we have a deteriorating playing surface. The cost of trying to create a playing surface along with the cost of staging games at the county venue must now be seriously looked at.

Each person will hold their own views on Wexford Park. The changes have been immense but the one most important area of development, the playing surface, has failed.

We need to develop a green sward where the players can display their talents following months of preparations.

The new-look Wexford Park was first unveiled to an admiring public in 2001.

Now it's high time to get things in order with regards to the pitch before the 15th anniversary.

Wexford People

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