A SWORDS schoolboy team has had a nightmare start to the season and it has nothing to do with onfield performances.
Swords Rovers' U12 side were due to play their first match of the season on Saturday, September 8, but the referee called it off because of the condition of the pitch at Balheary Park. The club, which pays €800 for use of the pitches every year, were left in the nightmare situation of having the game postponed after their opponents, St Brendan's from Coolock had already made the journey. The council subsequently cut the pitch on Tuesday evening after the club had vented their frustration over the matter. Team manager Derek Meates criticised the local authority for its failure to cut the grass, claiming they had spent the week prior to the match seeking to have the job carried out. 'We even tried to have the game called off on the Friday but the referee couldn't make it down,' he told the Fingal Independent. 'It was embarrassing, particularly as the other team had travelled over.' He said it appeared that the nearby GAA pitches had been cut but their pitches, adjacent to the skate park, had not. 'Without making it a GAA versus soccer issue, it seems a bit strange that they are in perfect condition and ours aren't. It's a long-running issue.' Mr Meates said the team had played a friendly on the pitch earlier in the week and the pitch was already in a terrible condition. 'When the referee saw the pitch on the Saturday morning he said there was no way he was going to play the game. He said it was not a pitch but a field.' The council claimed that the pitches had been cut on August 29th but this was rejected by the club. The soccer pitches close to the main road and the GAA pitch were cut but not those beside the skate park where the U12s play. In response, Fingal County Council said that the area in question was an open space, not formally marked out or designated as a pitch. 'In an effort to accommodate as many clubs as possible and to encourage sports participation as much as possible, where demand way exceeds supply of pitches, such as at Balheary, we have an informal agreement with the clubs to use these unmarked open spaces for pitches.' 'Pitches are regularly maintained every eight to nine days and have a separate schedule from ordinary grass cutting which would not be carried out as regularly. In this particular instance the staff member who was maintaining the pitches at Balheary was new to that area and was not familiar with the usage of open space, therefore it was not cut at the same time as the pitches. This has now been rectified and should not occur again.
'Fingal County Council maintains and manages 158 pitches across the county, which are used by 69 clubs of all codes with each club fielding multiples of teams, in some cases up to 40 teams. 'Pitches are in demand for weekends primarily and within these demands and constraints we deliver sporting facilities across the county all year round.'
Cllr Darragh Butler (FF), who visited the pitches, said that although it was terrible that the match had to be cancelled, the issue had been raised and responded to very quickly by the local authority.