Clontarf reaping rewards from new artificial pitch
Published 06/05/2016 | 02:30
For the past few seasons, Clontarf have generally had a potent backline but this year they have flourished even more on the club's new 4G surface at Castle Avenue.
Under Andy Wood, 'Tarf's expansive game-plan has caused most teams problems , and they finished eight points clear at the top of the table.
Sunday's final against Cork Con at the Aviva Stadium will pit two of the league's most free-flowing sides against each other, with 'Tarf eager to avenge last year's final heartbreak.
There has been an increase in teams using artificial playing surfaces in the Ulster Bank League and that has unquestionably improved the standards right across the board.
"It's been a massive asset to us training wise," 'Tarf skipper Ben Reilly said. "Clontarf have got 15 to 20 teams playing and last year they would have all been training on that same pitch at the back.
"By Christmas time, it's either a sand pit or a mud bath, whereas this year we can get that perfect quality training in pretty much every session.
"Playing-wise, we started off not being sure whether we'd play on that or the grass. You might pick and choose depending on who you're playing but we've got so good at playing on it. . . our line-speed, little things like that.
"We're just used to it now. In the semi-final, we played UCD on it. At the start of the year, you probably would have said that UCD were the type of side that you'd play on the grass to slow them down whereas it's actually playing to our strengths now to speed it up.
"Whether I'd prefer us to keep that advantage or not, I don't know but it's definitely the way most clubs are moving."
Clontarf have also benefited from several of their players being in and around the Leinster set-up, and Reilly said that was driving the squad's standards.
"We've had three or four guys with us in the last few years that have worked their way into Leinster and back. We've had the likes of Royce Burke-Flynn, Ian Hirst, Tony Ryan, Matt D'Arcy.
"In any match-day squad, we'll have at least five or six lads who are semi-pro or who are in the set-up. Then we have the balance of guys who have been around for a long time and who won an AIL a couple of years ago. You have that nice blend of experience and some great young talent coming through."