'Grassy Naul' bonanza for GAA with pitch export plan
First product from farm laid in Croke Park
Pitches from the GAA's farm in north county Dublin could be in use at major sports stadiums across Europe in the coming years.
It follows the successful harvesting of the first surface, which was put down in a section of Croke Park after the Westlife concerts last month.
Replacement pitches had to be imported since the Croke Park redevelopment was completed 16 years ago, but that will no longer be the case.
"It was the first time we used product from our farm and we're delighted with the result. The quality of the surface is first class and the colour and texture blended in perfectly with the rest of the pitch. It couldn't have gone better. It's a great facility to have," said Peter McKenna, GAA stadium and commercial director.
"Being able to grow it an hour up the road in the Naul makes life a lot easier for us, rather than having it in transit for up to 36 hours, which obviously carries some risk.
"It requires chilling and delays growth, whereas it's a seamless process when it comes from our own farm. The growth continues, which makes for a quicker turnaround," he said.
In addition to providing pitches for GAA county and club grounds, it's also planned to enter the export market, especially in Europe. It will alleviate fears the cost of imported pitches could rise substantially after Brexit.
"Our aim all along was to be self-sufficient for own needs in counties and clubs, but we will also be in position to enter the export market.
"Obviously, we don't know how Brexit will impact on trade with Britain, but there's always the risk of big surcharges.
"That won't apply in our dealings with Europe, where there's a large market for soccer, rugby and various other sports as well as municipal grounds," said Mr McKenna.
The Irish weather leaves the GAA well-placed to maximise pitch production by comparison with similar ventures in Europe.
"Our milder climate gives us growth for much longer periods than many parts of Europe. We will be able to get more value from our farm than in countries where there are very hard winters, which is a big advantage for us," said Mr McKenna.
Enquiries have already been received from Britain and Europe, but it will take some time to work out the full potential of the export market.
"What we know for sure is that the farm is producing top-quality surfaces. We had no doubt that it would and it was quickly confirmed when we laid it in part of Croke Park after the concerts.
"Apart from the convenience of having the farm so close to Croke Park, there's also the sustainability issue as we're no longer importing the pitches and all that goes with that," said Mr McKenna.
The GAA bought the 55-acre farm in the Naul at a cost of €700,000 in 2017.
In addition to pitch production, vegetable growing and bee-keeping are also undertaken, with the produce used in catering at Croke Park.
"There's a lot of potential out there, which we intend to use to the full," said Mr McKenna.
For Stories Like This and More
Download the Free Farming Independent App