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Pitch perfect for the big match

THE grass has been mown every day, the flags have been hung and all that's missing is about 40,000 fans.

Croke Park has pulled out all the stops to ensure Dublin's first hurling semi-final in 63 years will be one to remember.

Groundskeepers have been working around the clock to make sure the pitch is in immaculate condition.

Stadium director Peter McKenna said: "We've been cutting it everyday to get the double stripe just right -- players have been training all year to get to this point -- it's important everything is perfect."

Dublin have waited on the sidelines since 1948 but the hurlers are expected to receive an unprecedented turn out of support in tomorrow's semi-final against All-Ireland champs Tipperary.

Helping make the occasion a full-blown sporting extravaganza, Croker has a range of activities for the crowd's enjoyment.

"There will be a real carnival atmosphere on the day -- apart from our fun zone, we'll be going into the stands so supporters can give their own commentary on the match at half time," Mr McKenna said. "Fans can also get their picture taken with the Liam MacCarthy cup, which is a fantastic memento."

Taking on the role of MC for the event -- alongside former Dublin manager Humphrey Kellegher and ex-Tipperary player Declan Fanning -- will be funnyman Hector O hEochagain.

The TV and radio presenter, who will rove the stadium for the afternoon, said: "Dublin hurling is in its best place and they're hungry for success -- no one could've guessed they'd get this far, it's very exciting."