Monday 23 October 2017

Cooney vows Croker pitch will be perfect for double-header

A general view as workers relay
the pitch at Croke Park yesterday
after last weekend's Take That
A general view as workers relay the pitch at Croke Park yesterday after last weekend's Take That concert
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

GAA president Christy Cooney yesterday promised that the Croke Park pitch will be in "pristine" condition for Sunday's Leinster senior football championship semi-finals after a €200,000 overhaul.

Cooney was speaking at the launch of the association's weekly 'Round the Square' online TV show as ground staff were laying down the new pitch in strips.

Last weekend's 'Take That' concerts appeared to provide the motivation for the overhaul, but Cooney, who revealed that spectators won't see the joins in this most expensive 'carpet' refit, said it would have taken place anyway.

"We're only doing the top surface and we have to do it about every two years," he said. "It suited us to take it up before the concert and get it redone rather than leaving it until the end of the year, so it's fine. It's not an issue.

"It's important that we have the pitch in tip-top condition and that's why we relay it fairly often.

"We won't do it again for another two seasons or so. It depends on what concerts we have next year -- if we have concerts."

Cooney claimed that the money made from concerts is vital to the GAA, which is exploring other ways of utilising the facilities at Croke Park to generate income. He hopes to make an announcement in August, but said it won't relate to sports events, such as American Football, or concerts.

The president defended the rise in All-Ireland final ticket prices and suggested that the recent €5 decrease in championship admission prices would benefit GAA supporters.

"It's a question of balancing the books. While we could have a shortfall of anything from £1m to €1.6m, we still believe we needed to give something back. It's not just about a single game," he said.

The Central Council will assess the National Leagues structure in the autumn, and it's possible suggestions may be put forward to alter the league/championship structure.

However the president said there are no easy answers to the national fixture scheduling problems or to the uneven spread of matches on varying weekends.

Asked about recent comments by Kerry star Colm Cooper, who said he would prefer shorter gaps between games and more playing time, Cooney replied: "It's easy to say that but we have a contract situation with televisions, we have to spread our matches over a period of time.

"We'd be conscious of the demands of clubs as well in counties. It's a question of finding a happy medium.

"We're continually looking at how we can tighten the championship and the league programmes, but at all stages we have to be conscious of our club scene as well.

"We just can't leave our clubs doing nothing until September or October. It's just not practical. We have thousands and thousands of players that we have to cater for on an ongoing basis.

"Some people just look at the inter-county scene in isolation and we can't do that. We're very conscious that we have to serve all our players, not just inter-county players."

Irish Independent

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