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Croke Park stripped bare but will be ready for Dubs v Kildare

AS the diggers moved in to strip the top layer off the surface of Croke Park yesterday, the GAA moved to allay fears that the venue would not be ready for the mouth-watering Dublin v Kildare Leinster football semi-final in just under three weeks' time.

The surface is being stripped again to prepare for the arrival of the stage for the Take That concerts at the stadium on June 18/19.

The second of those concerts takes place on the Sunday night of that weekend, giving Croke Park ground staff less than a week to get the pitch ready for the Leinster semi-final double bill on the following Sunday.

But the task of replacing the pitch after Take That have moved on will be nowhere near as onerous as it was two years ago in the wake of the U2 concerts, stadium director Peter McKenna has insisted.

GAA president Christy Cooney stressed yesterday that the work being done to the pitch in the week building up to the Dublin v Kildare game would have been undertaken at the end of the year anyway.

"We're taking off the top layer of the pitch in preparation for the concerts.

"Once the concerts are over the pitch will be relayed," said Cooney yesterday.

The enormity of the task after the U2 concerts in 2009 caused massive headaches for Croke Park staff and led to problems with local residents upset over the levels of heavy traffic in the area.

Only the intervention of Cooney and director general Paraic Duffy eased the scale of the protest that residents were making, allowing the U2 stage to be transported on and the pitch to be relaid in time for All-Ireland quarter-finals.

"The stage is coming halfway out the pitch and instead of doing the half job we are doing the full job," said Cooney.

"We had to do it for the U2 concert but that was a massive job -- we are just taking off the top layer here. We would have been doing it anyway at the end of the year. It is a normal process to relay the pitch."

The estimated cost of relaying the surface in time for the Leinster semi-finals is €200,000.

"The next game is the 26th. No issue. We will be ready for that," said Cooney.

Irish Independent