Sport Soccer

Saturday 21 April 2018

'I'd rather play on a concrete car park' - UCD boss fumes over Stradbrook pitch

A section of the pitch at Stradbrook on Saturday
A section of the pitch at Stradbrook on Saturday

Jamie Moore

The poor quality of some pitches in the League of Ireland is back in the spotlight after UCD manager Collie O'Neill lambasted the surface his team had to play on against Cabinteely on Saturday.

"That pitch was a disgrace. It was completely unplayable. I'd rather play on a concrete car park," said O'Neill about the pitch in Stradbook after their 0-0 draw.

The league's newest club usually play their home games on a Friday night but the match against UCD was moved back 24 hours because Blackrock RFC, who own the ground, were playing UCC in a rugby match at 2.30pm on Saturday.

As the players and staff arrived to the ground, the pitch was still being re-marked and the goalposts changed, while some of the rugby players were still in the dressing rooms.

It's very uncommon, possibly unheard of, for a competitive League of Ireland game to take place on the same pitch as a rugby match just hours later.

It was a terrible match, which was hardly a surprise given the awful state of the pitch, which has been criticised numerous times since the start of the season.

With other grounds - including Dalymount Park, Ballybofey, and St Coleman's Park in Cobh - also coming in for criticism this season, it opens the question about what standards clubs are held to in terms of the quality of their playing surface.

When contacted on foot of O'Neill's comments, the FAI declined to comment on the state of the Stradbrook pitch.

"It's an absolute shambles. I can't fault my players' effort but it's embarrassing to send a team out to play on that," added the UCD boss.

Cabinteely manager Eddie Gormley was less than impressed with O'Neill's comments.

"The pitch is the same for both sets of players," he said. "If you want to make excuses, you can make excuses. If they (UCD) were good enough to beat us, they would have.

"I know it's not Wembley but you don't see us trying to hoof the ball from one end to the other. We tried to play. A good workman doesn't blame his tools.

"I played at the top level for years and have played on worse than that. I didn't moan and groan. You can't go into a sulk because the pitch is not up to Wembley standard."

UCD tried to have the match moved to a different ground when they were informed last week about the change of date and that there would be a rugby game on the pitch the same afternoon. However, their pleas fell on deaf ears and the game went ahead as planned.

Even at that, O'Neill believes that playing a rugby match there on the same day made little difference to the quality of the lunar-like surface.

"It doesn't matter that there was a rugby game on it a few hours beforehand. If you came back here in two weeks' time, there would still be no grass on it and it would still have holes and divots.

"I think everybody who came here to the game should ask for their money back. I shouldn't curse but it's an absolute flipping disgrace."

Shelbourne manager Kevin Doherty will be watching developments closely as they are due to visit Stradbrook and the awful pitch next Saturday.

The referee's report, which includes notes on the quality and standard of the pitch, should surely raise some questions for the FAI to answer and they will have taken note of the extremely negative reaction on social media.

Asked about UCD's next fixture, away to Waterford United at the excellent RSC, O'Neill laughed: "It will be nice to play on a pitch without pot holes."

All this when the move to a 'summer' season' was meant to make for better playing surfaces, according to those who promoted the switch.

Irish Independent

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