WITH Cork taking on Waterford in the opening game of the Allianz HL on Sunday, it will mean a first game at Páirc Uí Chaoimh in four and a half months.
There will have been 137 days since the Munster U20 hurling final but the extra rest time for the pitch isn’t necessarily the bonus one might think. However, one can be sure that Turfttech, will have things in top shape.
According to Stephen Forrest, owner of the business which has looked after the pitches at Páirc Uí Chaoimh and Páirc Uí Rinn since 2011, the time of year is key in terms of quality of recovery.
“That’s always a benefit,” he says, “but what people may or may not realise is that it can be more or less of a benefit, depending on the time of year.
“To take Páirc Uí Chaoimh as an example, the stadium structure gives a huge shadowing effect on the pitch during January and February, so very little recovery would be occurring at the time, even with no play.
“You’re glad of the break, but sometimes a two-week break in May or June would be far more beneficial than a two-month break in the wintertime.”
In high summer, Turftech will have five people working. Like so many businesses, the last 14 months has been a time of uncertainty but Forrest is pleased that there is now clarity with the fixture-list.
“The biggest impact was the unknown,” he says.
“Obviously, the whole pandemic element was new to everybody, so we all had to get our heads around that and get used to the new way of doing things.
“Then, when we all got used to that, the next thing that we needed to look at was being allowed to travel to places like the Páirc on a daily basis.
“We had to negotiate terms there and then it was really a case of figuring out how to keep things ticking over without going overboard with the maintenance. We had no idea when games were going to commence or what way the competitions were going to be structured.
“When we got a fixed schedule, it was back to normal really. We got through last year’s championships and then we were back into the second lockdown, so again there was uncertainty as to when we’d get games.
“This year, it felt like we had no clue what was going to happen and all of a sudden it was written in stone, it all happened very quickly, which was great.”
The switch from famine to feast last year didn’t cause too many problems.
“To be fair, it didn’t really,” Forrest says.
“We had five or six weeks’ notice that games would be coming back and we were keeping the pitches at a certain level, so that when we did the go-ahead, we’d be able to bring them up to championship standard again very quickly.
"It’s not the case that you get the pitch into the best condition you can and it sits like that until the games are over! It involves constant work.”
But that’s something that Forrest doesn’t mind when the relaid surface at Páirc Uí Chaoimh is so good.
“Certainly what we have in Páirc Uí Chaoimh now is a pitch, constructed by SIS Pitches, that is world-class, really,” he says.
“It’s a dream job to be having to manage a pitch of that quality. It’s completely fit for purpose and it’s up to scratch to the stadium and it’s a joy, really.
“The stand-out thing for a hybrid pitch like that is it’s consistency and it performs consistently, across the board.
“The very first game on it was the Cork-Tipperary hurling league match at the start of 2020 and the lads served up a fairly serious game of hurling on a rough night and the ball just flew, lads were picking off the ground first time and there was a consistent performance from the start of the game to the end.
“Come the championship, the pitch performed exactly the same and that was great to see.”