The GAA launched the new GAA standards of synthetic pitches at the GAA National Games Development Centre in Abbotstown. Pictured at the launch is Technical Director of the European Synthetic Turf Council Alastair Cox.
The GAA launched the new GAA standards of synthetic pitches at the GAA National Games Development Centre in Abbotstown. Pictured at the launch is Technical Director of the European Synthetic Turf Council Alastair Cox.

New edition of GAA synthetic pitch standards launched

The GAA’s National Pitch Committee launched its new comprehensive guide on the construction and maintenance of synthetic turf pitches for Gaelic Games and also the new Turf Register at the National Games Development Centre (NGDC) in Abbotstown on Thursday.

Experts in the building and maintenance of synthetic pitches spoke at the event which was attended by GAA Ard Stiúrthóir Tom Ryan.

Kieran McGann from the National Pitch Maintenance Workgroup was delighted with the interaction between club members and the speakers which included Professor Alastair Cox, an internationally recognised authority on the maintenance and upkeep of synthetic turf pitches.

"I just think the launch and the day went exceptionally well, we had a great crowd, a great turnout, and it was most informative," McGann says.

"We had the best in the business from a worldwide basis in Professor Alastair Cox and we had a number of other speakers. There was great satisfaction with the day because it was so informative.

"There was a lot of interaction and questions, good answers were provided."

In his address Ard Stiúrthóir Tom Ryan acknowledged the need for clubs to ensure players were adequately catered for.

"What we are trying to achieve is to have the maximum number of children and people playing," Ryan stated. "That means we have to provide unprecedented access to pitches around the country."

Professor Cox is a widely recognised industry global technical expert and has a track record of developing the testing and standards for improving the performance and quality of sport surfaces.

"I think the new standards will allow the GAA to ensure the quality of the fields are as high as possible," Professor Cox stated. "It reflects current good practice, state of the art technology in terms of evaluating the products, it also incorporates the increasing environmental awareness that people need to have to ensure these fields are not adversely impacting on the neighbouring environment."

Along with the new guide, the GAA’s new Turf Register will go live from October 1st. For a synthetic pitch to appear on the Register it must be tested and shown to satisfy the requirements of the GAA Performance and construction standards for synthetic turf fields and training areas, applicable at the time the field was built.

An initial field test should be undertaken following construction of a new field, ideally before it is brought into use. Thereafter, the field should be retested every three years throughout its life to verify it is still providing acceptable levels of performance and adequate protection to players.

Clubs with existing Synthetic Pitches will have 12 months to pass the field test so their pitch can appear on the register. In saying that, clubs should be aware of the importance of maintaining their synthetic surfaces.

Stuart Wilson, Pitch manager of Croke Park Stadium, the NGDC, and Croke Park Turf Farm, believes the Register will be of great benefit to GAA clubs and their members.

“The usage of synthetic pitches is absolutely crucial to clubs because it takes away the pressure from natural pitches,” Wilson explained.

“The new standards for synthetic pitches, the correct maintenance of them, and having them tested every three years is going to be a big positive because it will improve the quality of synthetic pitches.” Concluded Wilson.

Derry Enright, Venue Manager of the GAA's National Games Development Centre, revealed that “the one synthetic pitch at the GAA's National Games Development Centre in Abbotstown is a brilliant example of how useful they are.

We record usage hours on every single pitch and on an annual basis that synthetic pitch has more usage than the four natural pitches do because it can take the pressure away in the winter.”

Experience has shown that the quality of even the best quality synthetic turf fields can deteriorate and result in a poorly performing or even unsafe playing environment that exposes athletes to unacceptable risks.

Also speaking at the launch Sinéad Leavy, the GAA's Risk and Insurance Manager, provided helpful advice for those in attendance about the register.