Croke Park find it’s Not All Yellow with Campey’s Unirake and TB220 Brush

Croke Park had a usual bumper year of activity, but once the likes of Coldplay and U2 existed stage left, Campey’s UniRake and TB220 Brush were ready to clean up what music had left behind.

To really get behind what Croke Park pitch manager, Stuart Wilson, has to deal with it’s important to know his schedule. The intense schedule has times when there will be over 70 matches including the League series from the end of January to mid-April and then the Championship series beginning at the start of June and concluding in September. There are also 15 days per year for schools, clubs and GAA members and concerts in the middle of the season to contend with too.
Following Coldplay, Stuart has one week to ready the pitch for a day’s worth of activity before the pitch goes under again for U2. Seven days after Bono and co leave, Croke Park is set to host five matches over 29th- 30th July and a repeat of that across 5th and 6th August.

The important issue for Stuart is recovery in between concerts and fixtures, and with seven days clearly not long enough to re-lay a pitch it’s the Campey UniRake he turns to. “During that concert period, you’re looking to rely on machines because they can seriously help you out. Two of those being the brush and the UniRake,” Stuart explained. “It’s all about recovery from concerts and having the pitch in the best condition possible for the games the weekend after the concert.

“Once the flooring is lifted and we can see grass we start working. After the Coldplay concert, we used the Unirake because the pitch needed thinning out slightly because it was very dense going into the concert, but it also helps remove any yellowing senescing which helps to stop the build-up of organic matter.
“We raked against the pattern to make everything stand back up so as much light gets to it as possible so it can recover as quickly as possible.
“The TB220 was very useful after the second concert as this time it was about protecting the plant as much as possible but there is a real need to get things standing up again and the TB220 did just that.”

Stuart has come to rely on both machines to navigate through a difficult couple of weeks, but has had great success in doing so stating ‘the pitch has never been so good after concerts’. But, if Croke Park is Stuart’s metaphorical main band, he also has a side-project that’s very close to his heart in the Pitch Maintenance Workgroup. Along with Padharic Greene, groundsman at the GAA National Games Centre and Colm Daly, groundsman at Croke Park, Stuart is helping to improve the education of Irish groundsmen throughout all levels.

This pyramid starts with elite venues and cycles down to county and centres of excellence, senior and junior club’s and finally those that are an unacceptable standard. Recently this involved renovating four pitches at Abbottstown National Game Development Centre, with the KORO FIELD TOPMAKER® being used.
As a part of the Pitch Maintenance Workgroup the GAA Pitch Award was launched with Campey as one of the principle sponsors. Semple Stadium in County Tipperary won the inaugural award in July 2017, with St Conleth’s Park, Newbridge in County Kildare announced as the runner-up.

Renovation is only one part of the eight-point plan that ultimately aims to raise standards across Ireland through sharing knowledge and education.