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Persistent rain leaves pitches unplayable nationwide

Persistent and heavy rain in recent months has rendered many sports grounds and playing pitches around the country unplayable.

In Co Louth, a decision was taken this week to postpone all games until next week because conditions are so bad.

Cooley Kickhams is one club affected by the decision; however, the club has already been cancelling its own training sessions and matches at its grounds in Carlingford.

Water on the surface on a section of a Cooley Kickhams pitch that is unable to be drained

Club secretary Brian Rafferty has said he has “never seen anything like” the recent rain and subsequently soggy pitches.

“We’re six weeks behind with pitch openings. Our main pitch opened last year in the last week in February. The first time it opened this year was last Sunday and it’s closed again on Monday. The rain has just been non-stop. It’s held everything back,” he said.

Walking around three different pitches at the club, Mr Rafferty described the conditions as “dangerous”.

“You walk up here, it’s just water under your feet. It’s dangerous for a start, but there’s no enjoyment for kids, there’s no enjoyment for spectators and there’s certainly no enjoyment for players,” he said.

Despite having one sand-based pitch that is well drained, it too has now fallen victim to the inclement weather.

“We’ve been using it, and thankfully have been able to play some football and do some training, but its gutters underneath the feet now, it’s unplayable again,” he said.

Brian Rafferty and Louth County Board chairman Seán McClean inspect conditions under foot

Aoife Treanor manages pitch bookings at the club for the GAA, LGFA and camogie from nursery to seniors.

She described the situation as a “nightmare”, trying to juggle bookings with training and match cancellations.

Ms Treanor said it is particularly hard for children.

“It’s very hard for them. All they want to do is get out and play, they just want to play football, it’s very disheartening for them,” she said.

Last night, two matches for under 12s and under 17s were cancelled.

Despite this, the under 17s boys turned up in the driving rain for training on the driest corner of one of the pitches.

“There’s been many days stuck at home, you feel you should be doing something but there’s not much you can do when the pitches are closed,” said Oran McInerney.

You get used to it now, because it’s been a few weeks of just pure rain, it’s not too bad now, but the pitches are suffering,” he said.

Teammate Tiernan Hannaffy said they had been “blessed” with a new gym and walking track they could still get some training in, but the pitch sessions had been “brutal”.

The situation at Cooley Kickhams is not an isolated one.

Seán McClean, chairman of the Louth County Board said the problem with pitches is widespread and that “most pitches are closed across the county”.

Seán McClean said the conditions experienced by Cooley Kickhams are widespread across Ireland

“We’ve lost 25% of youth fixtures to date, and it’s only the start of April. We’ve lost 36% of fixtures overall including seniors. This weekend, we’ve lost round 2 of the senior fixtures, we’ll have to push them out into the middle of May,” he said.

Mr McClean said that the fixtures committee met this week and decided that pitch conditions were so bad, along with more rain forecast, that all matches were to be cancelled until next week.

“They decided to cancel all junior and senior fixtures this weekend to try to give it another week to see if we can get it dried up a little bit,” he said.

He said the knock-on effect of all this is that the season will become “very condensed”, and games will have to be played mid-week, on Saturday and Sunday mornings and perhaps using up some of the scheduled holiday time.

“Cooley Kickhams is probably one of the better pitches generally. When their pitch isn’t playable, you can generally be sure the rest of the pitches in the county isn’t in great shape either. We’re having this problem county and country wide,” Mr McClean said.

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