No tightening of Omagh pitch for Tyrone and Dublin game
Tyrone manager Harte placed responsibility of narrowing pitch on Sky Sports, something broadcaster denied
Tyrone’s Padraig Hampsey and Michael Darragh Macauley of Dublin in last year’s Championship quarter-final, phase 2, at Healy Park, Omagh. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
The controversy that surrounded last year’s All-Ireland quarter-finals group game between Tyrone and Dublin over the tightening of the pitch will not be an issue this time, according to the chairman of Omagh St Enda’s club.
Omagh are the host club at the Healy Park facility, and after last year’s clash when the pitch was made significantly narrower there are no plans in place for a repeat, says St Enda’s chairman Conor Salley.
Photographic evidence was shared in the week leading up to last year’s game of substantial work carried out on the pitch. It had a significant impact on the game itself as Dublin got used to the dimensions.
Any Gaelic pitch can be anywhere between 80m and 90m wide, but Dublin goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton kicked four kickouts out of play over the sideline.
Quite often the pitches are lined with different reasons in mind
“This week the pitch is being sanded and verti-drained, which will remove the lines from it. It will have to be lined then this weekend for the Tyrone and Mayo Ladies Championship qualifier. So the lines will remain on it then,” said Salley.
Already this year the pitch has been narrower than usual due to maintenance issues.
“We can line it between 80m and 90m wide. Quite often, for example during the National League, which the media didn’t notice, the pitch was actually in about a metre to a metre and a half this year because of difficulties we had with the playing surface just in front of the tunnel,” said Salley.
“At the start of the year it had been narrower. From the start of the year the pitch would have been a metre or a metre and a half in from the near side for health and safety reasons. We now have that returfed and moved back out again.
“Quite often the pitches are lined with different reasons in mind. I know last year for the Monaghan game the BBC had requested that the pitch be taken in to facilitate the cameras on the far side.
“Sky had talked about it, about the requirements to possibly move the pitch in, but when it was looked at it wasn’t required.”
That ended up as a slightly amusing series of claims and counter-claims. Tyrone manager Mickey Harte placing the responsibility of narrowing the pitch at the door of Sky Sports and the requirements of its technology, something the broadcaster denied.
While the game could be televised the Omagh club have received no official notice as yet. If both teams win their two opening games in the Super 8s series – Dublin hosting Cork this weekend while Tyrone travel to play Roscommon – it could render that encounter a dead-rubber anyway.
Last year was the biggest game the club had ever hosted, and they were struck by the preparation by Sky.
“There’s not much difference between covering it on TV. Just the last time there was a lot more interaction with Sky and a lot more men and women on the ground in terms of the staff they bring with them, the cameras, statisticians, their own studio. They seem to bring greater numbers and more cameras, more effort put in by Sky,” added Salley.
“We have already done a walk through, the club secretary Ciaran McDaid and myself. We met for an hour yesterday, and compiled a list of thoughts for the game. Simply because it’s likely to be another sellout. So you have to absolutely take a look at everything from health and safety, to catering, media, hospitality to pitches, and make sure everything is in tip-top shape.”