Roscommon determined to host Dubs at Hyde Park
County officials confident pitch will be ready to host eagerly-awaited high-profile clash
A ground official working on the pitch at Dr Hyde park before the Roscommon versus Mayo clash last Sunday. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Roscommon are trying everything possible to ensure Dr Hyde Park will be playable for their Division One showdown against All-Ireland champions Dublin. If there was some sort of rain dance in reverse they’d be likely to try that too.
What they’re not trying, not yet anyway, is to find an alternative venue. Despite concern over the state of the pitch, inevitably made worse by the hosting of last Sunday’s game with Mayo, the Roscommon County Board is understandably reluctant to surrender home advantage this Sunday for what is the last round of the Allianz Football League.
A neutral venue, however, will be the only option if the condition of Dr Hyde Park worsens before Sunday. Roscommon’s alternative venue at Kiltoom has a current capacity of just 2,902, and that, according to county press officer Hugh Lynn, is clearly not an option for a game against Dublin.
“Of course we’ll be monitoring the pitch at Hyde Park all week,” says Lynn. “ It’s a continuous process, and Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, there are people in there working on the pitch.
“What happened last Sunday was we got a lot of heavy showers, right up until before the game. If we’d had even an hour or so of sunshine before the game there wouldn’t have been a problem. And looking at the pictures of Healy Park in Omagh, on Saturday night, that was just as bad.
“Roscommon GAA are a very responsible organisation. We always plan for different venues, but at the moment . . the game in is Dr Hyde Park.
“But if it’s looking like there is going to be a problem then of course a call will have to be made. Not just by Roscommon. The CCCC, if the game is going to be moved, will need to be updated as well.
“We’re planning on doing a big job on the pitch, and hopefully that job will be done soon. But the reality is there was an awful lot of rain that fell on the west of Ireland in 2015 and 2016, and there are still villages in county Roscommon that are flooded, and the water tables are still very, very high.”
In the meantime Roscommon have surrendered home advantage for Saturday’s Connacht under-21 football final against Mayo (which has been switched to Markievicz Park in Sligo), and have also taken out a Connacht minor league game, scheduled there for this week.
Roscommon chairman Séamus Sweeney has expressed his confidence the pitch will be playable, highlighting the fact their hosting of the All-Ireland champions “has been marked on the calendar for a long time”. The problem will be finding a suitable alternative if the pitch is deemed unplayable; heavy rain is also forecast for Friday, and given the status of Sunday’s game (and the need for all concluding rounds games to be played simultaneously) then a pitch inspection may be required at least 24 hours in advance.
The county’s fourth round meeting against Down was moved to Pearse Park in Longford, once Dr Hyde Park was deemed unplayable. However, Longford are at home themselves this Sunday in Division Three. Markievicz Park in Sligo is also unavailable, leaving the likes of O’Connor Park in Tullamore or Sean MacDiarmada in Carrick-on-Shannon as the potential alternatives.
“Again, we have every confidence that the Hyde will be in much better condition for this Sunday,” says Lynn.
“That’s also why we’ve taken the decision to move the under-21 game, and the Connacht minor league game . . . If it rains on Friday, and stops after that, we won’t have a problem.
“Kiltoom, strictly speaking, is our second county ground, but under the health and safety legislation put in place by the GAA, it has a current capacity of 2,902. Now, with the greatest will in the world, there isn’t a hope what we could entertain Dublin, or any other Division One county, at the latter end of the league, in Kiltoom.
“Last Sunday we had around 12,500 people in Hyde Park. It was more like a Connacht championship game. Hyde Park can hold 25,000, and there’s no other ground in the county which can come near to that. We know if we’re playing Dublin, the current All-Ireland champions, that there’ll be more than 2,902 people will want to go. So people can draw their own conclusions from that. But as far as we’re concerned the game is going ahead at Dr Hyde Park.”
As for the suggestion, as reported by some Mayo players, that last Sunday’s game had at one stage being called off, Lynn said: “I was intrigued to hear that. I think somebody said something after the referee walked the pitch, which is what he’d normally do. As far as I’m aware anyway the game was always going on, was never called off. But the pitch was playable, and again, anyone who saw the pitch at Healy Park in Omagh would say there was a lot more water on that.”