The PFAI have introduced a new ranking system for the Airtricity League pitches.
By Ryan Bailey
The UCD Bowl is amongst the best pitches in the country, according to the Professional Footballer’s Association of Ireland’s new monthly pitch rating report. The Belfield surface lies in ninth position in last month’s table, based on the opening games of the new campaign and achieved a rating of 3/5.
After each game, the away side rate the pitch out of five on different categories such as run of the ball, general presentation and whether it’s watered or not. It only applies for league games and at the end of each month an overall average score will be given to each pitch and the league table will be published on the PFAI website, www.pfai.ie. The pitch which finishes top of the league at the end of the season will be presented with an award at the PFAI Annual Awards Banquet.
The UCD Bowl is known for its excellent pitch with the Students’ style of play needing a good, fast surface but last month’s rating was slightly affected by the fact rugby was still being played on it before the first home game against Cork.
Speaking about the new system, PFAI Player executive Ollie Cahill claimed it’s now more important than ever that the surfaces used in the league are up to standard considering the increasing involvement of our clubs in Europe; “We have received numerous complaints from players about the condition of some of the pitches they have played on this year so we decided to do something about it and put together this league table. Who better to judge the pitches than the players who are playing on the surfaces week in, week out? It will obviously highlight both the good and bad, and we will inform the FAI of the results.
“We know about the difficulties grounds men face being under resourced but with over 30 Premier Division games live on TV this season, it's imperative that the pitches are of a standard where players can showcase all that is good about this league."
Waterford United’s RSC currently leads the table with a rating of 4.5 out of 5, closely followed by Tallaght Stadium but as the summer nears, the UCD Bowl surface should be back to its best and as a result rise the rankings.
UCD AFC Captain, Mick Leahy, is in no doubt that the standard of the pitch UCD play on has a direct bearing on the outcome of the game, form a Students’ point of view. “This season hasn’t been as bad as last year; last year’s weather ruined our pitch. It was bobbly and there was plenty of sand. To be fair it improves quickly but it really needs more water on the pitch just before the game. When the pitch is very dry it doesnt suit our passing style, the wetter the pitch is, the better for us. The games where it was either raining, or the pitch was naturally wet resulted in some of our best performances last year. The Villarreal game was a perfect example of this where it lashed rain beforehand.”
With Rugby and Soccer being played on the Bowl surface throughout March and for much of April it is a testament to the ground staff at the Bowl that the pitch returns to such high quality so quickly, Mick continues, “In the middle of the summer it is at its peak, there is no better pitch to play on”, quickly becoming the Charlie Dimmock of UCD AFC it is clear Mick has put some thought into that green space between the white lines. Something all players in the league will be asked to do on a regular basis as the season continues.