The surface was covered for two weeks to accommodate the five Garth Brooks concerts over two weekends in September.
Earlier this year turf from the 67-acre farm in Naul, which was bought by the GAA in 2018 for harvesting of pitch-ready turf, was transported the short distance to Croke Park to cover three-quarters of the surface after Ed Sheeran played the venue ‘in the round’. But this time it has undergone a complete overhaul, the first in quite a few years.
It had been scheduled but less usage during Covid allowed Croke Park to “squeeze another bit of time out of it, ” according to stadium director Peter McKenna.
“The pitch wasn’t being used as much so it was going to maintain its playability, but with two weeks covered during Garth Brooks, that was it, it was gone. So this gave us an opportunity to replace it in its entirety and it all comes from the Naul.”
Remedial work around the perimeter, drainage work and the replacement of the red carpet has also taken place in the last week and the expectation is that it will be ready for Cumann na mBunscol games at the end of the month.
In the past the GAA shipped in turf from a farm in Lancashire but there were logistical challenges around that, especially with the threat of adverse weather and now an import tax on agricultural products between the islands, due to the consequence of Brexit.
“There was always risk in the Irish Sea. It can be stormy enough, even in May, and it wouldn’t take much to stop a cargo ship that this would have been on.
“We were harvesting it in an area which in itself can have variable weather. A few years ago there was a fair springtime drought so the grass wasn’t as resilient,” said McKenna.
“At least when it’s up the road it is in exactly the same condition as Croke Park, it’s seamless. You wouldn’t notice it when you lay turf down with existing turf, same colour, same root depth because they are so close together.
"There is sustainability too with much of the old turf going back out to the Naul to be used again for another resurfacing in two to three years’ time.
“The perished grass and upper roots have all been stripped off and that has now gone back to the farm to form the base for the next pitch,” said McKenna.
“There are still loads of nutrients in it so rather than it being put into landfill we have recycled it so it will form the base again.”