Huge body of work involved in resurfacing Hastings Insurance MacHale Park

A general view of Hastings Insurance MacHale Park, Castlebar, showing the newly resurfaced resplendent pitch ahead of today’s Connacht GAA SFC Quarter Final between Mayo and Galway. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Over the past 16 years, Hastings Insurance MacHale Park in Castlebar, Mayo, has seen significant investment.

This investment saw the construction of a new 10,000-seat grandstand, the installation of floodlighting and the construction of a television tower.

The stand also includes changing rooms, medical rooms, referee rooms, toilets, gymnasium, meeting rooms, kitchen and dining rooms, offices, press facilities and stores. Toilets and electronic turnstiles have also been installed.

About 20 years ago Hastings Insurance MacHale Park underwent a major main drainage program with the installation of a perimeter drain and a series of lateral drains (across the pitch) at approximately 10m centres. Collection tanks were installed, with water being pumped into Castlebar town’s storm drain system.

Following the completion of these drainage works, the ground has received 100 to 200 tonnes of sports sand every year since. Cumulatively, this drainage and sanding brought a major improvement to the terrain.

Nevertheless, Hastings Insurance MacHale Park’s playing surface was in poor condition, being very uneven, particularly along the centre, and still poorly drained in the south-east quadrant of the pitch. The playing area had to be lengthened and ideally widened as well.

In mid-2020, the Mayo GAA (Coiste Bainistí) Executive sought approval from Mayo GAA County Council to begin resurfacing work at Hastings Insurance MacHale Park. The first step was to carry out a topographical survey of the lawn, an examination of the soil profiles on the entire lawn and the existing drainage network, as well as the feasibility of its extension and widening.

It became clear that it was possible to lengthen the playing area as there was ample space behind each goal and particularly at the end of Davitt House. The widening, however, would require the removal of at least four rows of seats on the MacHale Road side as well as the installation of steps in front of each aisle and down to the pitch. This would create a significant health and safety risk and actually minimize the impact of enlargement. The stadium’s capacity would also be reduced from the current 28,000 seats. For these reasons, this option has been dropped.

Review

Based on a review of the test holes dug, the soil profile of the course was very good, with no evidence of an impermeable pan, and was conducive to relatively rapid water drainage. There was clear evidence of heavy sanding over the past 15-20 years. The side drains, over which the grass burned in the summer and the positioning of the drains became clearly visible, were largely filled at the surface with fine sand, with very little clay and therefore minimal water holding capacity .

This initial review indicated that there was no need to remove the existing playing surface and, in fact, that Mayo GAA should capitalize on previous investments in sandblasting and perimeter drainage. The topographical survey provided information on the extent of leveling required.

From the above, specifications were drawn up and tenders issued, with Killeen Sport Grounds being appointed as the contractor in February 2021 to complete the works.

Preparatory work began in mid-August 2021 with the spreading of grass and the removal of goal posts and ball nets. Excavation work on the land began on August 21, grass seeds sown and the land fertilized on September 20.

Initial work consisted of cultivating the existing terrain followed by surface leveling using laser guided technology. This was followed by the application of 1,000 tonnes of sports field sand and incorporation into the top 250 millimeters of soil. Side drains (450mm deep, 150mm wide) were installed at six meter centres, with an 80mm earth drain pipe to a depth of 450mm in each drain, filled with fine gravel to the surface and covered with a clay-sandy layer. to mix together. Each pipe was connected to the Perimeter Drain along the McHale Road side of the land. Slotted drains (depth 250 mm, width 60 mm) were installed one meter apart along the length of the land and intersecting the side drains at right angles. The slot drains were also filled with fine gravel and covered with a clay-sand mixture.

Lateral drains were dug, pipes were inserted, and then they were filled using a one-pass machine. To aid drainage, the pitch was sloped 500mm from the stand to the McHale Road side. A total of 375 cubic meters of fine gravel was used, with 11.8 km of drains installed.

Favorable

Favorable fall weather encouraged rapid grass seed germination and mild winter weather encouraged grass tillering.

The land received two top dressings of fertilizer in the fall of 2021. Since mid-January, the land has received three more fertilizer applications.

A series of physical measurements (surface adhesion, volumetric soil water content, surface penetration, surface hardness, grass color, root length and root mass) were carried out in the field by Stuart Wilson, Principal Gardener at Croke Park in February, March and April this year, and all have confirmed that the ground has developed as planned and is now ready for matches. Currently, the land is mowed every two days, the grass clippings being removed.

Playing areas have been lengthened by a total of 6.3 meters – 4.8 meters at the Davitt House end and 1.5 meters at the Bacon Factory end. The playing area will now measure 140 meters x 82.5 meters excluding the side and end lines.

The resurfacing, works and installation of new goal posts and ball nets were funded with money raised through the Laochra Mhaigh Eo – Heroes’ Wall project.

Due to the high sand content (now estimated at ~60%), a field irrigation system (phase two) is required. The existing pipe network was installed as part of the resurfacing work. Further work is needed, especially with regard to the water supply.

Currently, work is underway on sourcing and pricing appropriate mowing equipment (Phase Three). The money is in place for these two phases of the Laochra Mhaigh Eo – Heroes’ Wall project and funding from Sports Capital.

Resplendent

With a resplendent new playing surface, Hastings Insurance MacHale Park is fully set to host Mayo and Galway in the Connacht GAA Senior Football Championship this afternoon.

The counties meet for a 10th consecutive year in the Championship. Eight of the previous nine were in the Connacht Championship and one (2019) in qualifying. Mayo won the last three after Galway won the previous three (2016-18). Mayo has won the previous four games, in 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2015.

This will be the 92nd league game between the counties, with the following aggregate results: Mayo 44 wins; Galway 41 wins; draw six. It is their 25th meeting at Castlebar, with Galway having won 13 times against de Mayo’s 11 of the previous 24.

Mayo manager James Horan led Mayo to six wins in their six league games against Galway. The wins came in 2011, 2013, 2014, 2019, 2020 and 2021. As a player, he lined up four times against Galway, winning three and losing one.

Other than last year when Mayo won by six points, their recent clashes with Galway have been very close. In the previous five games, only one score separated them each time.

Now in his third season as Galway manager, Padraic Joyce is yet to win a championship against his arch-rivals, having lost in 2020 and 2021.

*Thanks to Michael Diskin, Deputy Treasurer of Mayo GAA, for all the information regarding Hastings Insurance MacHale Park pitch resurfacing facts and figures

Maria D. Ervin