Rathmoylon groundsman Terry Pearle using his own mower to cut a particularly soggy patch on the club’s well-maintained but currently saturated pitch. Photo: Virgina Griffin.

Unplayable...'I'm 30 years doing that pitch and I have never seen it like it is now'

The incessant heavy rain that has thwarted farmers in their quest to carry out work on the land, or put animals outdoors, has also impacted greatly on those who look after sporting arenas.

One of the top quality surfaces in Meath is that belonging to Rathmolyon Hurling Club which is lovingly maintained by groundsman Terry Pearle.

He says that in the 30 years he has been looking after the Rathmolyon pitch he has never seen the conditions that now prevail. Unless there is a dry spell soon the cancellation of games could have a serious impact on the already tight fixtures programme.

"It's terrible at the minute, we had a match that was due to take place tonight (Thursday) cancelled because it was waterlogged. We were to play Kildalkey in the Billy Byrne Cup and their ground was deemed unplayable. It's just terrible," he said.

"The grass is growing so you have to mow it and keep going. I got to mow it as best I could one day this week when conditions weren't too bad. Then I went down to it the next morning and I got to the gate and you could see the water lying on the top of the ground.

"When it is wet it is just that, wet, but in the summer it's probably one of the better pitches around. It takes three days for our pitch to dry off with sun and wind, to get it back. I'm just having terrible bother trying to mow it. Our mower is set at a certain height, and there's rollers on the front of it and it just flattens the grass it doesn't cut it."

To try and get around that problem Terry has started to use his own lighter lawnmower - at least in those areas that are too soft for the club mower to go in and work there.

"I'm 30 years doing that pitch and I have never seen it like it is now. I've seen it wet, of course, but in a day or two you would be back to near normal but this is every week.

"I feel for farmers. I know one farmer who sowed a crop, a type of corn, but he had to dig it up because it died. We have only the one pitch and you're trying to manage so that you don't do any harm to it, we can train young kids on it, they won't do any harm anyway but adults just can't use it at the moment. You don't want to destroy it for the rest of the year."

Terry feels all-weather surfaces will need to be used by all clubs if current weather trends continue as they are now.

Golf courses have been also affected by the heavy rain of recent months. Jim McElroy, head greenkeeper with Royal Tara Golf Club says the rain has hampered some of the work that can be done on courses. "The fairways haven't been too badly affected in terms of cutting them but some sections of the rough are uncutable basically. Basically we've had rain since July so it's difficult to cut some sections.

Greens, he adds, are sand based so they are not a problem and the fairways have also been treated with sand for 30 years so that mitigates much of the rainfall. However, a problem can emerge when older members have to use buggies to get around the course. "There have been times when we haven't let buggies out because, well, the ground wouldn't be fit for a lot of traffic like that. There were a lot of closed days over the winter and to be honest, recent days haven't been much better," he said when the Meath Chronicle called last Thursday.

Jim says to get the roughs right it would take two weeks of dry weather ideally. "Having said that the weather could change and we'd be looking for rain so it's all about getting the balance right.

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