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Pitch preparation – safe return to training

THE Football Association of Ireland with the support of Hayden Turfcare Pitch Consultancy has
developed a short document that is designed to assist in the preparation of pitches for return to
training following the Covid-19 pandemic in Ireland.


Below is a sample suggestion for preparing your pitches for return to training. It is important to
follow the HSE and Government guidelines outlined here. The Football Association of Ireland has
also developed a Safer Return to Training Protocol guidelines which should be completed prior to
training.

1.0 Introduction
In all cases pitch inputs and maintenance has been minimal in compliance with government
guidelines. We must now return these surfaces to high quality natural turf pitches fit for football
in Ireland. All the recommendations in the document must be carried out within current
Government and HSE Covid-19 guidelines.

Fig 1 Pitch presentation

2.0 Mowing and grass height
The height of cut of grass has in most cases been left slightly higher than normal to (1) reduce the
frequency of mowing (2) reduce the stress on the grass plant (3) reduce the need for watering
and fertilising.


The aim now is to take the height of cut of the grass back down to the desired level. The golden
rule here is to reduce the height if cut in steps with the aim being to never remove any more than
30% of the grass plant at any time. Use a suitable, recently serviced, well sharpened mower and
remove the clippings.

3.0 Aeration
With the recent hot and dry period, aeration will help with root development and compaction
management. Aeration will also assist in channelling water through the soil profile. Deeper
aeration can be achieved with larger machines such as vertidrains whereas shallower aeration can
be achieved with the shallower procore type machines.

Fig 2. The big advantage of contracted maintenance systems is that specialist equipment which may be used infrequently can be hired in

4.0 Mini renovations
The solution to the renovations is the use of “mini” renovations may be an option depending on
the condition of the pitch. This can involve removal of dead grass and debris from the base of the
pitch using a spring tine rake or scarifier. With this material removed we can then progress to
sand spreading, aeration and overseeding. Localised overseeding can be carried out on bare
areas. Generally, it is best to use good varieties of 100% perennial ryegrass.

Fig 3. Regular light broadcast sand topdressing should be used on pitches rather than the traditional high-volume application of sand at the end of the season.

5.0 Line marking
The lines should be 120 mm wide and be installed cleanly without transfer to non-marked areas.
The line mark should be applied using a straight-line string using the 2-4-5 method and the line
mark should be applied in time to allow paint drying. Weed killer should never be used in line
marker fluid.

Should you have any specific questions to your football pitch or any other matter, please get in touch at
Facilities@fai.ie
Keep safe!

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