Why build an Astro Pitch?
Claregalway GAA club has grown exponentially over the last number of years.
We now have over 1,900 members and in 2021 we entered over 30 different teams into various competitions. The logistics of handling so many different groups and teams are huge.
As an example, at our Under 14 age grade this year we entered 4 boys’ teams and 3 girls’ teams. This is replicated across many age groups.
With the predicted population growth of the Claregalway area, it’s reasonable to expect club numbers will grow further over the coming years.
Our football season runs from February to November, and we all know what the rain in Galway is like. The simple fact is that during wet weather in Spring and Autumn, no grass-based pitch can handle the volume of traffic that we need to put onto it.
In recent years it has been a constant battle between closing pitches to protect them and cancelling training / matches for our teams. With so many teams, this creates huge problems.
A modern, top quality Astro playing surface will:
- Keep all our teams playing regardless of the weather.
- Give certainty to all our teams of their training / match schedule.
- Protect our grass pitches from being destroyed by overuse in poor weather conditions.
- Allow the club to run competitions, training, camps and matches all year round.
- Give our club a weatherproof, future-proof facility for all our players to use.
Why not build a sand-based grass pitch?
Sand base pitches are limited in terms of durability and all-weather capability. The grass surface will not hold up the high-volume usage or adverse weather conditions. In comparison, the Astro surface planned for Lakeview will be capable of 30 to 40 sessions/games per week in all weather conditions.
Why build it in Lakeview and not in Knockdoemore?
There are two main reasons for building it in Lakeview and not in Knockdoemore.
Firstly, the cost of the project is approximately one million euro regardless of where it is built.
The club would not be able to fund this development entirely on its own, the financial burden on the members would simply be too high.
The club examined thoroughly the different options for grant funding available for such a project and found that the only significant funding available was through Roinn Na Gaeltachta.
This level of funding is only available on the Lakeview site, as it must be done in conjunction with our community partners.
The second reason for selecting the Lakeview site is to promote and play as much football as possible within the village itself.
Over a decade ago it was understood that the single pitch in Lakeview would not be able to cater for the huge numbers of players joining the club. At that time Knockdoemore was purchased and over the years that site has been developed into the fantastic facility that we are all so proud of today.
The scale of Knockdoemore is absolutely needed to deal with the volume of football being played. Lakeview is the club’s ancestral home however and it was always understood that it should be upgraded to play a key part in the club’s future in the centre of the village with its ever-increasing number of young families.
The club feels this is best achieved by investing €1 million into the grounds, by creating a state of the art, weatherproof facility and by using this to drive football activity in the heart of the village.
This will be the centrepiece of a modern and vibrant Lakeview facility which could eventually encompass a playground, walkway, and extended community centre in addition to the existing state-of-the-art handball facility.
This is right at the heart of our village and within walking distance for the centres of education and youth in the community.
Why not put it on the small training area, instead of the main pitch?
Many clubs have built smaller Astro pitches over the last number of years. These are excellent facilities and offer huge benefits to those clubs, however the obvious weakness in those facilities is that they are unable to hold full size matches.
It is the clubs view, that whereas those smaller facilities are excellent for training, we do not want this to be just a training area.
We want to be able to play proper, full-size matches on the pitch.
Because of the increased rain fall in recent years and the improvement in the quality of Astro pitches, we believe that a full-size playing pitch will give us a unique advantage in the coming years.
Why not try to extend the smaller training area and then put it on that?
We have been advised that we would be unable to get planning permission for the high intensity flood lighting required for this development so close to the adjoining road. This would deny night-time use of the Astro pitch which would defeat the intended purpose of winter matches and training.
Would there be a fence around it?
Yes, as with most pitches it would be necessary to put a fence around it.
Many of the significant pitches around us have a protective fence. The completed pitch and fence structure will be impressive looking and far from the image being portrayed by some as a restrictive eye sore. High levels of usage by all age groups will be encouraged and the facility will be maintained to a high standard in line with its value and the major commitment by the club to get such a futuristic facility in place.
Will there be a walkway around the grounds?
Yes. There will be a purpose-built walkway running around the entire site. This will be built outside the fence and will be fully accessible by anyone wishing to use it.
We already know how popular the walkway in Knockdoemore is. This plan will bring a similar facility right into the heart of the village. Some groups in the village have already proposed linking up with other possible village walkways being proposed.
Will there be a playground in Lakeview?
The club has allocated space on the site and in the plans for a playground and would like to see this built. We will be looking to work with other groups or individuals who wish to progress the build in due course.
What is the link with Coláiste Bhaile Chláir?
Coláiste Bhaile Chláir is now a very significant part of the village. Our club players once attended 11 different secondary schools, today Over 95% of the club’s players in secondary school, attend Coláiste Bhaile Chláir. The level of development and success of football in Coláiste Bhaile Chláir, now Senior A Connacht Colleges, will have a very direct impact on our club in the coming years.
The school currently has 16 teams participating in Gaelic games. Most of the pupils on these teams are members of our club. Currently the school have limited access to playing pitches and depend on the local clubs to facilitate their requirements.
The proximity of this modern child and youth friendly facility to Claregalway National School and Educate Together Primary school extends the reach of the Club in a most inclusive way. It builds the culture of the Club and Gaelic games within these Schools which will be the recruitment ground for future membership.
Lakeview, for the past number of years, is unable to handle the number of school football teams that need to train and play on it and teams are often bused to Knockdoemore for training and games. The pitches are regularly closed in wet weather, and when this happens it’s our kids and players who lose out.
Many argue that the Department of Education should provide the pitches necessary for the school. We fully agree but despite continuous applications for capital funding, this hasn’t happened, and nobody expects it to happen anytime in the next number of years.
By working with the secondary school and the national schools in the village together with the local Irish language development group “Gaeltacht an Teachreigh” the Lakeview development project became eligible for support from Roinn Na Gaeltachta.
The combination of the schools and club works well, as the schools will need use of the pitch predominantly during school hours without damaging the pitch in the winter college season, while the club will be using it in the evenings and at weekend.
There has always been a proud tradition of Irish speakers in Claregalway and the Club working with the local schools and language development group would like to play its part in plans to enhance the language in a sporting environment.
Can competitive matches be played on an Astro Pitch?
Astro pitches have developed and improved very significantly over recent years.
The pitch designed for Lakeview is to the highest standards. It will have a layer of shock-pad material underneath the artificial grass, this will ensure the pitch feels right underfoot while also ensuring player safety and welfare. It will cushion their impact on joints and limbs from any falls.
The grass has been designed and certified to ensure its strong enough to stand up to constant traffic, while its also smooth enough to prevent friction burns when players fall and slide on it. Crumb rubber and fine sand is spread on top of the grass and brushed into it, this again gives a more natural feel and allow boot studs get a good grip. How many current injuries in our games come from training and slipping on wet winter grass pitches?
The astro grass itself looks very like normal grass, but unlike normal grass, it stays looking like this 365 days a year. No turning yellow in summer or getting waterlogged in winter, no more divots or holes to twist an ankle in, no big worn-out areas in front of the goals to avoid, and no need to re-line it after the rain.
The Astro pitch brings consistence, and it allows matches to be played throughout the year regardless of the weather.
The GAA has developed its own specification on how to build Astro pitches that are to be used for Gaelic football and hurling.
This detailed spec lays-out exactly how the pitch must look and perform for games.
The full specification can be found at this link: CLICK HERE FOR SPECIFICATIONS
The GAA wouldn’t complete such a detailed standard if it were not happy to also use them.
There are several GAA full size Astro pitches around the country.
If you have any queries in relation to the project that have not been answered here or elsewhere on the site, please direct them to:
email@example.com and we will endeavour to answer them.