Pitch perfect with John Deere

Steve Mitchellin Machinery & Mechanics

New John Deere equipment supplied by Carmarthen dealer Powercut is in the side that is keeping Swansea City Football Club and the Ospreys Rugby Union Club's Liberty Stadium pitch in an award-winning condition.

Dan Duffy, Swansea City FC's grounds manager, has overall responsibility for the maintenance and presentation of a lot of grass: one Desso hybrid pitch at the main Liberty Stadium, plus two and a half fibresand grass pitches and a 3G pitch at its Landore Training Academy. There are also three fibresand and four ameliorated full-size grass pitches and a half-size grass pitch, as well as two 3G pitches, 10 miles away at the club's Fairwood facility.

 Swansea City FC grounds staff at the Liberty Stadium with the new John Deere 3720 compact tractor and cab, and four of the R54RKB walk-behind rotary mowers (left to right: groundsmen Ben Arthure & James Williams and head groundsman Dan Kirton).
Added to that is the fact that the Liberty Stadium is the home ground for both Swansea City FC - the Swans - and the Ospreys Rugby Union Club. "This season five double-headers will have been played on the ground by Christmas," says Dan. "With either Friday and Saturday or Saturday and Sunday games, we generally end up with just three free weekends a season."

Maintaining the pitches at the Liberty Stadium, Landore and Fairwood under these pressures therefore requires a comprehensive machinery fleet. "We pick the machines that we consider do the operations best and are suited to what we are doing," Dan explains. That rationale has seen a continuing investment in a full range of John Deere equipment suited to the various operations and surfaces across the three sites.

The machines are supplied and maintained by John Deere dealer Powercut (Wales) Ltd of Carmarthen. "Over the years we've dealt with a number of companies," Dan says. "The John Deere equipment is always competitively priced and Powercut's after-sales service and mechanical side is second to none."

His maxim where tractors are concerned is also to use the machine best suited to the operations, maximising the use of each machine without putting the grass surfaces under too much stress. Heavier attachments such as Verti-Drainers and aerators are handled by a John Deere 4720 compact tractor and a new 3720 equipped with an air-conditioned cab and low-pressure Galaxy tyres, which is also used for spraying.

After each fixture the pitches are vacuumed with John Deere rotary mowers to remove debris, to lessen the build-up of organic matter. "These have proved to be a vital part of our fleet, as the lightweight mowers can operate at a decent speed without losing their vacuum and presentation qualities," says Dan. A John Deere 1026R with a mid-mounted mower deck is primarily used with a range of attachments for maintaining the 3G pitches, which are in use every day for 10 months of the year.

Other John Deere machines include 2653B, 7200 and 8700 ride-on cylinder mowers, 14 R54RKB walk-behind rotary mowers fitted with rear rollers, another (open-station) 3720 compact tractor and two Gator utility vehicles, a TX Turf Gator and a Pro Gator fitted with an HD200 amenity turf sprayer.

The effectiveness of Dan Duffy's philosophy was recognised by the industry when he was elected Barclay Premier League Groundsman of the Year for 2012/2013. The award is based on marks for specific aspects of pitch and management performance, awarded by referees and match delegates, and there is also a pitch visit. The Liberty Stadium won the award on football pitch merits, excelling in all the attributes needed for a fast, well maintained and presented surface - a great result considering it is a dual code pitch.

Dan Duffy stresses that of equal importance to the grounds work and having the right machinery and equipment is the development of a good team of grounds staff, who understand the purpose of what they are doing and are well directed to ensure the correct timing of operations. "Everyone has a role and each is as important as the main man," he says.


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