0 Overcoming the challenges of a heavy fixtures list

Aviva StadiumDublin's Aviva Stadium has seen a lot of action recently - with 190 hours of activity on the pitch since September, including three RBS 6 Nations rugby matches.

Head groundsman Majella Smyth is seeing the benefits of a Desso pitch oversown with Limagrain's MM60, a 100% ryegrass seed mixture. This combination is producing a fast playing pitch which has a very good recovery, essential for the short turnaround times imposed by a heavy schedule of games.

The Aviva Stadium was opened in May 2010, and replaced the Lansdowne Road stadium. It has a seating capacity of 51,700 and hosts both rugby and soccer matches, and music concerts too.

As a measure of how much pressure the pitch is under, instead of counting the fixtures, Majella considers the hours of activity on the pitch - from the moment the players go out to warm up, and also including any concert bands that may go on during half-time intervals.

In 2013, the pitch clocked up 127 hours of activity time. But from September until mid March this year, a particularly busy schedule has added up to 190 hours of activity!

The pitch benefits from under-soil heating, and uses harvested rainwater for irrigation. The stand is one continuous curvilinear shape which encloses all four sides of the stadium: lighting rigs are used to overcome the shadow, and encourage grass growth.

With the move to the new Aviva Stadium, and knowing it would have to support more than the average number of fixtures and training sessions, Majella studied carefully the different grass seed options available.

He also took a look at some of the larger professional stadiums such as the Emirates, and in the end decided to follow them and seed with Limagrain's MM60.

"We've not looked back since," explains Majella. "The MM60 mixture has a very good recovery and stands up well to wear. Through the playing season, we overseed the whole pitch every month with 20g/m2, and in May we will strip the grass out and reseed again."

Despite Majella's good grounds management, there has been such a large amount of play that the pitch surface has had to be replaced twice in the past 4 years. However, last summer, Desso was installed, and then oversown with MM60.

Majella says: "I'd wanted to make this change for some time, and the Desso has proven very successful - it makes for a faster game and the players love it."

Ireland's performance in the RBS 6 Nations would seem to support that. The Irish team played three of their matches at the Aviva Stadium, with clear wins each time. Ireland beat Scotland 28:6, Wales 26:3, and Italy 46:7!

The ability of the MM60 mixture to recover for the fast turnaround was put to the test as the first two of these major tournament games were played on 2 and 8 of February.

In-between times, the pitch was used for a soccer training session and then a match. "The pitch stood up well to the pressure, and we were also fortunate with the weather," admits Majella.

But Majella is not complacent. There's always room for improvement," he says. "And like its players, a pitch is only as good as its last game!"

www.limagrain.co.uk

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