Operation Glen-torrent: Oval chiefs fighting to clear deluge
Glentoran are waging war against Mother Nature in a fight to make sure it’s business as usual on Saturday for the start of the club’s Irish Cup defence.
The Glens’ fifth round clash against Championship One leaders Ards remains in doubt after The Oval playing surface was flooded following persistent rain. Parts of the pitch were under a foot of water on Monday while levels of rainfall reached 20 inches on the sidelines, but five pumps have been brought in to clear away the water and as much as 1.8million litres have been removed from the playing surface in a 48-hour period.
Glentoran fans and officials have worked tirelessly to make sure Saturday’s game is given the green light and unless there are further downpours, the club’s commercial director Simon Kitchen is confident they won’t have a sinking feeling this weekend.
“Volunteers, directors and even the kitman have been working together to get the water off the pitch and it’s been a monumental effort,” said Kitchen, boss of club sponsors, taxi firm Fonacab.
“I think we have been pumping 1,000 litres a minute off the pitch and up to 1.8million has been taken off the pitch in 48 hours.
“I’m absolutely confident that the game will go ahead unless we get a lot more rain in the coming days.”
If Saturday’s clash is postponed, the Cup tie is likely to be played on Monday night.Kitchen added: "There was a board meeting on Tuesday night and after that we went straight back to work on the pitch.
"Fans of other clubs have had a few jokes at our expense but it makes us more determined to address the problem.
"I'd be very disappointed if the match didn't go ahead after all the fantastic work we have done, though we are at the mercy of the weather.
"We have two pumps at the ground all the time and three have been purchased, costing up to £500, but we want Saturday's game to proceed and while people might want to comment on Glentoran's finances, we are confident the club is moving in the right direction on that front."
Monday's pictures sparked jokes that The Oval had become a swimming pool and water polo was the only sport that could be played there but Kitchen says he has seen worse.
"On Monday morning I would estimate that 60 per cent of the pitch was covered in water," he added. "But I have seen it covered 80 per cent once before. I've never seen water roll up a hill and that's what we are dealing with. We haven't had a match called off at The Oval yet this season and it's never ideal but some things are beyond your control and I feel sorry for Carrick Rangers who have had to postpone seven home games.
"I know the Boxing Day game was in doubt but again a magnificent team effort saw that big game go ahead.
"This is the Irish Cup and we want to defend our title so will do everything in our power to make sure it is game on.
"People can talk about artificial pitches but it would still take a long time to get water off them.
"I suppose this experience underlines again the need for Glentoran to have a new ground where the risk of this reoccurring is minimised."
Glentoran fans Harry Hawkins and Stephen Reid have helped the club clear water from the pitch.
Former Glentoran player of the 1950s, Ambrose Fogarty, has passed away aged 82.
Ambrose played 98 times for the Glens, scoring 28 goals, before being transferred to Sunderland.
He won 11 caps for the Republic of Ireland before taking up management in the League of Ireland.