Belfast Telegraph

Call for Shield final venue change but Jeffrey backs council to fix Ballymena United's pitch problems

By Gareth Hanna

Ballymena United's pitch is again one of the main talking points on an Irish League Saturday.

The Showgrounds survived a pitch inspection to host United's 3-1 win over basement side Ards in the Danske Bank Premiership on Saturday afternoon but was the subject of much talk ahead of next month's County Antrim Shield final with calls for a venue change.

The pitch was relaid last summer at the estimated cost of £250k to Mid and East Antrim Borough Council.

However, recent games against Linfield and Institute both had to be rearranged, and there was doubt as to if the Ards game could proceed after a pitch inspection on Saturday morning.

That led to former Glentoran boss Scott Young call for the Shield final, due to be played on the pitch between Linfield and Crusaders on Tuesday, February 5, to be moved.

Young was speaking on BBC Sport, and Jeffrey, speaking to the broadcaster after his side's win on Saturday, admitted there was an issue to be addressed.

"I am no expert when it comes to pitches, horticulture or anything of that nature," he said. "I do know that there was a big investment made by the council and unfortunately, something doesn't seem to be right. There's no point trying to dress it up.

"I am sure council will be looking at the difficulties that are being experienced. You've got to say, this is a fantastic stadium. It's a superb arena and the facilities are first class but the jewel in the crown has got to be the pitch.

"It was a substantial investment - a quarter of a million - but when you get a phone call this morning at 11am saying the pitch is the state that it's in, it was a similar state in the County Antrim Shield when we were due to play Linfield. That had to be rescheduled - the same as the day we were due to play Institute.

"I'm honestly not sure. There's obviously something with the drainage but I trust that council will be doing all that they can to right what is not working properly."

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has been asked for a comment.

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