Championship: Armagh's joy at opening of new 3G surface
On Saturday Armagh City played their first ever home match on a 3G surface.
After three years of hard work, their traditional Holm Park ground has finally been fitted with a state-of-the-art FIFA Two Star synthetic pitch.
Back in 2010, Armagh City applied for for funding from Sport NI. They were awarded a £245,000 grant towards the cost of the project, while Armagh City and District Council also pitched in to make the club's dream become a reality.
Construction work began in June 2013, and was finished just in time for City to host Lurgan Celtic on Saturday in the Bob Radcliffe Cup. But chairman Philip Johnston was keen to point out it won't just be Armagh City's first team who will benefit from the new surface.
Johnston explained : “We have a large mini-soccer school, youth teams from under-11 to under-18, a girls team, a senior ladies team and our two senior teams. By training and playing on our own pitch we will save all the money that was going out of our club for facility hire. We will be able to re-invest this back into the club, on training of youth coaches.
“It will also benefit the wider community of Armagh, as our council area now has another state-of-the-art facility that can be hired out to all sports teams. We'd like thank our council and Sport Northern Ireland for their support in our vision.”
In recent years, 3G pitches have become common place with many players and high-profile managers voicing their reservations about artificial surfaces, but chairman Johnston believes these pitches can only benefit the local game.
“Too many matches get called off due the the weather in this country.
“That means games get congested into smaller pockets of time, leading to poor pitch upkeep because the pitches have no time to repair themselves. I believe poor pitches lead to poor technique, poor players and poor results.
“Our state-of-the-art 3G pitches allows for football all-year round. We've a flat surface which allows for young players to work on their technique.
“We can now spend more time with the young players who want to improve their game. There are quite a lot of these surfaces in Northern Ireland now and I believe in time it will help us produce more gifted and creative players. If we can improve our technique maybe results like losing to Luxembourg will become a thing of the past.”
Of course 3G pitches don't last for ever. Some within the football fraternity have raised concerns about what will happen 10 years down the line, when these artificial surfaces start to become threadbare.
Johnston explained that he is not concerned about Holm Park's sustainably.
“It has a 10 year life span. And even then, if it is kept correctly only the top playing surfaces will need to be replaced.
“Our aim is to put away £18,000 a year to play for a replacement surface in a decade's time.”
With Armagh City well-placed in the Belfast Telegraph Championship Two and their 3G pitch now in place, this could prove to be a very good season for the Holm Park club.
Belfast Telegraph Digital