It’s now over a year since supporters were there to witness Mayo play at MacHale Park – those of an unkind disposition might say it’s been longer than this, so poor has our record at the county ground been in recent years – and, by the looks of it, it could be well into next year before this happens again.
The main reason in the immediate future for keeping supporters away is, of course, Covid. Public health restrictions arising from the ongoing pandemic looks set to mean that this year’s entire inter-county programme will be played behind closed doors.
Even after the restrictions ease, however, MacHale Park is set to remain out of bounds for supporters for several months more. This is because there are plans afoot for some overdue development work on the pitch there.
Mike Finnerty has a piece on this in the Mayo News (here), in which Mayo GAA Assistant Treasurer Michael Diskin, who is spearheading the project, states that the work on the pitch won’t start until after we’ve played our final inter-county game at the venue this year.
This means, though, that no club Championship matches will be played there later this year and, while this isn’t certain, there’s a strong likelihood that it might still be out of bounds for the start of next year’s National League campaign. According to Michael Diskin, ‘worse case’ is that it’ll be available to play on again next April.
As well as drainage and the installation of the new playing surface, the works will involve lengthening the pitch by five metres at the Albany end. That’s a welcome move, in light of the extremely tight confines of the existing pitch.
None of us will be getting to whatever inter-county matches we play at MacHale Park this year so, if we really are in something approaching a post-Covid world in 2022, then when we next get to see the Mayo team run out at MacHale Park it’ll be onto the new sod laid there. You’d never know, we might even start to see a regular stream of home wins at the venue from then on too.