The pitch redevelopment works at MacHale Park are now well advanced from where they were at when the above photo was taken during the summer. Despite this, it’s been reported today that work at the venue won’t be completed in time to host any of Mayo’s home matches in the National League next spring.
Mike Finnerty reports on this in the Irish Examiner (here), with a similar report also appearing in this week’s Mayo News. The gist of this is that the pitch won’t be ready to host matches in the spring and, with no other venue in the county capable of accommodating the kind of crowds that Mayo attract, the only option for next year’s NFL will be to play home matches outside the county or, perhaps, outside the province.
Venues like Dr Hyde Park, Tuam Stadium and Markievicz Park are all likely to come into the reckoning in this regard, depending on which counties we’re set to entertain in next year’s National League. It is, of course, a campaign where, after our year away from the top tier, we’ll be back competing once again in Division One.
It wouldn’t exactly come as a thunderbolt from the heavens if we were to be rostered with three rather than four home games in 2022 and were this to happen it’d make the job of finding venues for these fixtures easier to sort. Because of the recent debate on Championship structures, leading to the Special Congress on the issue, the League fixtures for next year haven’t been finalised yet but you’d expect that this should happen inside the next few weeks. Once this occurs, confirmation should follow on where our ‘home’ ties will be played.
While this will be a novel development for us, it’s far from a unique situation for counties to find themselves in. Cork were out of Páirc Uí Chaoimh when the stadium was being rebuilt, Roscommon were out of Hyde Park for a while when they had their new pitch laid and I recall we once played away to Fermanagh in the League in Clones, when their Brewster Park home ground was being redeveloped.
In addition, our godawful home record – which, to be fair, was greatly improved on in 2021 – also means that there’ll be little pining for not being able to play our League games next spring at a venue where we’ve so often struggled in recent years. You’d never know, seven matches away from Castlebar might even help to boost our points tally.
Seriously, though, the redevelopment work that’s currently being done at MacHale Park was long overdue. It’s great to think that, come next summer, Mayo teams will get to play home matches on a proper playing surface. In the meantime, we’ll have a bit of a home away from home experience to look forward to in the spring.