A MAJOR pitch refurbishment project costing upwards of £1 million will start at Omagh’s Healy Park this May, resulting in the closure of the stadium for a year.
The Ulster Herald can reveal that the project has just been put out to tender.
But it will mean that showpiece occasions including any Tyrone All-Ireland Qualifier ties, a Super Eight clash and the County and Ulster Club Finals will not be held at the stadium in 2020.
Work is expected to take until the spring of 2021 to complete and is aimed at addressing fears over flooding which have resulted in a number of major matches at the ground being postponed in recent years.
Conor Sally, chairman of Omagh St Enda’s GAA, acknowledged that the scheme would cause problems, but that it was something which the club and its members ‘accepts needs to be done’.
“The pitch will be closed completely from May onwards, most likely for a period of 12 months. It’s going to cause great difficulty for us as a club, but this is something which has to be done for the greater good of Tyrone GAA,” he said.
“There has been a nervousness and fear surrounding the difficulties to the surface (of the pitch) if there is a significant amount of rainfall coming up to a major match.”
“We have to sacrifice the use of the ground for a year and it means that there will be no All-Ireland Qualifier or Super Eight games, no Tyrone Championship ties and no County or Ulster Club Finals here.
“But our strong belief is that the new pitch will be completed to a high, world-class specification and is going to be available as a top venue for decades to come that rivals the best in Ireland outside Croke Park.
“Both the Tyrone and Ulster GAA and the Central Council want to make sure that Tyrone has a venue at Healy Park which is usable nearly every day of the year. Healy Park is the one pitch in Tyrone which is played on throughout the 12 months and therefore we need a surface that’s capable of facilitating that.
“We as a club are indebted to the great members of the original Park Committee whose foresight and drive has help us to develop Healy Park as the premier club ground in Ireland.”
As well as a new surface, phase one of the project will also include a drainage programme, the erection of catchment nets behind both goals and new fencing around the perimeter of the venue.
A second phase will then focus on the building of new turnstiles, improvements to the toilet facilities and other projects to improve the clubrooms in time for celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of the ground in 2022.
It is understood that Tyrone manager, Mickey Harte, has been made aware of the fact that the venue might not be available for major matches this summer.
Plans for the refurbishment of the pitch were first set out as a priority by the former Tyrone chairperson, Roisin Jordan, and have been carried on during the intervening period by the current chair, Michael Kerr.
The architect for the project is Peter Dolan, who has been working with Tyrone GAA, the Omagh club and consultants on pitch refurbishments to progress the project.