By Gary Ferry
Derry City’s first scheduled home game at the new Brandywell, against Sligo Rovers next month, is in serious doubt due to the inclement weather conditions postponing the laying of the pitch.
The Derry News understands that work is still to resume after the Christmas holidays, but due to recent storms and forecasted rain over the next few weeks, there is genuine concern that the pitch will not be ready in time for City’s first competitive fixture of the 2018 League of Ireland season, scheduled for February 23.
The modern 3G surface, which will be a highlight of the newly redeveloped stadium, cannot be completed in current conditions, with the sand needed to bed the pitch in, believed to need between three to six weeks of dry weather to settle, leading to question marks over the first home game.
The Derry News contacted Derry City & Strabane District Council this week for an update on the redevelopment.
A Council spokesperson said that it remains hopeful the new facility will be ready to host Derry City Football Club’s home games for the 2018 League of Ireland season.
The council did admit however that the recent wet weather has had an impact.
The spokesperson continued: “The recent inclement weather conditions are among some of the issues that have contributed to a delay to the completion works and the final and full handover of the project.
“The safe operation of the completed facility was the key priority for Council and that it was keen to continue to work closely with all stakeholders involved with the project to keep them up to date on the work progress and to work with them to facilitate their needs.”
City boss Kenny Shiels, who has pencilled in a number of pre-season friendly games for the new Brandywell, including fixtures against Drogheda United on February 2 and Finn Harps on February 9, is remaining optimistic.
“People are going to kick up doubt but I just don’t have the answers,” he said. “The health and safety is probably the last thing to be finalised. We’re hopeful that the playing surface will be ready on time and the stands will be ready but you have things like finishing off the changing rooms and the hospitality suites and making sure everything’s ready for the supporters coming in and there are no workers about the place yet.
“Hopefully we’ll have a Friday night (friendly) game. We are going to train on the pitch as soon as we are given the green light. We may not be able to change there, but I hope in two weeks, more likely three weeks, we’ll be on the pitch.”
Meanwhile, Shiels unveiled another new signing yesterday in the form of teenager Ronan Hale, bringing the number of new faces at the club for the forthcoming season to nine.
The striker, brother of current City player Rory Hale, has signed on loan from Birmingham City until the summer.
Hale, a Republic of Ireland U18 international, proved to be something of a sensation in his first season with the Blues, scoring over 30 goals for the Under-18s. The striker has also scored three goals in ten appearances for the club’s U23 team this season. Hale becomes the third in his family to represent Derry City after his grandfather Danny Hale, who played for the club in the 1960’s.
“It’s funny, if you were describing him, you would say he is just like his grandfather,” Shiels said. “He is a fox in the box, he is a poacher, he scores goals, and he needs game time so hopefully we can provide him with that. He’s 18, he’s a Republic of Ireland international, and he’s a good footballer to have and obviously we’re keen for things to work out for him here at Derry City.”
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