JOHN FOGARTY: The black card fades to grey

Tongue firmly lodged in cheek, Tipperary’s Robbie Kiely tweeted in the closing stages of Sunday’s All-Ireland final: “Any black cards in this match yet?”

Kiely, of course, experienced that fate just over eight minutes into his team’s All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Mayo. The frustration of that decision clearly hasn’t left him but what also remains is the fact that in pulling down Jason Doherty the foul warranted he be automatically substituted. One of the biggest grievances with it was similar infractions have not be punished likewise.

The other complaint with Kiely’s removal was the timing of it. RTÉ’s co-commentator Tommy Carr, admittedly Tipperary-born, bemoaned his native county had been waiting 80 years to reach an All-Ireland semi-final and eight minutes in Kiely had gone – “crazy, crazy stuff”.

Jim McGuinness also took umbrage with his early dismissal. “To miss basically the whole of an All-Ireland semi-final because of a split-second decision like that is deeply unfair.”

James Horan remarked: “Tipp can feel hard done by over Robbie Kiely’s black card. Nine minutes was all he got. For a player to train his whole life and for that to happen is just wrong. I don’t like the black card. I think it’s rubbish. I think it’s incredibly harsh.”

Whatever about the merits of the decision to black card James McCarthy (and like Kiely he can count himself unfortunate in the context of those who escaped the same sanction for black card fouls), the timing of Sunday’s decision was also a moot point for analysts.

Pat Spillane stated: “To be thrown off in an All-Ireland final after 24 minutes for an incident like that, our disciplinary rules are (throws his eyes to heaven).”

Over on Sky, Peter Canavan noted: “James McCarthy missed a large part of the All-Ireland final for something very innocuous.”

Later on RTÉ that night, Dessie Dolan mentioned how soon McCarthy had been removed from the game. In fairness to Dolan, he did comment on Michael Darragh Macauley’s 16th minute deliberate trip on Lee Keegan. Still, the ex-Westmeath forward’s concern that the call against McCarthy was hasty was in keeping with a lot of observations that black cards are being shown too quickly in matches.

Should we be all that surprised? A black card in the first minute is a black card in additional time but clemency and grace are ingrained in the GAA psyche. It’s why we rarely see straight red cards shown in All-Ireland semi-finals because of the stark ramification of missing a final. It’s why Tadhg Kennelly was only demonised when he revealed he had gone out to hurt Nicholas Murphy just three seconds into the 2009 All-Ireland final. Referee Marty Duffy noted it as a foul but never carded Kennelly. The Cork crowd’s initial reaction wasn’t one of outrage.

Obviously, there are serious problems with the implementation of the black card and much of that comes down to education of referees and the public alike – we would suggest if 10 videos clips of fouls were shown to Joe Public they would find it difficult to ascertain what are and aren’t black card offences.

Those who proposed the black card informed us it is more of a second half or final quarter happening when leads are to be protected. There was a fault in that as they can and should be shown at any time.

Conor Lane on Sunday joined a list of match officials who have been hesitant to brandish black this year. His behaviour even had those who want the black card done away with perplexed. Take the Sunday Game panel, for example. The series of incidents that warranted black cards were diligently picked out but the commentary was somewhat bamboozling. Dolan, Tomás Ó Sé and Ciaran Whelan are all opponents of the black card but were interestingly calling for more to be shown on Sunday. It may be latent but there is an acceptance that for all the criticism of the black card cynicism has to be repelled and the yellow card doesn’t go far enough. An early sin bin for Kiely last month would not have caused as much uproar. His team would be punished but he would have returned after a certain amount of time and there would be no talk about all his sacrifices for eight minutes of an All-Ireland semi-final. The same with McCarthy on Sunday. Dublin would have had to grin and bear his absence for five or 10 minutes and move on.

In tackling the darker aspects of the game, the black card has been a qualified improvement but by the game it is looking more like a stop-gap and a poor man’s sin bin.

Onus on Gavin and Rochford to shake things up

After losing to Mayo in 2012, it was felt by one or two individuals inside the Dublin camp Pat Gilroy made favourites of certain players among the half dozen who helped him fundraise following their successful 2011 season. When it came to picking the team, the perception was there were sacred cows.

If Dublin lose again to Mayo on Saturday week with the same side that started Sunday’s game, the same charges will be made against Gavin, a manager who has made his reputation on being ruthless. Yet the middling form of Paul Flynn and spluttering showings of Bernard Brogan surely prompts a demand for change. If Brian Cody was in the same situation, there would be no hesitation in demoting at least one of them if not both to the bench.

But on the other hand Stephen Rochford may have to make one or two serious calls himself. Seamus O’Shea has had a better season than both Flynn and Brogan but has been guilty of some prominent errors going back to his misjudged hand-pass late on against Tyrone to losing key possession at the weekend. O’Shea offers more protection in midfield than Tom Parsons but those costly moments will have to be considered. Diarmuid O’Connor, young footballer of the year-elect, improved as the match developed on Sunday and looks to have put his fitness concerns behind him but he turned over the ball a number of times. If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result then the onus is on Gavin and Rochford to shake things up.

Kerry must fight the Aussie charmers

Speaking to a former Kerry player after the minor final on Sunday, it was no great surprise David Clifford’s name was brought up quickly.

This column mentioned that if AFL clubs weren’t already scouting the Fossa starlet then they most certainly are after the weekend.

You sensed chief recruiter Tadhg Kennelly will have been watching Clifford’s exploits this year with a sense of excitement.

The former Kerry player we spoke to, an old team-mate of Kennelly’s, was livid that the county are doing little to cut the AFL’s tentacles. The news that promising Dingle midfielder Mark O’Connor will be heading to Melbourne next month to try out for a number of clubs has only added to his ire.

“Would it happen in Dublin?” the former Kerry player vented. “Nobody comes looking for their players anymore. The Kerry County Board should be sending a delegation to Clifford and his family to let them down how much he means to the county.”

Professor Niall Moyna, a member of Dublin’s 2011 All-Ireland winning backroom team, always says it was a masterstroke of Pat Gilroy in 2012 to give Ciarán Kilkenny a taste of playing as a senior in front of over 80,000 in an All-Ireland semi-final. By the following January, he was home from Hawthorn.

Although Clifford has another year at minor, he has made too much noise not to be noticed from afar.

Part of Kerry’s pedigree is not making too much fuss about individual players but this exceptional 17-year-old warrants an exemption.

Email: john.fogarty@examiner.ie 

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