The new and permanent Gaelic football rules get their debut in this weekend’s pre-season competitions having come into force on Wednesday. It follows a nationwide education blitz over the past two months where GAA and referee administrators visited every county as well as several inter-county teams.
Doherty said they received more questions about the five-second advantage referees will be permitted to allow a fouled player than any of the other new initiatives.
“The most questions would have arisen around the advantage rather than the black cards. It would be the big one, in terms of what happens in the five seconds. For instance, if we were to look at Cavan and Armagh last summer and the foul on Jamie Clarke. The referee should now allow advantage in that instance and then the question becomes what happens if Jamie Clarke kicks the ball wide or if it hits the goalkeeper or the crossbar or whatever. The simple answer is you come back and give him the free kick. He hasn’t been able to take advantage of the advantage within the five seconds so it comes back. We’ve had those questions regularly. What happens if a player who is given an advantage kicks the ball over the sideline during the five seconds? Well, quite simply he’s lost his advantage so he gets his advantage back with the free kick.”
Regarding the black card, Doherty said players are fully cognisant of the repercussions should they commit one of the three personal, cynical fouls.
“All of the fouls, the players have made conscious decisions to commit them. That conscious decision might have been a split-second conscious decision but it is a conscious decision. If we take the famous Sean Cavanagh tackle, he made a conscious decision to pull down the Monaghan player because he knew exactly what the circumstances were. You can see him even when he gets up, he holds up his hands and basically says to the referee ‘sure what could I do? I knew I was going to get a yellow card but I’m quite perfectly happy’.
“Sean Cavanagh and every other player will have the same conscious decision to make from Sunday knowing the consequences are ‘I’m going off and there’s a sub coming on for me’. They know that.
“The decision Sean Cavanagh, the best in the country, is posed with is ‘am I prepared to be sent off and replaced by the 17th or 18th best footballer in Tyrone?’
Players and match officials have been made aware a member of the attacking team/team in possession may also pick up a black card if he either pulls down an opponent with him or deliberately obstructs after offloading the ball. “If I pull you down, whether I’m in possession or not, then I’ve committed a black card offence. Ninety per cent of those fouls are committed on the player in possession but there are a small percentage where the player in possession is doing the fouling.”
Fourth officials will also have to keep abreast of what are regular, blood and black card substitutes as the number of replacements has been extended from five to six.
Mouthguards have also been made compulsory at all levels of Gaelic football from Wednesday last, although Doherty said officials won’t be “policing” the measure.
“It’s not as if referees are going to walk around and get fellas to open their mouths. That’s not the way it works. The responsibility is fairly and squarely with the player to ensure they’re wearing them. But if a ref notices a player is not wearing a gumshield he will ask him to put it in. If he refuses he is cautioned and if he continues to refuse he will get a second caution and sent off.”
A linesman or an umpire has the authority to make a referee aware of a player not wearing a mouthguard.