The defender’s high tackle was dangerous as it was reckless but cynical? No. Furthermore, and more importantly, it bared no relation to any of the three such cynical offences under the black card rule.
Referee Marty Duffy simply got the call wrong, and Kildare have every right to ensure Foley doesn’t become a victim of the mistake further down the line: three black cards across a season’s Allianz League and Championship results in a one-match ban. But there’s a bigger story here. As the GAA continues its education of the black card, identifying what isn’t one is just as essential as illustrating what is.
There were always going to be teething problems for it but when one of the country’s top referees so badly misunderstands a new rule, there are grounds for concern.
Saturday wasn’t an isolated incident. In January’s Corn Uí Mhuirí quarter-final, Pobalscoil Chorca Dhuibhne’s Barra Ó Súilleabháin was incorrectly not issued with a red card on picking up a black card, having already been shown a yellow. The referee on the day was Kevin Walsh, Munster’s representative on the national referees committee who had mentored match officials in the province on the Football Review Committee measures.
But the onus was perhaps unfairly placed on Pobalscoil Chorca Dhuibhne to offer the replay to make amends for Walsh’s mistake.
The black card bonanza of scores in the league has in the main been enthusing but it’s still far too early for the sort of backslapping seen over the last couple of weeks. On Twitter, Joe Brolly heralded a James O’Donoghue second goal against Tyrone on Sunday as a product of the new disciplinary stream: “O’Donoghue again goes through, not pulled down. Brilliant solo goal. This is what the new system is all about.”
The score had as much, if not more, to do with the lax defending of Barry Tierney. A more seasoned back may have made life more difficult for O’Donoghue, but the notion of that would detract from the garlands bestowed on the black card. Then there is the matter of when a cynical foul is not a black card. Last Sunday week in Castlebar, referee Ciarán Brannigan issued Mark Griffin with one for a foul on Alan Freeman. Cynical it most certainly was, and two national referees committee members insisted to this column the match official was correct in his decision.
Yet Griffin neither dragged or pulled Freeman to the ground, which according to the rule is what he should have done to merit being removed from the field. He most certainly pulled him back, after which the Mayo forward fell to the sod, but if the rule is to be administered properly his offence wasn’t sufficient enough to be black carded.
What was just as striking about that incident was Griffin’s casual reaction to Brannigan’s call. Foley’s in Croke Park was similar. Each defender had genuine cause for grievance but neither queried the decisions.
We want more respect to be shown to referees but the muted response of the players pointed to ignorance of the rules. Mayo captain Andy Moran exhibited the same when he took off his gloves in Castlebar last Sunday week after he pulled back Daithi Casey as if he had already accepted he was being automatically substituted. He should know that wasn’t the case.
Whether it’s players or referees erroneously thinking some fouls are worthy of black cards, it is alarming to say there is such a glaring lack of knowledge about the biggest change to hit Gaelic football in decades.
Maybe there is far too much emphasis being placed on the word “deliberate”.
If Duffy had the opportunity to reassess his decision, there would be no need for the rigmarole of Foley having to get his name cleared this week, which he most certainly will if he does seek a hearing.
But does there have to be such a process when the three cynical fouls listed under the black card are relatively clear-cut? Would it be such a burden on the Central Competitions Control Committee to review black card decisions in TV matches at their Monday meeting, when it could actually turn out to be a time saver? As disappointing as it is, it’s up to Kildare to show what isn’t a black card when in truth it should be the GAA.
It’s hardly news the number on the back of a jersey in inter-county Gaelic games has never been as inconsequential as it is now.
Across the weekend’s four Division 1 football games, there were 45 positional switches, an average of almost six per team, and six personnel changes from the teams announced. In the three Division 1A hurling fixtures, there were 38 positional rearrangements, an average of over six per team, and eight alterations from the sides named during the week.
A number now is only a guide for match officials and observers to identify a player? Even at that, it is hardly reliable. Dublin’s Paddy Andrews was wearing the No10 jersey supposed to be worn by Paul Flynn in Croke Park, while Tyrone’s Ronan McNamee had the No5 top assigned to Danny McBride the following day.
But it could be so much more. Assigning a squad number to each player would be a fantastic way of promoting the games especially hurling when the participants are barely recognisable in faceguards.
Traditionalists may baulk at the idea but at a time when a number has little or no attachment to the position they’re aligned it’s fair to say the horse has already bolted.
Ciarán Kilkenny’s class was exhibited yet again in his Twitter reaction to his season-ending cruciate injury.
“Humbled by all the support from friends, family, team-mates, management & GAA people,” he posted. “Shows how tight knit GAA community is, beidh mé ar ais #GRMA (go raibh maith agaibh)”
Fourteen months after his articulate statement announcing his return from the AFL, the Dublin forward’s philosophical reaction to the setback should be an example to anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation.
Kilkenny will have reasoned it was an injury he was unlikely to escape at some stage. As Bernard Brogan intimated in a supportive tweet, it couldn’t have come at a better time when he has over 10 years of an inter-county career in front of him. When it comes to the cruciate curse, it’s no longer about when but who next it will strike. The promising Ruairi Deane is also out for 2014 but the cases of Kilkenny and Colm Cooper highlight the “unhappy triad” discriminates against nobody.