The comments from Eugene McGee, who chaired the Football Review Committee, come as the Irish Examiner reveals the number of black cards shown over the opening two Allianz Football League weekends is up, for the third year in a row.
An unofficial total of 35 black cards were shown in this year’s games, 16 in Round 1 and 19 in Round 2, a rise of four from last season (14 in Round 1, 17 in Round 2). In the first year of the black card, just 10 were brandished in Round 1.
Of the 32 matches played in the competition these past two weekends, just eight of them did not feature a player being automatically substituted. That’s four less than the number at this stage 12 months ago.
Although poor weather conditions may have played a factor this year, the figures are alarming for the GAA, considering the number of black cards in the 2015 season (league and championship) had increased by 12% from 2014. In campaigning for the black card, McGee had argued the number of black cards would decrease in time, as managers and players grew to appreciate the punishments involved. But he accepts the message is not getting through to them.
“The black cards are more obvious this year than last,” he said. “Roughly speaking, it seems every team has one so far. I believe there are a number of factors like referees making a more conscious effort to implement the black card than before. The weather has obviously played a role and at this early stage of the season; there is a lack of fitness and fellas are more inclined to make desperate tackles.
“But the number of cards, it appears, are going up again and you would really have to question the attitude of these players who make these fouls. Many of them are top players too. I can’t understand why they are still at it. It’s extraordinary. Surely to God managers would be telling them that it pays more not to go off (the field)?”
McGee would not say whether he feels the black card might not be going far enough to tackle cynicism, preferring to see how figures reveal themselves in upcoming rounds.
“Let’s wait and see if it continues into next month. It’s disappointing to see what’s happening but it’s entirely up to the players and managers. About 90% of black cards are justified. I don’t see many of them being queried.”
Dublin boss Jim Gavin did question the early black card issued by Padraig Hughes to Philly McMahon in last Saturday’s Division 1 win over Mayo in Castlebar. Few managers have protested against such decisions although some may feel prohibited from doing so, for fear they will have their sideline privileges withdrawn should their remarks be considered derogatory of the referee.
Later this month, the playing rules committee will put forward a motion hoping to amend the body check black card foul. They wish to see the rule exclude the word “body” so that any deliberate collision against an opponent after the ball has been played away or for the purpose of taking him out of the movement of play is deemed a black card.
Meanwhile, GAA president Aogán Ó Fearghail yesterday declined to speak to the media at yesterday’s Allianz Hurling League launch. Journalists had hoped to interview Ó Fearghail about the €2,000 fine handed down to Longford club Dromard for hosting a Jamie Carragher soccer camp as well as the GPA’s statement last Friday confirming Division 4 footballers will boycott any “B” championship.