Pat Doherty: Referees must raise game on black card

The GAA’s national match officials coordinator Pat Doherty has warned referees “can’t afford to be as inconsistent as we were” with their application of the black card.
Pat Doherty: Referees must raise game on black card

Ahead of next month’s Allianz League, match officials will be told later this month that their use of the black card must become more consistent.

Referees have already been reminded of their duties on two previous occasions and as the black card enters its third season in existence, they will be informed they simply must improve.

Doherty said there can no longer be excuses given about missing cynical play. He referred to Maurice Deegan’s admission before Christmas that he should have black carded Dublin’s John Small for a deliberate trip on Mayo forward Andy Moran in the All-Ireland final replay.

“There will unquestionably be a focus on being more consistent in our application of the black card but there is certainly no change in interpretation. There will be an attempt, if that’s the right word, to be more consistent than we have been.

“When I’m talking about consistency, I refer to what Maurice Deegan said himself, that he missed a trip in the All-Ireland final. For me, we shouldn’t be missing trips like that and it will be a focus. We’ll be saying, ‘guys, we need to tune up a little bit more. Why was that trip missed? It shouldn’t have been missed. That’s a black card. Whatever time later, Jonny Cooper got a black card for a very similar type trip.’

“Why one and not the other? The answer is ‘well, I didn’t see the one.’ What I say is ‘well, we really need to be seeing the one. We need to be seeing both, not just one.’ We all know what black cards are. The referees know what they are. We can’t just be affording to miss them and be inconsistent. If we see something that is a black card but show a yellow card, that is inconsistent too. We can’t be doing that.

“If it’s a deliberate trip, it’s a deliberate trip. There can be no discretion from the referee wherever it happens on the field.”

By and large, Doherty has been pleased with the decisions taken by referees in showing black cards. However, he said: “I don’t think anybody would say the Seán Cavanagh rugby tackle years ago would not have been a black card. Now, there are tackles which aren’t as clear and the referee has a call to make between deliberately pulling down a player or knocking him to the ground.

“There is no judgement involved in what John Small did. I don’t think we’ve seen players being black carded for accidental trips but it’s the pull-downs and body collides. There was a huge argument about David Coldrick black-carding Robbie Kiely but that was his judgement call and I wouldn’t argue with him.”

Doherty revealed only three players including Cooper picked up cumulative card bans across last season’s Allianz League and All-Ireland championships.

After a ruling by Congress last year, players may only contest black cards when a suspension is proposed — “any or all of the three can be challenged at that stage”, said Doherty. However, none of the three sought a meeting with the Central Hearings Committee.

Ahead of the mark’s introduction across all the provincial January competitions this weekend, Doherty is satisfied referees are prepared for it. “We have no concerns. A number of the referees took charge in third level games before Christmas.

"All of them have had a couple of presentations/training sessions. From an officiating point of view, to my mind it is very clear-cut. Did the player catch the ball or not? Is the player outside the 45 metre line or not? I don’t anticipate any major officiating difficulties.”

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