Mickey Harte took a thinly-veiled swipe at supporters of the Football Review Committee’s (FRC) black card proposal after it was backed by Congress in Derry on Saturday.
Speaking after Tyrone’s win over Kildare yesterday, Harte’s tongue was very much in his cheek when asked about the recommendation, which he had strenuously argued against, being made a rule from January 1 next year.
“I’m not very interested in this at this stage,” he said. “The people who wanted what they got, got what they wanted. I’m glad. It seemed it was going to be emotionally distressing for lots of people if it hadn’t gone through, so I’m quite glad that didn’t happen.”
Expressing a sentiment shared by a number of his peers, Cork manager Conor Counihan gave qualified support to the black card but warned it will heap more pressure on referees.
“I am just worried about the workload now on referees and the various decisions in terms of the technicality of what is black and what is yellow and how many cards.
“If you boil it down to grassroots level and it’s junior A or junior B and there are 17 or 18 guys [available].
“Maybe it’s okay for inter-county but I don’t know, just to rule it across the board. Look, I’ll leave it to the powers that be in terms of the administration of this but, look, it’s not going to be easy.
“I do admit that I do like to see cynicism taken out of the game.”
Kerry’s Eamonn Fitzmaurice and Galway’s Alan Mulholland were in the minority of managers in full support of the black card.
Fitzmaurice, who was consulted on it by the Kerry County Board, said: “I think if you’re going to take one of those fouls for the team where you pull a fella down you have to be prepared to take the consequences and walk the line. I did a couple of them myself in my time. I’m coming from the point of view that I think it’s better for the game. If a player wants to take a black card, fair enough but it’s a big punishment.
“I don’t think you’ll see fellas doing it early in games. Maybe late on they might be so tired they’d be happy to go off at that stage but, yeah, I’d be a big advocate of it. Anything that takes the cynicism out of the game is good.”
Mulholland insisted the FRC’s entire 22 proposals should have been accepted. “I would have trusted entirely what the committee came back with rather than taking bits and pieces out of it.
“The black card in itself, we won’t know how that will work until it is put into practice but I would have taken all of the committee’s recommendations on board wholesale.”
Kildare’s Kieran McGeeney believes the issue exists with the grey area surrounding what constitutes a tackle.
“There are two sides to the argument. I still think we always want to cure the symptoms but we don’t want to cure the cause. People can argue there’s a definitive tackle but we don’t implement the rules so therefore it doesn’t exist.
“As long as we do that year after year, whether it’s fist-passing or cynical fouling, we’re always going to come back to something.
“Have a definitive tackle and if you don’t tackle you get a yellow card for it, and if you do it twice, you get sent off.”
McGeeney continued: “You can see the merits of what they’re trying to do. People are looking for more scores and you can’t be just dragging people down.
“But there’s defenders being dragged down coming out with the ball by skilful corner-forwards who couldn’t tackle a fish supper and are getting away with six or seven of them a game and nobody wants to issue them a black card!
“I think it will be good if it’s implemented the right way but I think we have to go back to the original thing. The tackle is a skill that’s used two or three times every minute in a game.”
Louth boss Aidan O’Rourke, who was hugely critical of the black card on Twitter on Saturday, remarked: “Refs not capable of managing games as it is. How are they going to deal with another layer [of rules].”
After a weekend in which Connacht Council secretary John Prenty said he was “disgusted” by his native Mayo’s cynicism in last year’s provincial final, county manager James Horan was lukewarm about the black card.
“It will be interesting to see how it pans out. The referees have a difficult job, there is a lot of inconsistency in refereeing, and I think this might add to the confusion.
“But if it improves the game... at this stage we have to go with it anyway so let’s see how it does.”
Like Counihan, Armagh boss Paul Grimley fears the black card now places further burden on officials and believes two referees should operate in games.
“Whether you are a fan of the new rules or not you have to ask how are they going to be implemented. In my view it is too big a role for one man. It is like giving a tradesman new tools but it doesn’t change the tradesman.
“Yes I would be in favour of two referees. If you look at soccer games and it is a far smaller pitch and a far slower game, they have six officials. I think there has to be a bigger incentive for referees, as well for the younger referees to come through“.
Grimley also claimed the FRC hadn’t “thought this through” and the more serious issue is the standard of refereeing.
Westmeath manager Pat Flanagan maintained there was nothing wrong with the game. “I honestly think we are crucifying ourselves as far as the game is concerned. I honestly didn’t see anything wrong with that game out there today. I think we are going to destroy it if we keep going at it. Why don’t we just leave it alone.”
Derry’s Brian McIver stated: “Anything that keeps the game flowing is a positive.”
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