Black card calls ‘nearly impossible’, says Eddie Kinsella

Eddie Kinsella says Gaelic football’s national referees have a handle on the black card but admits there are still issues with identifying deliberate pull-downs.

The respected Laois match official this week confirmed he is retiring from the inter-county game, having taken charge of the Kerry-Donegal 2014 All-Ireland final.

Admitting he is not “a massive fan of the black card”, Kinsella jokes the best way to help referees in administering it is “to probably get rid of it!”, although he acknowledges it has been a success for the most part. “We have been fairly good on the black card bar the deliberate pull-down. In referees’ defence, if you’re 10 or 15 yards away running after the play, it’s difficult to see if it’s deliberate and whether or not it’s a black card.

“We’ve struggled with that but I think we have everything else more or less right with the body collide and the deliberate trip. I don’t know what way the deliberate pull-down is going to be solved, though. You don’t like putting off a player unless he deserves to go. I’ve made mistakes putting players off the field and it’s not good.

“Maybe the sin bin could be the answer but I wouldn’t be a massive fan of the black card. It has done a great job in getting rid of the body collide but it’s nearly impossible to detect a deliberate pull-down from 10 or 15 yards away.”

Kinsella can say for absolute certain referees’ jobs are becoming more onerous. “It’s getting harder because of the extra work put on referees as regards cards. When you blow the whistle for a free, you then have to decide if it’s a noting offence, a black card, a yellow card or a red card. All of these things are going through referees’ heads. They have to get so much right. If he gets 20 calls right and one wrong, the media will pick up on the one he got wrong.

“On The Sunday Game, they may look at an incident three or four times and still one would be contradicting the other. We don’t have that benefit,” added Kinsella, who is not a supporter of a TV match official coming into Gaelic games.

“The advantage rule has come in the last few years but I never really gave it unless I was 100% certain it would be an advantage to let the game play on. Freetakers are very good nowadays and sometimes the advantage was to give the free.”

Upon the announcement of his retirement, the Courtwood clubman was praised by players for his refereeing style on social media. Former Limerick footballer Pa Ranahan tweeted: “Eddie Kinsella will be a big loss to the IC (inter-county) ref list. Spoke ‘to’ players rather than ‘at’ them which made all the difference.”

Kinsella said: “It’s what I always tried to do. Treat players with respect and they will treat you with respect. Pat McEnaney was one of the great communicators with players and I tried to do that too. I always liked to explain why I was giving a free so they knew where it was coming from. It helped to keep things off my back and players went with the flow.”

Managing the All-Ireland senior county and club finals in 2014 were personal highlights, as was last year’s Dublin-Mayo All-Ireland semi-final replay. “That was a cracking game,” he says.

As for the most trying experience — this year’s Division 1 game between Kerry and Donegal in Tralee — “a hoor of a match. It was a terrible game to referee because so much was going on”.

Kinsella was due to officiate the International Rules test in Australia this year only for the AFL to pull out. “That was the one downer. I had been told I would be doing it and trained three months for it but then Australia said they wanted to push it back to next year. I’ve been to Boston, New York, Dubai, and all over Europe refereeing but had never been to Australia. It was a disappointment for it to be cancelled after I’d been given it.”


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