A false dawn is how Football Review Committee (FRC) chairman Eugene McGee viewed this weekend’s debut for the black card.
The former Offaly All-Ireland winning manager, head of the group which put forward the new playing rules, attended yesterday’s O’Byrne Cup game between Westmeath and Dublin where there were no black cards but six yellows issued by referee David Coldrick.
Seventeen black cards in all were shown across the 20 provincial pre-season games, a smaller number than what might have been anticipated.
McGee doesn’t believe the impact of the new disciplinary measure will be truly felt until the start of the National League next month.
“We need to see more cut and thrust matches. Don’t forget, the overriding reason for having the black card is, it is not a penalty, it is a deterrent. Players are well aware of it.
“Some of the other games around the country might have been a bit more intense, I don’t know. I watched an U21 match yesterday (Saturday), a Hastings Cup match, Mayo and Longford and it was much more intense because there’s higher stakes there. There was nothing wrong there except a guy got sent off for giving out to a referee.
“That’s another part of the conundrum that people didn’t realise was there (in the plan) at all — we tried to get more respect for referees. The thing is to give referees the power to put manners on these players.
“As regards the black card, well, as I said, it’s primarily a deterrent for people committing offences, it’s not a punishment. It has to be a punishment if you commit the offence but I believe that most of the players, who think about it at all, and they have been thinking about it, will say ‘I don’t want to be sent off for a black card. I’m going to look stupid being sent off on a black card’. They’d nearly rather be sent off for a red card offence. The embarrassment of having to walk off the field and being replaced by another player, probably lesser than yourself, is a big embarrassment.
“These are the sort of things that the modern day players will think about, I think they will anyway, and the black card, I’m convinced, will largely disappear before the end of the year.”
He forecasts more debate about the black card next month.
“There’ll be a couple of controversial ones, I’m sure, in the early league matches, which will test referees and everybody but that process has to be gone through.”
As he maintained going back to last January’s coaching conference, McGee insists the black card will be a rarity as players become more acquainted with it.
“We know the problem there will be with club games and so on. I really think that pulling down and so on, it’ll rapidly disappear because it’ll be seen as a kind of a blot on a players’ character to be seen to be pulling down.”
Dublin’s All-Ireland winning manager Jim Gavin is more of a supporter of the sin bin but fully accepts the black card. “The Dublin County Board were supportive of the black card and Dublin football team management support the black card and I think it’s good for the game. (I) didn’t see one there today but I’m sure all players on both sides were very conscious of it.”
Westmeath manager Paul Bealin added: “Nobody likes to see anyone get a black card and I think it is all about the prevention of cynical fouling as much as you possibly can. For me, it was a good, clean game that was competitive.”
Both managers praised David Coldrick’s officiating with Bealin impressed with his liberal use of the advantage rule. “I think it’s right that they give you the five seconds to allow you to pull it back if need be. I think Dublin got the benefit of that but I think it’s right for the game and it does help.”
Louth’s Richard Brennan became the first recipient of a black card in the 2014 competitive season in his side’s O’Byrne Cup defeat to DCU on Saturday evening.
However, there was controversy in Down’s win over UUJ in Newry where Darragh O’Hanlon was black carded in the first half by Joe McQuillan.
Watching on, his Down team-mate Conor Laverty tweeted: “In Pairc Esler total disgrace this black card craic! @DarraghOHanlon hits a great tackle and receives black card #cantunderstand #joke”
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