Rule 5.14 of the playing rules of Gaelic football states that to use threatening or provocative language against an opponent is an immediate black card offence.
It is fundamentally important that this is implemented both at inter-county and club level to uphold the sportsmanship of the game.
But can we say that is happening? Hardly. Identifying it is difficult for referees and watching on tv, it’s even harder. Then again, it’s quite obvious going by the body language of players that there are harsh words being exchanged.
The problem of sledging is increasing at an alarming rate. Once a yellow card offence, if detected now it means a player has to leave the field of play. There is more power given to match officials to stamp it out, but it doesn’t appear to have had any impact.
The armchair experience of having watched Donegal-Tyrone on tv yesterday only re-enforces my view.
So much went on in Ballybofey yesterday. There has to be a question of consistent application when Sean Cavanagh is black-carded in the 67th minute for a similar high foul to one which saw Martin O’Reilly yellowed in the fourth minute.
This was a game where viewers would have been intrigued by a player-cam dedicated to what Michael Murphy and Cavanagh had to endure off the ball as well as on it. In such a tight, intense game, it was essential that Joe McQuillan dealt with incidents effectively. When referees don’t, it can lead to other such incidents.
The best example of that came in the 53rd minute when a push on Paddy McBrearty wasn’t picked up and seconds later Karl Lacey picked up a yellow for fouling Cavanagh as if it was some sort of retaliation.
Cavanagh should have been awarded a ‘45’ in the 59th minute when the ball touched Neil Gallagher last as he made a block. Six minutes later though, McQuillan made an excellent call for Cavanagh’s charge on Martin McElhinney.
McQuillan was also correct to throw up the ball in the 17th minute when the ball hit him, as much as Tyrone were annoyed by the call. The rule states he must do so. However, both Colm McFadden and Tiernan McCann could have received black cards for deliberate body collides.
I attended the Offaly-Longford Leinster Championship game on Saturday and that was always going to be a tough opening round encounter, it being their fifth meeting in 15 months. There were some bad calls for fair shoulders in the wake of Michael Quinn failing to win a free after he was the victim of a mistimed challenge in the eighth minute. Offaly’s Niall Smith was correctly black-carded for a body collide although a couple of yellow cards could have been issued to ensure better control of the game. Longford were fortunate on that count.
On a final note, Congress took steps to address the announcement of teams earlier this year. It clearly hasn’t gone far enough as there are teams still making changes prior to throw-in. It’s unfair on players, their families, the media and spectators buying match programmes. Longford made three late changes, Tyrone two, Donegal one... and we’ve only just begun.
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