Many ‘grey areas’ still surround black card, says McManus

Monaghan footballer Conor McManus says many "grey areas" still surround the black card, calling for greater consistency from referees in policing cynical play.

GAA hierarchy yesterday heralded the success of the black card, statistics released showing the number of points scored per championship game this year rose by 9.5% compared with 2013. Across 64 championship games, 51 black cards were handed out, the total number of cards shown, 217, almost half the 2013 figure.

McManus believes the black card has failed to eradicate cynical fouling and while top-brass may be encouraged by yesterday’s figures, little has changed inside the whitewash.

“As a forward, life on the field was in no way easier than it was last year. I don’t think the black card had any effect on how tight defences were. From that point of view, there was no major difference,” he insisted.

“There is going to be cynical play no matter what. In 2013, cynical fouling was highlighted to an extent that it had never before been highlighted. Attention was brought to two or three incidents of cynical fouling. I don’t think they were major incidents, but they were made out to be major incidents.

“Black cards have been handed out this year to curb cynical play, but if a player feels he needs to make a foul at a certain stage in the game then he will and will have no problem taking a black card as a result. That will not go away no matter what you try.”

McManus was black-carded by referee Joe McQuillan in Monaghan’s Ulster semi-final against Armagh, a decision which was rescinded on appeal.

“There are grey areas with the black card. There were times when the black card was shown and it shouldn’t have been shown and there were times when it wasn’t shown and should have been shown. Black cards have been wrongly handed out. Its introduction has added difficulty to the referee’s job. Definitely more consultation is required with umpires and linemen.

“Maybe there needs to be training of umpires for inter-county games. An effort should be made to achieve greater consistency.

“The black card should continue. I wasn’t a fan of it coming in, but scoring is up. Checking off the ball has been more or less eradicated.”

On whether the introduction of a third card has contributed to a more free-flowing game, McManus is not convinced: “You can argue that some of the football this year has been more defensive than ever. Teams are getting more men behind the ball to ensure they don’t get stretched. Because you can’t stop the run of a man or check the run of a man you have to get more men behind the ball and close out space. The All-Ireland final was very defensive.”


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