All-Ireland winning Donegal manager Jim McGuinness claims the GAA is going down a “dangerous” road with new yellow card proposals, describing it as a “disaster” waiting to happen.
Among the powerful Football Review Committee’s 18-strong list of proposals for change is a recommendation that players be substituted if booked.
McGuinness said his initial reaction is that if the rules — drawn up after people “all around the country sat down and fired in a piece of paper saying this is the way forward” — are implemented, then he will have to “coach to the changes”.
However, his personal opinion isn’t nearly as pragmatic and among various reservations expressed, he accused the FRC plans of forgetting the players.
He said there is a danger that the individual player will be lost in the whole process and that cynical teams will deliberately try to con referees to get influential players booked and withdrawn.
“If you bring it down to one card and you’re dismissed, it could be a disaster,” said McGuinness after yesterday’s Philips Sports Manager of the Year awards.
“Sometimes the player is lost in the whole process. They are training for six or nine months or however long, then what happens if you get into a situation where someone grabs your arm as they are going down and fires you across his body and sells a dummy to the referee? You are the guy who gets sent off because you have one yellow card.
“How is that going to be legislated for? I don’t see that being practically enforced. I think it is too dangerous in terms of genuine players getting the line for nothing. I see players now being sent off for two yellow cards and you are thinking he did nothing for that second yellow.”
Built into the GAA’s proposal regarding yellows is a separate suggestion that players who receive three bookings in the same code, in the same year, receive a two-match ban. McGuinness pointed out that, for some, this could rule them out of an entire Championship campaign and said a single game ban should instead be applied.
He also agreed that it would be tough on a player if he was banned for an All-Ireland final as a result of picking up his third yellow card for the year in a semi-final.
With this in mind, he noted that the sanction would affect successful teams most as they play more games and he recommended an amnesty for suspensions for All-Ireland finalists.
“That (an amnesty) would be fair because it is the biggest day of the entire year,” he continued. “Semi-finals are tough encounters and everything is left out on the pitch. There is no tomorrow. You are an hour from an All-Ireland final. Maybe sometimes, in that environment, people don’t think clearly about how they put their bodies on the line. They can do daft things and a yellow card can be picked up easily and that could spell disaster.
“In relation to the accumulation of yellow cards, we played four games in Ulster this year, from the preliminary round to the final. There are teams in Connacht and Munster who, in two games, could win a provincial final, whereas we have to go through three matches just to get to a final. We have to go through hell and high water, through a bear pit and the chances of our fellas picking up yellow cards are significantly increased compared to other provincial finalists in Connacht and Munster particularly.
“So we have double the games and more competitive games to play, so to try and square that is very difficult, and unfair for an Ulster team.”
Earlier in the day, Mayo midfielder Aidan O’Shea accused Donegal of cynical play in September’s All-Ireland final. O’Shea was speaking in the context of the FRC’s proposal to bring play forward by 30 metres, instead of the current 13, if players refuse to allow a free kick to be taken immediately or offer dissent to the referee.
He said that Donegal, in the final, took full advantage of the mere 13 metres, often halting Mayo’s momentum in the heat of battle.
“I don’t just think it, (I know it), it’s obvious if you look back over the tape,” said O’Shea. “You can see the referee brought the ball up on numerous occasions but it’s only 15 yards. It made no difference to Donegal because they get players behind the ball.”
Asked if a 30 metre sanction would have allowed Mayo convert several easy frees, O’Shea said it was highly likely.
“Yeah, I think so,” said the All Star nominee at the draws for the Sigerson and Fitzgibbon Cups. “Cillian O’Connor was kicking the ball easily from the 45 metre line against Dublin. So there were a few opportunities.”
Yesterday McGuinness gasped at the accusation of cynical play. “He felt we were cynical!” he asked incredulously.
Meanwhile, McGuinness claimed his new role with Celtic actually leaves him with a “lot more free time to focus on Donegal”.
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