O’Neill backs FRC card plans

GAA president Liam O’Neill has defended the Football Review Committee’s proposal regarding the use of yellow cards which has already attracted criticism from inter-county players and managers.

Donegal manager Jim McGuinness has spoken of his fears that the policy of substituting a player for the rest of the game once he has received a yellow card will be a “disaster” and Mayo’s Alan Dillon voiced similar concerns yesterday.

However, O’Neill responded by saying the details regarding the use of the yellow card and how it is to be implemented have yet to be teased out fully and he expressed his belief that it will be more acceptable once it is presented in a more understandable manner.

Work is continuing at a frantic rate behind the scenes in Croke Park to make ready the FRC’s 18 proposals in time for an earlier-than-usual Congress in late-March but it will take something extraordinary to save the motion on yellow cards.

Rural clubs already struggling to field teams will fret over the extra strain imposed by rules that see players substituted after picking up one card and McGuinness highlighted another fear on Wednesday by pointing out that a proposed two-match ban for anyone receiving three in the same grade and same season would be unfair on sides that must navigate more games in provincial championships.

“It is very hard to keep all the balls in the air at the one time,” was O’Neill’s take on that. “There is a principle at stake here. It is not just about the senior inter-county footballer, it is about keeping the game lively and interesting for the ordinary club footballer here.

“He is our focal point and, to be honest, the ordinary club footballer does not get enough games. There is no question of him being over-taxed but he is entitled to play those in an environment where his skill is recognised and that he is not going to be subjected to cynical fouling and this is aimed at taking out cynical fouling.

“On balance, if one manager takes umbrage or sees a disadvantage for himself, he has really got to solve that himself. We can’t do a system that caters for the needs of every single inter-county manager. The aim here was football and club football and … the vast majority (98% according to the FRC) play at club level.”

The yellow card issue aside, the reaction to the FRC’s findings seems to have been broadly positive.

“What is happening now is that, to some extent, people are seeing what parts of this do not suit them and it is the opposite of it ‘not being in my back garden’. It is just that ‘it is now in my back garden now and I don’t want it.

“That is natural, people are entitled to see it (that way). But when delegates go to Congress and people discuss it, they will say ‘this came from us, how do we reject it, it came from us’.

It promises to be a more interesting Congress next March although not as interesting as it might have been given O’Neill’s suspicion that the second half of the FRC’s report, on championship structures, will not be ready in time to forward those particular recommendations.

“That won’t come for some time yet,” he revealed. “I doubt it will be dealt with early in the year although, if they don’t have much to say on the competition structures, it might come quickly. It won’t be in time for motions for Congress because they have to be in for January.

“It is unlikely, the timescale to me looks like it won’t.”


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