AFTER what seemed like an eternity, the much discussed Black Card came into being all over the country last weekend as county and college sides battled it out in less than ideal weather conditions for football.
The introduction of the new rules has been welcomed in some circles while raising plenty of eyebrows in others. Agree or disagree, there was little doubt that the cynical impeding of advancing players had to be addressed. So on that score, credit must go to the powers that be for their attempts to stamp out this activity however late those attempts might be.
The first chance many got to see the new card system in action was last Sunday at the clash between Cork and Limerick IT in the McGrath Cup.
Before heading to the game I decided that it might be appropriate to immerse myself in the new laws so I would be capable of spotting what should and as importantly, what should not be a Black Card offence.
After watching Marty Morrissey, Pat McEaney and David Coldrick discussing the topic for 26 minutes and 49 seconds on the Cork GAA website I couldn't help but feel that this might get a little complicated.
So armed with the knowledge Mr Morrissey and Co. had filled my brain with I headed off to the impressive surroundings of the Mallow GAA complex to see what all the fuss was about. 66 minutes of the allotted 70 were just a damp squid for us Black Card watchers as this quarter-final clash never really got going – thanks mainly to Cork's dominant display over the students from start to finish.
That all changed as the game drew to a close. Two black cards in two minutes. One for each side. Having not seen anything remotely like a bookable challenge when Michael O'Leary received his card on 66 minutes the crowd were justifiably a little sceptical, however when LIT's corner-back Cian Prenderville received his Black Card two minutes later we received the first clue about how this system will operate.
Prenderville decided to take a piggy back on Cork player John Hayes as the forward headed for what looked like a certain goal. There was no doubt that this was the type of offence that the card was introduced for and fortunately it did its job. The player was removed and Cork subsequently scored.
However, is the Black Card enough? Perhaps in a game like the one that took place in Mallow it was plenty, but if that was the All Ireland final and Prenderville had decided to hitch a ride on the back of Bernard Brogan in the final minute to stop him scoring a title winning goal, would replacing him be enough of a punishment or for that matter would it be any real type of deterrent?
The GAA have stated that the Black Card is not meant to be a punishment, it's to be a deterrent, but is that the correct approach? Shouldn't the card be both? What the game in Mallow showed us is that the referee will still have to make the call, the only difference is that he has more choices, but as well all know having too many choices is not necessarily a good thing.
The new card won't take away the fact that referees have to make the call so any cards issued will be based on the ref's opinion. In Mallow there were two black cards. One was correct and one was based on a flawed assumption.
If O'Leary receives two more black cards or some yellows or one of the other permutations that make up a suspension under the new system, then the player will have the right to feel a little aggrieved. No changes there then.
For sure, the Black Card will have more thorough tests this season so it's probably a little premature to be judging its success or failure based on a one sided encounter five days after its birth.
The upcoming league campaigns should give us more competitive, more physical and more entertaining fixtures, which are sure to bring plenty more Black Cards to the fore. Perhaps, then we can judge whether the Black Card has a future or not.