independent

Saturday 19 April 2014

Black card taking physicality out of game – McEnaney

Former Monaghan and Meath manager Seamus McEnaney
Former Monaghan and Meath manager Seamus McEnaney

FORMER Monaghan and Meath manager Seamus 'Banty' McEnaney watched his native county hammer the Royals at Clones on Sunday with mixed emotions.

On a positive note, the 0-20 to 0-8 victory for the Ulster champions in the Division 2 fixture was great for any Monaghan fan, and McEnaney commented: "I enjoyed it from a Monaghan man's point of view. They're playing great football."

Against that, McEnaney is concerned for the overall good of Gaelic football, contending that the new rules, particularly the black card sanction, are already taking a healthy level of physicality out of the game.

He has a point, certainly in relation to Monaghan v Meath.

There were many supporters in the attendance of 2,124 at St Tiernach's Park were surprised at Meath's failure to get into close-quarters contact with opponents and disrupt the flow of Monaghan's play, particularly in the first half.

BLISTERING

In fairness, Malachy O'Rourke's team must be lauded for scoring 0-13 and conceding only one point to Meath in a blistering first half.

They were superior in all departments and did enough in the second half to complete a comfortable victory, but it wasn't much of a contest.

"People will be saying at the moment that the black card will bring higher scores, but not everybody goes to games just to see high scores. My problem in relation to the black card is that it's taking the physicality out of the game.

"There was one decent hit in the game yesterday (Sunday). Graham Reilly put in a real good shoulder-to-shoulder tackle on Colin Walshe who is a very good, very strong player for Monaghan, and put him across the sideline.

"For me, it was the best moment in the game, personally, because it was a real good man-to-man hit, and both of them got on with the next play.

"But I'm afraid that we're diluting the game, that it's all going to be about athleticism and speed. There's nothing wrong with that unless it cuts out the physical presence teams can have in games," he added.

As for Meath, McEnaney feels their traditional long-kicking game will tell against them as opposing teams, especially the Ulster sides, adapt to the new rules.

"This is Meath's problem, not anyone else's problem. Meath tend to find it very hard to handle a sweeper system played against them. Their players by their nature will kick long, and their fans by their nature, especially the fans, are shouting, 'Kick it on, kick it on'.

"It was unbelievable the amount of times Meath kicked the ball away against Monaghan. One experienced player got on the ball about 12 times and I'd say he kicked possession away 10 times.

"This present game encourages holding on to possession at all costs, because if you have possession, it's highly unlikely you're going to get the black card.

"It suits a running game. Therefore, it suits a team that's going to play more men behind the ball, and it will suit Donegal down to the ground. In fact, when you look at it, I think Ulster teams will flourish even more now," he said.

The league tables, admittedly after only two games, certainly look favourable for the Northern counties.

Tyrone and Derry are unbeaten in Division 1; Donegal, Monaghan and Down are unbeaten in Division 2 and Cavan have full points from two matches in Division 3.

"You know what? There's a part of me that thinks one of the reasons the black card was brought in was because of the Ulster teams. But I believe the Ulster teams will flourish, because they play a defensive system, they're difficult to break down, and the rules suit the team that holds possession," he said.

The one new rule that McEnaney favours is the advantage rule.

"I don't want to be totally negative about all this. I've been to four games and I've seen two more on television, and the advantage is a brilliant rule that is being refereed really well at the moment," he said.

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