Wednesday 20 September 2017

O'Rourke hits out at black card 'media campaign'

Louth boss Aidan O’Rourke is leading the backlash to the introduction of the black card
Louth boss Aidan O’Rourke is leading the backlash to the introduction of the black card
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Louth manager Aidan O'Rourke has said he is "astounded" at what he feels was a "lack of balance" in the media with regard to the debate that surrounded the Football Review Committee's successful proposal of introducing a black card to Gaelic football.

O'Rourke believes "a very strong media campaign" was orchestrated to get behind the proposal and that opposing voices were drowned out or not heard at all in the process.

The former Armagh half-back added that he couldn't "for the life of me work out" how a Gaelic Players Association survey of its football members "didn't see the light of day and did not get any press."

O'Rourke delivered a quick response to the passing of the black card vote on Saturday on his twitter account by suggesting it was a "victory for the meddlers & little to be ats who never coach."

He clarified yesterday that that comment was directed at the "genesis" of the move to review the game in the first place, not the work of the FRC or its members. "I stand over that, for the genesis of this in the first place, it refers to pre-FRC formation," he said.

O'Rourke has emerged as one of the strongest opponents of the concept of a black card but says he has an issue with the process and how it came about.

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"I'd have concerns as to why there was a committee mandated in the first place. Why was there even need for a committee?" he asked. "It's my view that the laws and the future of a game shouldn't be at the whim of a president or an individual within the Association.

"In my very short history on this planet and working and playing sport, I've never come across a review committee to come back and report that there was nothing to review. I would feel that a committee, while very well intentioned, probably arrived where they arrived after a series of middle grounds and people giving up their own position. Such is the nature of committees."

O'Rourke did acknowledge, however, that the FRC stopped short of other potential fundamental changes, particularly surrounding the handpass.

"The FRC were very vehement on what was proposed and this was the result of extensive consultation. I am a playing member of the GAA, a coach, I work full-time in GAA administration. I haven't even come across anybody that was consulted in the process."

O'Rourke said he remains "puzzled" as to how such definitive findings in December could be subject to such a significant shift in January with "an 11th-hour" change to a black card from the original proposal of ordering the replacement of yellow-carded players.

"Initially, it was a case of 'we absolutely believe in everything that was proposed and this is the best way forward' until the 11th hour, when it then transpired it was not the best forward and 'actually we're going to have a black card and this was the new result of exhaustive consultation.'"

O'Rourke says he is very curious about the one-sided nature of the debate through the media on the issue.

"There certainly hasn't been a balanced view in the press. There seemed to be interviews with all the right people," he said. Did he believe that it was deliberately orchestrated? "I can't say that. What I would just say is that it amazed me, the lack of balance that there was in the press.

"It dates back to the previous rules trials that failed, particularly in 2009 when it was chaired by Liam O'Neill, and I would feel that that had a bearing on why it was carefully managed this time."

It has emerged that 90pc of those who responded to a text survey conducted by the GPA were not in favour of the introduction of the card, but this was not clearly conveyed publicly by the GPA. The GPA's single Congress vote went against the black card proposal.

O'Rourke has also questioned the balance of Congress and the failure to invite opponents of the proposals, who, like the FRC, are not members of Congress, to have some speaking time to put forward their views.

"The FRC were able to present their case and strongly make their argument which they were entitled to do. They're not members of Congress but they are invited to come and make their argument. But yet no one was invited from the other side of the argument to present their case and make it."

O'Rourke said the main issue at Congress was the new definition of the tackle which has been voted in without any significant trialling.

Irish Independent

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