Tuesday 25 October 2016

Playing rules group set to review black card

Minimal changes in the pipeline as Burns' body reviews championship

Published 11/10/2016 | 02:30

Referee Maurice Deegan shows Jonny Cooper a black card in the All-Ireland SFC final replay Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Referee Maurice Deegan shows Jonny Cooper a black card in the All-Ireland SFC final replay Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

The GAA's standing playing rules committee will meet tonight to review the championship season, with the working of the black card high on their list of priorities.

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The three-year-old sanction has generated much controversy this season, especially in the latter stages of the championship, when Dublin's James McCarthy and Mayo's Lee Keegan were penalised in the All-Ireland final draw and replay, while others escaped censure for more obvious offences.

Jarlath Burns, chairman of the committee, has confirmed that his group will take responsibility for conducting the three-year review of the black card which was flagged by the original Football Review Committee (FRC) on its introduction.

But Burns does not envisage any radical changes being proposed by the group and senses that mass defences may be a "passing trend".

"I was at the Tyrone final at the weekend and it was a fantastic game. That's been the case across the country. The championship, especially its conclusion, was very good," he reasoned.

"There appears, at times, to be a hysterical cry from certain sections that we need to do this, that and the other but there is a much greater and quieter majority who are saying 'please leave the game alone'.

"We don't want to do anything that might impact on the integrity of the game or the flow of the game.

"We're now looking at the 'mark' coming in and we just want to see how that goes.

"Obviously the biggest thing that people are talking to us about and corresponding to us about is the black card."


But while promising a review Burns said the success of the black card will go largely unnoticed.

"How many body checks were stopped, how many coaches focused specifically on coaching the tackle? You have to try, as best you can, to give the edge to the attacking team," he said.

"I know there are those who will say defending is a skill as well.

"However watch a game where the two defences are on top and watch a game where the two sets of forwards are on top and you'll see two different games.

"The black card does give a little edge to the forward because it forces the defender into thinking 'I can't be too robust here."

Three potential changes to consider

Preventing back pass to the goalkeeper

The team with the reputation for playing the most progressive football - the back-to-back All-Ireland champions - deploy this cooling tactic just as much as any other team.

In last year's All-Ireland final with Kerry, the ball was played back to Stephen Cluxton six times for security. In this year's drawn final with Mayo, Cluxton took possession from colleagues five times.

Imagine the increased excitement if such a luxury was outlawed and players had to play their way out of tight spots without the aid of an unmarked colleague standing behind them to bail them out.

The incentive to push up higher on opponents would be another potentially positive side-effect.

The downside is that it could marginalise goalkeepers that little bit, reducing their involvement in a game.

But the impact, in terms of higher pressure, could outweigh that.

Kick-outs required to cross 20-metre line

What purpose does the 20-metre line on a football pitch now serve? It's the baseline for the 'D' but since the decision was made to uniformly take all kick-outs from the 13-metre line from 2010 onwards, the 20-metre line has become somewhat obsolete.

It can have some relevance restored, however, as a baseline for how far kick-outs most travel before they can be gathered by the defending team.

Legislating for kick-outs crossing the 45-metre line (taken from the 20-metre) line has been floated as a possible way of complementing the soon-to-be introduced mark. It has worked in International Rules.

But a more conservative step would be to ensure it travels a minimum seven metres. When Cluxton began dropping kick-outs behind the 13 metre line to the corners it represented a new step in the evolution of the restart. By taking the risk, Dublin were making the target area even bigger.

But narrowing that target area by just seven metres could have a significant difference, inviting opponents to push up higher and potentially generate more contests.

Extending a '45' to a '50'

Not one that groundsmen tasked with lining a pitch would care too much for but the traditional 45 is becoming a very soft score for teams with solid place-kickers in their ranks.

Think about it in terms of a defender making a magnificent block or interception on an opponent.

His reward? A free shot under no direct pressure from a distance that so many kickers are now entirely comfortable with.

In this year's All-Ireland semi-final pressure applied by Aidan O'Mahony forced Kevin McManamon to punch wide which an umpire acknowledged and TV replays showed. But referee David Gough reversed the decision and Dean Rock scored to narrow the second-half deficit.

Irish Independent

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