Sean Cavanagh: I'd take a black card for the team and so would everyone else
THE man who carried out the rugby tackle that sent Joe Brolly ballistic and created a storm of controversy about cynicism in Gaelic football says he will do it again this summer, if needed – despite the introduction of black cards.
Sean Cavanagh's tackle to stop Monaghan's Conor McManus scoring a goal in the late stages of last year's All-Ireland quarter-final was one of the biggest controversies of 2013.
The sides will lock horns again in Sunday's Ulster quarter-final and, ahead of that big rematch, Cavanagh admitted that the introduction of black cards won't stop him repeating such tackles in the late stages of a game.
The five-time All Star believes that most players will "take one for the team" in similar circumstances.
"Goals are just too big of a score in the championship," Cavanagh stressed.
"People will go down or pull people back on purpose to stop them scoring goals, it's as simple as that. Pulling somebody back to me isn't dangerous.
"Maybe if you were getting a red card, and it was deemed a professional foul, and you were going to miss a game or something like that, you definitely would think twice about it.
"But if it got you over the line, and through to the next round of a championship? I think 99.9pc of players will tell you exactly the same.
"I know Conor personally and he's a great lad but I have no doubt if we're winning by two points on Sunday, and I go through on goal in the last five minutes, that somebody's going to rip me down.
"You have to accept that. It's part and parcel of the game. The black card will work to a certain extent but there's still anomalies."
The Moy giant said the new rule has contributed to cleaning up the first hour of games but cynical fouls will still occur in the dying stages.
"Most players would take a black card if it meant the team was going to get to the next round of the championship. It's probably from about 60 minutes onwards. I have no doubt it might click into someone's head that it's the right thing to do for your team," he said.
Cavanagh also believes the new rules have some anomalies that players will use to their advantage.
"I didn't realise until a couple of weeks ago that you could stay on your feet and pull somebody back," he pointed out. "There are a few rule tweaks that need to be done with the black card. I completely agree with the ideology behind it all where it's a more attacking game, I love that
"I have no doubt on Sunday that it'll be attacking and free-flowing, there'll be tasty challenges put in all over the place."
But he said that there are aspects of the black card rule that has seen some players develop new tricks "like stepping in front of their markers off the ball and going to ground on purpose".
"It puts serious pressure on linesmen and umpires and referees, trying to call whether it was a purpose block or whether it was accidental," he said. "I have no doubt, before the summer's out, there'll be a couple of those incidents.
"I think players are coming to terms with it still, and referees are coming to terms with it. It's going to take a wee bit of time to work itself out."
Despite all the predictions that there would be a flurry of black cards when the summer came around, this has not yet transpired. There were six senior championship football games last weekend, with black cards in only two of them. Three were shown in the Armagh-Cavan match and the drawn Munster quarter-final between Clare and Waterford.
Cavanagh said that Tyrone's championship priorities this summer have been very different.
"We're putting a bit more emphasis on the Ulster championship this year, we haven't won it in four years," he said.
"When we were winning them in 2009 and 2010 or whatever, we were looking at the bigger picture but we don't have that luxury any more.
"We have to take it one stage at a time because we've let ourselves down the last few years and haven't been able to back up our talk about winning All-Irelands.
"The focus is on Ulster this year. We came very close to getting knocked out in the first round."