Monday 26 September 2016

Suspensions the best remedy for plague of late black cards

Published 18/07/2015 | 02:30

Colm O’Driscoll drags down Darran O’Sullivan
Colm O’Driscoll drags down Darran O’Sullivan

The black card rule needs to be altered. It was brought in to counteract cynical play and to my mind it has been a great success.

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There is a lot less body-checking off the ball in football now and referees don't have to put up with the same level of verbal abuse as they used to because they can now tell a player, 'Go away and sit over there and send someone else on'.

But, as with all of these things, it's only after time that we see what needs to be tweaked.

And I firmly believe that there needs to be a tougher sanction for anyone given a black card in the last five minutes of a game.

In the drawn Munster final last Sunday week Colm O'Driscoll, who wasn't long on as a substitute for Cork, dragged down Kerry's Darran O'Sullivan near the end when the Kingdom desperately needed a score.

It was so frustrating to watch and it's worse when you're playing. The referee blew his whistle, he had to stop the play for 30 seconds, maybe 45, while he took the player's name, showed him a black card and ordered him off.

Defensive

Those seconds, at the end of a tight game, give the defending team time to filter players back and get their defensive systems in place. It suits the team that's ahead because they want to play the game at five miles per hour while the team chasing the game want it played at 100mph.

Some people have said that if you get a black card in the last five minutes you shouldn't be replaced, reducing your team in numbers. But this isn't going far enough because having 14 men for a short period of time when you have everyone in defence won't make much of a difference.

I think that any player given a black card in the last five minutes of a game should be suspended for the next day. That would put a stop to cynical play in the last few minutes because no one wants to miss games.

Looking ahead to Saturday evening's replay, and I think Kerry have the edge.

I remember in my own playing days we were hot favourites to beat Cork in Munster one year. I was marked by eight different Cork full-backs over the years, I remember them all, and on this particular occasion I was being marked by a new lad - Denis Walsh.

I was thinking, this fella is playing his first big football game (he was a handy hurler too, of course), his family would be all there, he'd feel a lot of pressure and I thought that I might end up embarrassing him.

Of course, partly because I went in to that game with completely the wrong attitude, I got an absolute roasting off Denis, who had a stormer. I was just lucky that enough of my team-mates played well and we won.

That just shows you what can happen when you aren't mentally right for a game and as a team Kerry weren't tuned in for the drawn game. Cork were and that's one of the reasons why they came so close to winning. The Rebels had their defensive structures set up well, they executed their game plan, their use of sweepers was excellent and they were brilliant around the middle third of the field.

I would say 13 out of the 15 men who started the game for them would come away happy with their performances. On the Kerry side, I would think only Shane Enright could be proud of the game he played. The forwards did reasonably well on limited possession, though they hardly saw the ball.

Aggression

Cork played with near perfectly controlled aggression which meant they were able to burst through tackles and pick up almost all of the breaking ball. They had men coming from deep and running on the shoulder the whole time and this did serious damage.

I can hardly think of a time when Kerry broke the tackle. The management will know that they were outfoxed tactically and the players will know that they were outfought. That won't settle well with them.

Cork threw everything into the first game and still didn't win. They'll have to do all of the same things on Saturday and also bring something new.

Kerry will have learned more from the drawn game than Cork. I expect them to play with much greater urgency, much more aggression and hunger.

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