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McGee eyes bigger test for black card in league

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Referee Anthony Nolan shows his 'black card' to Wexford forward Ciaran Lyng. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

Referee Anthony Nolan shows his 'black card' to Wexford forward Ciaran Lyng. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

Referee Anthony Nolan shows his 'black card' to Wexford forward Ciaran Lyng. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE

THERE were a host of O'Byrne Cup debutants on show in Cusack Park, but the most touted newcomer of all never even surfaced.

Instead, the black card stayed firmly planted in David Coldrick's pocket, leaving the watching Eugene McGee to concede that the acid test for his committee's brainchild will come at the start of the National League.

A total of 17 black cards were dispensed in the 20 provincial pre-season fixtures that took place over the weekend. At less than one per game, this was a far cry from the anarchy predicted by some, although that didn't stop several 'Doubting Thomas' managers voicing their displeasure.

Yesterday's Dublin/Westmeath clash was, for the most part, rancour-free and devoid of the type of creeping cynicism that prompted McGee's Football Review Committee to propose the black card punishment in the first place.

To our eye, there was just one borderline offence but Coldrick chose to brandish a yellow card instead of black to Dublin's Darragh Nelson after his high tackle stalled Paul Sharry's goalward run.

Overall, the Meath referee's measured approach to errant tackling as well as the new advantage rule was hailed by both managers.

Jim Gavin cited some "mistimed tackles" to be expected at this time of the season, adding: "The referee took the right decision to give players yellow cards as opposed to the cynical play that wasn't on view today."

McGee was an interested spectator in Mullingar, but the former Offaly boss has been around the block long enough to realise that February will bring bigger tests.

"There'll be a couple of controversial ones, I'm sure, in the early league matches which will test referees and everybody – but that process has to be gone through," the FRC chief reminded.

"There were a lot of new players (for Dublin and Westmeath) and the main thing for them is that they want to stay on the field and impress the manager. Of all else, they didn't want to be sent off. I think there was a match somewhere where a guy was sent off after 10 minutes and I heard somebody complaining 'Ah, isn't that terrible, the poor fella, he trained for the last six months and he only got six minutes or whatever'. All he had to do was not pull the guy down and he'd get to play the whole match!"

McGee remains confident that there will be no card-fest chaos once the competitive stakes are raised. "The embarrassment of having to walk off the field and being replaced by another player, probably lesser than yourself, is a big embarrassment. These are the sort of things that the modern-day players will think about and the black card, I'm convinced, will largely disappear before the end of the year."


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