Cadogan's choice perfect argument for black card
Faced with arguably Gaelic football's most powerful forward bearing down one-on-one with his goalkeeper on Saturday in Pairc Ui Rinn, Cork's Eoin Cadogan didn't have much time to weigh up where his sense of obligation should rest. With the game or with his team? No contest of course.
With Michael Murphy swooping onto a breaking ball just metres from the Cork goal, and Donegal three points in arrears, predicting the next sequence of frames wouldn't take much imagination.
So, like a hungry lion springing to haul down a hapless wildebeest Cadogan set to work, grabbing Murphy by the hips and pulling him to the floor before he could unleash his powerful right foot.
So inch-perfect was his timing that referee David Coldrick couldn't even award a penalty. With little time left, Colm McFadden elected to pop the free over and Donegal flew back the length of the country later that night empty-handed.
Cadogan, with his quick-thinking piece of cynicism, had preserved Cork's lead. Who could blame him? Who, in the same position, wouldn't have done the same thing?
Cadogan's obligation is first and foremost to his team-mates and their pursuit of victory. In that split second his only real concern was whether it would be a penalty or a free. The rules determined that the crime would far outweigh the punishment for him.
For evidence of the type of foul the Football Review Committee have in mind with the proposed introduction of a black card at Congress this weekend there was none more compelling than this.
Mickey Harte contends that the rules are sufficiently equipped to deal with these incidents, with the recourse referees have to yellow cards. But where is the balance between the impact of a yellow card for Cadogan and the influence his act had on the game? Is it right that such a deliberate, game defining foul is dealt with merely by yellow?
The chances are that even with black cards in place he might have committed the same foul anyway, in the knowledge that it would only have removed him from the action for the few minutes remaining.
But that begs the question as to whether even black cards would be a sufficient deterrent to such cynicism. In Croke Park, and in Kingspan Breffni Park, similar acts in the closing stages of important league matches also underlined how it paid to foul to preserve a lead and kill momentum.
Fermanagh finished with 12 men but, more importantly for them, two more Division 3 league points. Their players did what they had to do to achieve that. So too did the Tyrone players who picked up yellow cards in the closing stages against Dublin to kill that game.
The obligation is not on players to be conscious of the aesthetics of any game in these moments, nor is it on managers. No, it is on the 300-plus delegates who gather in Derry this weekend to discuss the range of motions. It is their obligation to think of the game, not the win.
Anyone who argues that another layer of punishment isn't required in Gaelic football should examine the closing stages of those games last weekend before drawing a final conclusion.
Already, however, there are signs that a two thirds majority will be difficult to reach. Some counties have pointed to the potential confusion it will generate for refs, but how many refs have come out and said this? How could a referee not quickly identify a deliberate trip, pull-down and body-check, the three core fouls governed by the black-card concept on top of the two abuse elements involved?
This is the third effort in eight years to deal with the more cynical elements that have crept into Gaelic football. If it fails, it is difficult to see how any administrative team can come back in the short term with any new set of plans.
There is not much wrong with Gaelic football. Last Saturday night perfectly illustrated, however, what is wrong and any attempt to fix that is a step in the right direction.