Friday 15 December 2017

Card uproar goes too far

John Greene

John Greene

Some of the hysterical and over-the-top reaction to the GAA's decision at annual Congress to introduce a black card in Gaelic football has been hard to fathom. For some players and managers, it appears as if the sky has just fallen in on the game.

There are legitimate concerns about the effect this black card will have – particularly at club level where refereeing standards and playing numbers could cause it problems – and these concerns were well expressed by the likes of Kieran McGeeney and Conor Counihan.

McGeeney (pictured), in Monday's Irish Examiner, said that he believed "there are two sides to the argument". He added: "I still think we always want to cure the symptoms but we don't want to cure the cause." In the same paper, Counihan said he was "worried about the workload now on referees" but also that he did like "to see cynicism taken out of the game".

But ultimately something had to be done to tackle the kind of systematic fouling which has become part of Gaelic football. And no game can stand still – if a game is to continue to grow, it must evolve too. Yellow and red cards, frees from the hand, five substitutions, a time clock, a fourth official – who would have thought all that possible just 20 years ago?

A shining example of the sort of hysteria which was almost laughable came in the Daily Mail last week in Tom Ryan's column. Here's a flavour: "Let these lads put in a hard shoulder, send their man spinning, what they need in that game is a bit of manly contact. Instead we get men crying over nothing but a game of sport, thinking they are going to save football."

There is no problem putting in a hard shoulder in Gaelic football, so long as it's done correctly. It is a skill, just as much as the pick-up or the solo.

Of course, the real fear for Ryan and many others is that the lawlessness which has been allowed to prevail in hurling – the so-called "manly contact" – will be the next item on the GAA's agenda.

Indeed, Ryan said as much last week: "They need to realise that football as we know it now was created by the strong counties with their ruthless mentalities and while I couldn't give a damn if another football was ever kicked on this island, I do worry about this polluted thinking creeping into hurling."

Now, who is in denial?

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