CROKE PARK officials have admitted that there are glaring anomalies in some aspects of the new yellow-card disciplinary system but that there is nothing they can do about it until Congress in April.
At present, any player picking up a yellow card during the early-season competitions will earn an automatic two-week ban for a repeat infraction, which could rule him out of National League action if his county are involved during his suspension period.
Yet the same player would not be barred from the third-level blue riband Sigerson or Fitzgibbon Cup competitions during the same period, even if he picked up the yellows while currently playing for his college in the pre-season provincial competitions.
This is one of several anomalies in the new system, which clearly needs ironing out and has left team managers scratching their heads.
Representatives of the country's inter-county managers raised the problem with GAA disciplinary chiefs in a mid-week summit on Wednesday night but were told by officials that any changes to the system cannot be made before Congress.
Queens football boss Aidan O'Rourke also raised the thorny 'double yellow card' issue separately this week, questioning the validity of the punishments after he was the first manager to lose a player (Paul Courtney) to a two-week ban for getting sent off twice on yellows.
The problem stems from the existing Rule 143, which stipulates that any player who is sent off on yellow cards twice in the same 12 months must serve an automatic two-week ban.
O'Rourke argued that this should not apply anymore because, previously, a player had to get two yellow cards in a match to be sent off, whereas now they are dismissed on their first.
Previously you had to receive four yellow cards within a year to get a fortnight's ban, whereas now it is only two.
"By the letter of the law, two double-yellows within 48 weeks bring you the suspension, but you can't get two yellows (per game) with these new rules," O'Rourke said. "Last year's (suspension) rules are being used for the provincial competitions and I think we could fight it and win if we needed to."
But Croke Park's Head of Games Development, Pat Daly, who was centrally involved in the introduction of the new disciplinary system, said yesterday that O'Rourke's interpretation is wrong and that the existing punishments will apply.
"What has to be taken into consideration is that while you had to get two yellow cards to be sent off before, you could not be replaced," Daly said.
"Now you get sent off after just one yellow but that player can be replaced, so what a team is losing on swings they're gaining on roundabouts and you can't compare the situations."
He also stressed that there was a specific motion passed at Special Congress which linked the new yellow-card system with the previous two-week punishment for repeat offenders.
But he agreed that there are definite anomalies in the new system, not least the fact that the suspension is 'time-based'.
As it stands, a player suspended in the McKenna or O'Byrne Cups for getting two yellows would be ruled out of National League action if it occurred in the following fortnight.
But he could still play a big Sigerson or Fitzgibbon game during the same period because the rule applies only to "the same code (football or hurling) and level (senior inter-county)".
A player who gets two weeks might also miss no games during that fortnight if he had no scheduled senior inter-county games.
"The managers had two main requests to us," Daly revealed. "They looked for the two-week suspension to apply to the next game in the same competition and we are very willing to do that but we have no power to change it at present," he clarified.
Managers also complained about the undue delay caused when referees are writing down players' names while issuing black (warning) cards.
As this is just a procedural matter it is likely their request will have effect and referees will be allowed to note just the player's number to speed things up.
The fact that the experimental rules apply only to senior inter-county competitions is underlined this weekend when they will not apply in the All-Ireland junior club quarter-final between Corofin and London's Tir Chonaill Gaels.