Tuesday 12 December 2017

25 in four years - Kerry are the market leaders when it comes to league black cards

Kerry manager Eamon Fitzmaurice. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach / Sportsfile
Kerry manager Eamon Fitzmaurice. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach / Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Kerry are clear market leaders when it comes to picking up black cards, both in the 2017 Allianz League and over the course of the four league campaigns that the controversial penalty for cynical play and actions has now been in place for.

Black cards for Jonathan Lyne and Anthony Maher in the recent league final pushed the Division 1 champions into a clear lead at the head of the table, their nine in eight games one more than Kildare's eight from a similar number of games and two more than Longford who played one less game.

In terms of the overall picture, Kerry players have now accumulated 25 black cards in the 31 league games they have played between 2014 and 2017.

It's an interesting backdrop against the recent debate on cynicism, provoked by Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice's appeal for balance when referencing criticism of his team's approach to the game prior to the league final with Dublin.

Fitzmaurice highlighted three particular incidents or passages of play involving Dublin that he suggested shone a light their "hard edge", a push back against a "narrative" that he felt was focusing more on Kerry's approach than that of their great rivals.

Fitzmaurice made the comments over concern that the build-up to the final, framed by Philly McMahon's comments on the back of Paul Curran's overview of the Kingdom the previous week, was beginning to develop into a similar situation to what he felt was an orchestrated campaign against Mayo's Lee Keegan the previous year.

But the accumulation of so many cards which are designed to root out cynical play, not just this year but over the four-year period analysed, potentially adds further ballast to criticism of Kerry's approach.

Naturally, Kerry will feel that not all the cards dished out to their players were merited and whether they can be taken as the most precise measurement of cynicism is, of course, open to question.

But their total of 25 over the four-year period is 16 more than Dublin who have played four more league games (two semi-finals and two finals).

Dublin picked up no black card in 2014, added just two a year later but got up to five last year.

They went more than seven-and-a-half games without picking up one until Diarmuid Connolly entered the fray against Monaghan for the first of his back-to-back 'blacks', culminating in first-half dismissal against Kerry for blocking Gavin Crowley's off-the-ball run.

Their only dismissal up to that point was Ciarán Kilkenny who picked up a double-yellow in that fractious but hugely enjoyable league match in Tralee on St Patrick's weekend.

No other regular Division 1 team comes close to Kerry for cumulative black cards. Mayo and Donegal are both on 16 over the four-year period while, in terms of 2017, Tyrone's six is next highest.

Overall, there was a marked drop in the number of black cards distributed, down 10 per cent from 137 in 2016 to 120.

But that's still one-third more than the 91 (including semi-finals and finals) in the first league campaign after its introduction and still well ahead of the 105 a year later.

The standardised and uniformed structure of the league makes it the most comparable environment in which to assess the statistics involved with the penalty that was brought into force in 2014.

For the first time since 2014 the greatest number of black-card offences by division is not in the top flight with 31 (down from 38 in 2016), two fewer than the 33 in Division 3.

Some 15 players are just one more black card or double yellow away from picking up a one-match ban.

Among them is Kerry's impressive new midfield recruit Jack Barry who saw black against Donegal and Monaghan and Tyrone's Niall Sludden who walked against Mayo and Kerry but, given the nature of the offence he committed against Tyrone, it's quite likely that he would successfully challenge that, should he pick up a third sanction.

Kildare's Kevin Feely and Meath's Eamonn Wallace will have to tread carefully in the Leinster Championship as they too have picked up two black cards each.

The number of straight red cards has taken a significant jump back up. Having dropped from 17 in 2015 to just nine last year it is back out to 25. The number of red cards for double yellows was 32 by our count.

The five offences singled out for sanction at Congress 2013 to combat cynical play were the pull-down, the collide or body collide and the trip in addition to aggressive remonstration with a referee and gestures or language of a provocative nature to an opponent.

The pull-down remains the common offence, accounting for about 45 per cent of all black-card offences with 25 per cent for off-the-ball collisions.

Irish Independent

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