Wednesday 21 February 2018

Donnelly dismissal brings fresh focus on black card application

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte Photo: Philip Fitzpatrick/Sportsfile
Tyrone manager Mickey Harte Photo: Philip Fitzpatrick/Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

In the tumult of excitement and euphoria that greeted Tyrone's first Ulster title in six years on Sunday the question of the two black cards that Tyrone players received just before half-time wasn't raised with Mickey Harte.

In the past the Tyrone manager has stood on the very same pitch bemoaning the application of the sanction.

But last Sunday wasn't, it seemed, an appropriate time to seek a reaction. Mickey had other things to be talking about in any event, the merits of a provincial success that he described as Tyrone's best in his time as manager far outweighing any grievance over the loss of two players at such a crucial time.

But when the dust settles Harte is sure to have a strong opinion about the departure of Mattie Donnelly and Cathal McShane in a short space of time just before the break.

Donnelly went first on the advice of a linesman to referee David Coldrick when he was deemed not to have done enough to avoid a collision with Eoin McHugh.

McHugh was forced off temporarily for treatment and, while the subsequent contact was heavy-handed, were the officials really that certain it was deliberate and that it merited ending his involvement in a provincial final?

When Richie Feeney kept a straight path in the early minutes of the All-Ireland club final in 2014 and collided with a St Vincent's opponent, there could be no argument that he made no attempt to avoid contact. But here there was ambiguity.

Cathal McShane made contact with an opponent minutes later but while the level of intent here may be questionable it is consistent with what referees have been sending players off for as Kerry's Shane Enright will testify following his dismissal on a black card during the tempestuous league match against Donegal in March. The black card has worked, not so much for the offences that it has punished but for those that haven't taken place since its introduction. Together with the advantage rule, it's clear that free counts are decreasing.

But decisions are still open to question, especially whether body collisions are deliberate or not.

In Castlebar, the officials look to have got the right call with Damien Comer who appeared to be brought down by Niall McInerney on the stand side in the 57th minute. But linesman Paudie Hughes was well placed to see a hidden hand tug by the Roscommon man, something Comer appeared to do minutes earlier when winning a free off Enda Smith.

But Clones brings the spotlight back on the black card and its application. Tyrone have a high success rate of overturning black card decisions. In 2014, Darren McCurry's against Monaghan was rescinded, so too Conor Meyler against Monaghan last year and Ronan McNamee against Kerry.

Because of rule changes at Congress they can't contest a black card until a third (including double yellow) accrues.

Meanwhile, Harte has been praised for his unyielding confidence in himself as a manager by former player Enda McGinley.

"Even when the facts can be staring you most obviously in the face, he has complete faith in what he is about and that definitely transfers to the team," he said.

McGinley recalled the immediate aftermath of last year's All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Kerry when his future was up in the air.

"The masterstroke that he pulled last year straight after the defeat to Kerry, he immediately nailed his colours to the mast and said, 'I am here next year, of course'."

Irish Independent

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