Monday 27 January 2020

Eugene McGee calls for 'review' of controversial black card

But architect of under-fire rule claims problem is failure to enforce it more rigorously

Eugene McGee:
Eugene McGee: "I think there was an understanding, at least, that after three championship seasons it would be worth having a look at". Photo: Sportsfile

Declan Bogue

The architect of the GAA's black card admits it's time for a review of the controversial rule.

Eugene McGee acted as chairman of the Football Review Committee that got the law passed at Congress in 2013. It was his belief that its effectiveness and suitability for purpose would be reviewed after the first three seasons - imminent after the All-Ireland football final replay.

"I think there was an understanding, at least, that after three championship seasons it would be worth having a look at," the All-Ireland winning former Offaly manager said yesterday.

"We had an understanding at the time of the committee that at the end of three years, the GAA would have a review of the black card and see how it was working."

The black card has been the subject of much anger for its haphazard application.

While McGee believes that his committee went out of their way to make it as simple as possible, a number of controversial early dismissals this year - including Tipperary's Bill Maher, Matthew Donnelly of Tyrone, Dublin's James McCarthy and Johnny Cooper, and Mayo's Lee Keegan - have brought the rule into sharp focus.

If anything, though, McGee believes it is not enforced rigorously enough.

"One of the things you can get a black card for is sledging a player or sledging a referee. That hasn't been enforced once, as far as I can recall," he said. "If it was applied a few times in matches, that would finish all sledging.

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"There seems to be a reluctance still among referees to enforce discipline.

"There is a feeling that it would be a disgrace if two fellas were sent off in a match in the first 20 minutes for red cards or black cards.

"It's in the DNA of GAA people around the country of, 'Ah Jaysus, don't send off that fella'. If the offence is committed after 20 minutes, it doesn't matter."

McGee feels that any possible review would be better served without him on the panel.

"I wouldn't object to it, but I personally think it might be better to have people who have not been on the (FRC) committee," he said. "If you have all the statistics in front of you, with the director general of the GAA or somebody on his behalf, and two of the top referees. . . if they sat down and had a private conversation for a few hours, that would be interesting."

James McCarthy expressed his anger at his black card in the drawn final, stating: "I think it's an awful thing, really. Surely there is a better way of dealing with it, be it a sin bin or something like that.

"Your day being ended after 20 minutes in an All-Ireland final is a disgrace, to be honest. I think it's an absolute disgrace."

His manager Jim Gavin echoed his call for a sin-bin, commenting: "The black card itself is harsh in that a player, in any game, can be sent off for that type of infringement.

"It is time to have another look at the sin-bin."

However, while McGee's group teased out the idea of a sin-bin, they relented because of the difficulties in enforcing it across all levels.

He reasoned: "If you are playing a junior league match in rural Ireland in the month of February, and it is raining or snowing, you might get a neutral referee if you are lucky enough. You will not get another neutral official, no neutral umpire or linesmen.

"So, you want one or two people, or even three or four people to get sin-binned. So who is going to police that? Who is going to monitor this fella who has got sin-binned?

"It's purely the practicality of that for us. I was adamant all along that it was not a rule just for county players.

"There is no point saying it can be done in Croke Park. Of course it can be done in Croke Park, with video coverage and everything. But what happens when you are playing in the middle of January and February when it is snowing?"

Irish Independent

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