Goal-scoring spike gives rulechanges early shot in the arm
THE introduction of the black card in Gaelic football may well be having a positive effect on the scoring returns, it has emerged.
An analysis of the scores from the 66 games played so far under the new rules in the four pre-season tournaments shows a dramatic rise in the return in some cases.
In the O'Byrne Cup, for example, the 2013 campaign yielded 48 goals and 640 points from the 27 matches played. Twelve months on and the number of goals has jumped by a staggering 33pc to 72, with a rise of just eight points to 648 (48-640 to 72-648).
Is it too much of a coincidence that such a sharp rise in goals comes with the introduction of a punishing card for cynical acts?
The average score from an O'Byrne Cup game in 2013 was 29.03 but a year on that figure is now 32. The sharpest rise is in the McGrath Cup but the greatest anomaly must be allowed for here.
With the absence of Waterford, Clare, Limerick and Tipperary as a protest against the Munster Council decision to seed the championship protagonists Cork and Kerry, some of the results have been quite skewed.
From seven games in 2014, as opposed to 10 in 2013, the average score is above 37 points per game compared to just 31.3 in 2013 but the presence of weak college teams has led to some very high scoring.
The FBD Connacht League also records a sharp rise in the number of goals under the new rules with 27 scored in the 13 matches played in January compared to just nine in the first month of last year.
Curiously, there were fewer points scored, 219 to 247, but the average score per game has risen to 23.07 compared to 20.84 in 2013.
Even in the Dr McKenna Cup, where some of the stiffest opposition to the new concept lies, there is a moderate rise with average jumping from 29.66 points per game in 2013 to 30.31 in 2014.
The returns point to a fair degree of caution among teams as they become more accustomed to the black card and the referees' interpretation.
Weather may also be a factor with January throwing up some of the most contrasting days.
But for those who see the rate of scores as a measurement of better football then they'll be happy with the evidence gathered so far.
A hike in the average score per game in four competitions (albeit competitions without a real edge) from 27.70 to 30.94 in 12 months, may not be reflected in league or championship when the time comes but it has certainly given food for thought as to how inhibiting cynical play may have been in the past.