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Time to dump the black card and ease pressure on refs


Referee Joe McQuillan

Referee Joe McQuillan

Referee Joe McQuillan

I'm in the market for any college prospectus that offers catch-up courses in law and forensic investigation.

Because right now I'm feeling somewhat under-equipped for a role as a Gaelic football analyst. Especially on 'The Sunday Game'.

Seems a 17-year stretch knocking around the Kerry squad isn't a sufficient apprenticeship for this lark after all!

I've spent most of my days and nights in Donnybrook this summer analysing card colours like it's a trip to an optician for an eye-test.

Red ... yellow ... black ... no, go back that's yellow. Or is it red!

I can't be any more blunt when I say that I'm sick of it. We all are. Look, don't get me wrong, it has to be analysed and called for what it is.

But I'd much rather be talking about strengths, weaknesses, tactics. Any of us would.

I had a go at Joe McQuillan last weekend. I thought he had a poor game. But I'm worried about how hard it is to referee it now.

The modern game involves much more tackling and, consequently, more problems for officials. The pressure they are now under is unbelievable. But beyond that my sense is that the disciplinary system is turning into a joke.

The debate about the hearings/appeals process can be just as intense now as the incidents themselves because we don't know if they are going to be overturned.

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Kevin Keane gets off one week, Diarmuid Connolly's sticks the next. The same committee with, from what I can see, much the same incident (striking) in front of them governed by the same rules. Yet different result. Is it that referees are making wrong decisions about these red cards or are the rules such that they can be twisted by clever briefs?

No wonder a culture of challenging everything has developed. I was no angel and I had my share of red cards but I never contested them. My attitude was, if I deserved it I'd take it and get on with it.

My only time to appeal anything was a retrospective suspension after the 2009 All-Ireland final against Cork. I was accused of stamping on Graham Canty. No way was I having that because it simply wasn't the case.

Connolly is unlucky in that he was goaded into it but he struck. Had he got off, you'd have to ask where are we going with the disciplinary system?

Philly McMahon used up all Dublin's luck by getting away with what I thought was use of the head. I thought he had a case to answer, irrespective of no contact being made and Aidan O'Shea appearing to pull McMahon towards him.

There is a rule for attempted use of the head. I felt it should have been pursued. Again, I fear for the precedent set by not doing so.

Referees need greater input from the six officials. The game at the highest level is becoming too fast and too complex in the contact area for one man to be dispensing it all.

They need to be empowered more to help with decisions. Where possible, umpires need to be referees of a certain standard. I know that may not be logistically practical for every game but if you take the case of Cillian O'Connor's incident with Rory O'Carroll last week, how was that not picked up with two umpires so close by?

To me, the black card is a disaster. It's helped to diminish the third-man tackle which is good, but it has multiplied the confusion and the arguments.

There is a fundamental question to it - how does anyone really know if there is intent in a tackle which brings a man to the ground? Only the player himself really knows. It just isn't clear-cut enough.

I'd dispense with it and return to the yellow/red system of punishment. If you want to punish cynicism, introduce a 20-metre free in front of goals for those categorised as black.

Of course that sets the cycle of 'was it, wasn't it' in motion all over again. Bottom line? Players will do whatever it takes to win. So will managers, officials and their lawyers.

The rules need to be even more robust to guard against that culture.

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