Thursday 23 November 2017

From The Stands: Black card gaffe cries out for a black card

David Coldrick's performance in last Sunday's Ulster championship game between Tyrone and Down was blasted by refereeing great John Bannon. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
David Coldrick's performance in last Sunday's Ulster championship game between Tyrone and Down was blasted by refereeing great John Bannon. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

John Greene, Eamonn Sweeney and Dermot Crowe

You want proof that the black card works? Last Sunday's draw between Tyrone and Down saw five goals being scored in an Ulster championship for the first game since a 2007 meeting between Down and Cavan.

As Martin McHugh, analysing for the BBC noted, in previous years Conor Maginn would certainly have been pulled down as he raced through the Tyrone defence before scoring the fifth goal of the game. It was an admission made all the more remarkable by the fact that during the first half McHugh and commentator Mark Sidebottom, doing a passable imitation of Statler and Waldorf from The Muppet Show, scoffed at those deluded souls who thought the new rules would lead to more open play in their beloved Ulster championship.

By the end, it was evident that it had. And also that Tyrone, as they showed in the Allianz League, remain at a loss as to how to defend without the option of cynical fouling. Which is a kind of poetic justice given that it was Seán Cavanagh's pulling down of Conor McManus that probably led to the rule being passed in the first place.

Mickey Harte's insistence that he's against the rule because it makes the job harder for referees has to be seen in this context. Harte is a great manager but it's his own team's rather than the referee's wellbeing he's concerned about in this case. And he's not the only boss who wishes the black card could be magicked away to make it easier for the game to be shut down by negativity.

That's why it was a pity to see David Coldrick give ammunition to the black card's opponents by his quite frankly baffling refusal to issue a black card to Maginn when he executed a classic professional foul on Mark Donnelly. There was nothing difficult about the decision, almost everyone apart from the referee could see what needed to be done.

He then proceeded to make an even worse call when awarding Tyrone a free to draw the game when the ball was out of play, something which, according to former refereeing great John Bannon, is actually against the rules. David Coldrick, like Pat McEnaney before him, is a bit of a media darling and we've already heard him hailed on RTé TV as 'the best referee in the game'.

Rubbish. By their decisions shall you know them and the Meath man shouldn't get another big game this summer.

* * * * *

A straw poll is nowhere near as scientific as the type of polls we were bombarded with over the last few weeks in the run-up to last Friday's local and European elections. But, for our purposes, a straw poll was just as effective as we attempted to get a sample of public opinion on two of the burning issues of the day. And so we conducted a straw poll on Stephen Ireland and Roy Keane in the From the Stands office last week.

Q1: Do you think Martin O'Neill should do his level best to get Stephen Ireland back into the Irish squad?

Yes 0%; No 0%; Couldn't care less 100%.

Q2: Do you think Roy Keane will be the next ________ (insert some managerless club playing lower-level football in England or Scotland as appropriate) manager?

Yes 0%; No, 0%; Couldn't care less 100%.

At this stage, so early in his tenure, O'Neill must already dread sitting in front of the massed ranks of an Irish press corps armed with the latest Stephen Ireland question because the previous week he completed three consecutive 20-yard passes to a Stoke City team-mate, or the latest question on Keane's imminent departure to some middle-ranked club who look certain to appoint him as their new manager in the coming days.

It's all becoming so tired and dull.

* * * * *

Hurling thrillseekers down the west might be interested in some fast action at the annual seven-a-side tournament at Kilbeacanty, near Gort, on Monday next, June 2. Though not as widely known as the annual Kilmacud Crokes event, it has been running longer – over 50 years – and features some of the top clubs in Galway and Clare including last year's All-Ireland club champions, St Thomas'. St Thomas' are the sevens holders, having defeated Gort in last year's final. A prize fund of €6,500 and training weekend break away are among the prizes.

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