A few years ago the sin bin was introduced to Gaelic football. It had offenders being sent to the line for a period, as happens in rugby today. Like the game with four quarters before it, this innovation was given no time to grow old. In fact, it never really got out of nappies.
If the black card goes the same road, it can’t be for at least a year. Whereas the sin bin and TGWFQ were only experiments, the black card is written in stone. In other words, it’s a rule, voted into the GAA bible, Treoir Oifigiuil – with the agreement of 73% of delegates at the most recent of the association’s biggest get-togethers it must be said.
The black card, intended to punish players who engage in cynical fouling in all of its guises, had its launch at subsidiary league matches played the weekend before last. On the Monday, the Irish Examiner canvassed the views of 12 managers whose teams had been in action. The reaction was mixed.
Louth’s Aidan O’Rourke was probably most forthright in his condemnation; Mickey Harte said he was ‘happy enough’, and Kerry’s Paudie Fitzmaurice called for ‘patience’.
O’Rourke was on an RTE radio sports programme the following Saturday arguing the case against with one of those who sat on the committee which recommended the introduction of the rule, Eugene McGee, and made his points well, just as McGee was staunch in fighting his corner.
New Offaly manager, Emmet McDonnell, said “we have worked hard” on the rule. That’s commendable, the only way to go. It’s in the book, and will remain there for at least this season. For it to be removed, two-thirds of delegates to the 2015 Congress – or maybe a special one called in the meantime – will have to vote in favour.
Referees – who, Aidan O’Rourke contended, didn’t like having it ‘added to their armoury’ – have a huge part to play. Whether they’re taking care of county or club matches, they’ll all have to be singing from the same manual. That’s the problem with most rules, young and old, different arbitrators giving them a different interpretation.