Tuesday 23 April 2019

Another black day for rules of game

Perhaps these games are best witnessed live and dangerous in the grounds because for sure, the television experience left a sour enough taste.

Of course the weather did not help - Donegal played Tyrone in miserable conditions. But that in itself was simply no excuse for the carry-on of players, team officials and no doubt the supporters who got stuck in too.

We'll start with the black card - I did say last week this will be the big controversy of the 2015 championship and the reason I went for this area is because of a long experience of referees failing/unwilling to implement rules they themselves don't see as reasonable.

They appoint themselves judge and jury and go about their business as they please.

In an effort to educate supporters on the detail surrounding the issuing of black cards, the GAA wisely invested in a rules education drive last year. Many of our match day programmes have included a single page explanation of the five different scenarios which lead to the referee flashing the card and ordering your removal (and usually a replacement, but not always) from the field.

In a further effort to enlighten the masses HQ produced user friendly colour illustrations of the actual infractions. To recap, in short, the five Cynical Behaviour Fouls (Black Card) are:

3 Deliberate body collide

3 Deliberate trip

3 Deliberate pull down

3 Verbal abuse to an opponent or teammate

3 Remonstrate with a match official

Recently, the 2015 Sunday Game team of presenters and pundits attended a rules briefing in Croke Park delivered by Head of National Referees, Pat Doherty.

It was informative and beneficial and well presented. We even had an interactive session when Pat played some clips of various fouls in hurling and football, and with the help of an issued 'remote control' we were asked to adjudicate and select our preferred option (according to rule of course!) from a menu of answers. That's when the fun started!

After the first two questions, it was obvious football people viewed hurling fouls much differently to hurling people and vice versa. We got an immediate sense of the difficulties facing referees. There was a Q and A throughout and I got the opportunity to ask if the GAA was planning any crackdown on 'sledging', one of the most cynical and obnoxious aspects of the modern game.


To my surprise the referee's supremo had to inform me that his referees did not come across much of this most unwelcome development in the game. I did not realise they wore ear muffs while refereeing or had such poor eyesight they could not see players often race over to opponents to sledge them following a wide or basic error. Well, the opening match of this year's Ulster championship fairly underlined that this dark art is very much alive and well.

Mark McHugh (Donegal) was a very high profile and obvious example of this behaviour in the second half and to see a young footballer, reared to know better than this, resort to sledging in an almost manic fashion was so disappointing. He should have been shown an immediate black card.

It boils down to this basic fact, despite the protestations and nonsense we heard from both camps afterwards: neither management, players nor supporters have much, if any, respect for each other and will resort to whatever is needed to win the day. What a pity it has come to this.

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