Black card can be success story for GAA – McEnaney
REFEREES chief Pat McEnaney has expressed confidence in the GAA's ability to successfully roll out the new 'black card' rule, as Croke Park unveiled its nationwide plan to ensure that all referees, at club and county level, are singing from the same rule book hymn sheet next year.
"I'm very confident that we'll have a success story here," predicted McEnaney at a Croke Park media briefing to outline the various rule changes to be introduced across all levels of Gaelic football from January 1.
As part of its educational blitz, referee courses will be held in all 32 counties between now and Christmas. It was made clear yesterday that no referee will be eligible for whistling duties next year unless he has (a) attended one of these courses in person or (b) completed an e-learning module.
The New Year's Day rule book 'revolution' includes a widely applauded five-second advantage rule, while in future a player can score a point with an open hand (not just a fist). That perennial source of contention – the tackle – has also been more clearly defined.
However, most of the focus will inevitably fall on the black card edict whereby five defined "cynical behaviour fouls" will be punished by ordering off the offender, to be replaced by a substitute – up to a maximum of three per team.
Provincial councils will be urged to appoint top referees (as opposed to trialling newcomers) for their pre-season competitions – the O'Byrne Cup, McKenna Cup, etc – so that "we start off on a positive note", McEnaney confirmed.
Asked if he feared that January chaos might ensue, the National Referees Committee chairman insisted: "No. One famous man said, 'If you fail to plan, you will fail'. So we have put a lot of planning into it, a lot of preparation; we will deliver a very strong message.
"You will always fear that something might go wrong, but even if you go back to last year with the square ball rule – people questioned if we were going to have a lot of problems with goalkeepers being injured and a lot of chaos in around the square. It didn't materialise.
"The big thing about these rule changes, we must remember the word 'deliberate'. It is a deliberate foul. It is the player that is in control here ... nobody wants to come off the field. People talk about rotating players – 'I don't mind rotation as long as it's not me rotated'. You will often hear players say that. So the onus is on the player."
Stressing his belief that the "hatchet man is gone out of Gaelic football", the retired Monaghan whistler expanded: "One of the things that has stuck out over the past number of years is the cynical foul, the deliberate rugby-style tackle as people have referred to it, and that's something we want to take from the game. I'm very confident the team of referees we have out there will deliver on this, even at club level."
* GER CUNNINGHAM has stepped down as a Cork senior hurling selector, fuelling speculation that he's set to become the new Limerick manager. The 52-year-old had coached Jimmy Barry-Murphy's panel for the past two seasons and is now favourite to succeed John Allen on Shannonside, albeit there are also reports of growing pressure for a homegrown appointee such as TJ Ryan.
* PADRAIG CLANCY has called time on a lengthy Laois football career after 57 SFC appearances. The midfield veteran and occasional full-forward, 33, had been involved in the Laois set-up since 1999, winning a Leinster medal in '03. County board chairman Gerry Kavanagh described Clancy as a "natural leader" who had won "the respect and admiration of both team-mates and opponents over many years".
* ALAN QUIRKE and Pearse O'Neill have become the latest Rebels to retire from inter-county football, bringing to five the number of 2010 All-Ireland winners to end their Cork careers in recent weeks following the exits of Graham Canty, Noel O'Leary and Paudie Kissane.