“Here we go again. The black card debate”. My immediate, intrinsic reaction to the conflicting voices which converge every Sunday night. This widely-discussed topic seems to be at the epicentre of all Gaelic football enthusiast’s agenda at the moment. So much so that even a laborious five minutes attention devoted to Mr. Joe Brolly technically grants you a PhD in the area. Nonetheless, the onus must fall on someone to set the record straight…and yes, you guessed it! That someone is me!
First of all, on evidence of both All-Ireland finals, it was clear that the black card represented much more than a punishment to a player. It created a new impetus. A new incentive. But most of all, a new culture within the game. That culture, in my eyes, was based on begrudge and callous “sportsmanship”. I’ll explain with an example. Cast your mind back to primary school. Remember the black book? It’s a perfect comparison to the black card! Numerous instances in the matches, I witnessed mature athletes behaving child-like, whilst, at the same time constantly “blagarding” the referee. These moments were usually linked to a player’s motive to get one-up on the opposition. The black card facilitates this. Imagine, in the modern game it is possible to get an advantage on the opposition other than by means of scoring! Wow! This leads to the furor surrounding the on-field antics. Most-notably the duel between Diarmuid Connolly and Lee Keegan. Not surprisingly, this and other handbag episodes led to a coveted journalist to deem the modern game “un-referee-able”. This needless and immature behaviour is the sheer antithesis of what people expect from such dedicated inter-county players.
Secondly, it is clear that there is a myriad of discrepancies associated with the black card. Whether it be the implementation or the sanctioning, it never ceases to cause mass confusion, both on and off the field. The meaning of the word deliberate is far broader than first interpreted. Perhaps it’s meaning has become alienated.
Finally, the last detriment I believe that the black card has rejuvenated is the indecisiveness amongst referees and the general public. Why is this you ask? Answer: The choice is now there. Gone are the days of the mundane yellow and red cards. The boisterous hill sixteen supporters now plea to the officials in search of a black card. Even in G.A.A, there is now a grey area, similar to much of what modern society is built upon.
My recommendation? I firmly believe that the tide has turned in Gaelic football. The new ambiance mystique surrounding football entails infinite hand-passes, high levels of work-ethic and a desire to win. A type of game I feel which is far better suited to a rugby-esque system. The evidence is there. Similarities are present. Be it hawk-eye, massive additional time or the referee’s ear piece. All we need is a stipulation where captains are the only players permitted to discuss with the referee. This type of a system, along with the expulsion of the black card will result in a greater longevity to Gaelic football.
Therefore, no longer is it necessary to follow the crowd. No longer may you submit to the common opinion. No longer may you remain blind to the conversational matter. As Pat Spillane once wisely said “There are people who don’t know, then, there are people who don’t know they don’t know”. My hope is that at least by Pat’s standards, is that I don’t fall into the latter!