Black card experiment is now defunct as referees lack desire to enforce rules
So, the black card. It was good while it lasted. Or maybe not. Depends on your own take on it.
But one thing is for sure, in the world of GAA where rules don't always mean rules, the black card is gone. Kaput. Banished.
The death-knell for the black card came after the Tyrone v Monaghan game, when Darren McCurry and Darren Hughes had their black cards overturned. The evidence was fairly compelling.
McCurry was pushing himself off the floor when a Monaghan player tripped over him. Hughes was trying to put a tackle in on Sean Cavanagh as he went towards the Monaghan goals, he grabbed Hughes' arm and the two went tumbling. Hughes went to the sideline for the vital last few minutes.
Both men had their cards rightfully overturned.
There were four games played last weekend, two provincial finals and two tight qualifiers. Not a single black card was produced.
There are two strands of thought on this. Perhaps it could be that teams who have reached the last 12 of the All-Ireland series have had more games to play and so have become attuned to what referees are looking out for and have adapted their tackling.
That thought is not without its merits, until you drill down and examine each game.
In the Ulster final, there were a number of clear examples of black card offences, and a rash of examples where players should have been booked for persistent fouling.
After 50 seconds, Monaghan's star forward Conor McManus was taken out with an off-the-ball challenge by a combination of Christy Toye and Neil McGee. That is a third-man tackle, punishable by a black card. Referee Maurice Deegan only awarded a free.
Paul Durcan's foot trip on Fintan Kelly was not punished. This was exactly the same offence that Tyrone's Niall Morgan was black-carded for in the preliminary round. Without their brilliant goalkeeper, Donegal could have struggled.
Maybe it was just a bad day for Maurice Deegan. In the second half, he started blowing away to his heart's content.
It's not Maurice's fault, rather, it is a system of unrealistic rules. One of the biggest laughs of the black card was that it was meant to punish sledging. On Sunday, you could hear the abuse between players from the stands.
Yet not a single black card sanction has been awarded against sledging all year.
So good luck black card, it was an experiment worth having, but when referees don't have the will, it becomes defunct.