Belfast Telegraph

Black card rules need refined to crack down on those exploiting loopholes

By Declan Bogue

Altogether, the Tyrone county board lost 10 gleaming new footballs on Sunday at the Gortin Road end of Healy Park.

Mickey Moynagh is the kit and supplies man. He spends more time looking for stray balls than your average novice golfer.

With Tyrone warming up at the Gortin Road end, the usual routine is that players have their warm-up shots and some of the more energetic children compete for the ball on the terraces before tossing it back to the players.

That didn't happen on Sunday. Instead, the footballs went into the terraces and were mysteriously 'disappeared'.

That's probably not all that aggrieved Tyrone.

For the first time this year they came up against Dublin, and their novel approach to the tackle.

Quite a high proportion of the Dublin tackles meet the opponent high up. The first point of contact is quite often the face or around the throat area. If you think this is somehow unfair on Dublin, then I invite you to look at the tape of the game. A lot of went on in that game was dangerous play.

The majority of football played in Division One this year has been a delight to watch. Naturally, the presence of the black card has had a significant part to play.

We have watched as Mark Lynch's power has made him able to play one-twos and cut through defences without fear of being taken out by an unpunished third-man tackle.

After the first couple of weeks, the black card is strangely beginning to become a bit of a rarity. It's as if with the third-man tackle largely gone, referees have forgotten about the other offences.

It was amazing that Marty Duffy, one of the elite referees, failed to issue a card of any colour to Dublin goalkeeper Sean Currie after he dragged down Shay McGuigan to concede a penalty.

It was the most clear-cut example of the Sean Cavanagh on Conor McManus tackle that for many was the last straw in the battle against cynicism.

Be careful folks, it's still with us. Back in January, Louth manager Aidan O'Rourke said after an O'Byrne Cup match against Dublin: "To be honest, the most annoying part of the game regarding the official was that Paddy Keenan was being cynically fouled every time he got possession," he commentred.

"But he wasn't brought to the ground, therefore it wasn't a black card. That completely defeats the purpose of addressing cynical fouling."

The black card as it was brought in was never going to be a cure-all against cheating. It was a good start though, and it needs to be refined and fine-tuned.

What's really disappointing though, is how some teams spend so long figuring out ways to execute blatant cheating, and coach accordingly.

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