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Black card law must evolve to the next level - Armagh ace Ciaran McKeever calls for video replays

By John Campbell

Armagh skipper Ciaran McKeever predicts that players and managers are ready to stiffen their resolve in relation to the application of the black card disciplinary measure during the championship season.

When the new rule came in on January 1, there were suggestions that it could have a detrimental impact on the sport with sides perhaps reduced in man-power and stricter penalties imposed on what are still perceived to be less serious offences in some quarters.

In the event, the league, while not without its occasional element of controversy, actually basked in plus-factors with higher scoring, faster play and some spectacular individual performances.

But McKeever believes that a different attitude could prevail when the Ulster Championship is set in motion on Sunday with the meeting of Tyrone and Down at Omagh.

"Everybody has their opinion on the black card and it's still very much a grey area. If the rule is to be strictly applied the card can only be issued for a deliberate pull-down.

"If you look back at some league matches, you will see that boys got black cards even though they were not guilty of this offence," points out McKeever.

"I suppose up to a point people were not too concerned about this in the league but if such harsh calls are made during the Championship, they could cost teams big matches.

"Everybody wants to be playing and winning championship matches but if black cards start to cost teams games then we are going to hear much more about it."

Referees are certain to come under much greater scrutiny in the intensity of championship matches and while McKeever has sympathy for the difficult role that whistlers must fulfil, nevertheless he makes it clear that he will not shirk from risking the black card sanction if he feels it's in the best interests of his team.

"If I feel that I have to take somebody down and maybe get a black card, then I will do it. Referees have a job to do and the job that we as players have to do is to try and perform to the highest level on the pitch and win matches.

"Regardless of what it takes to get us across the line we are going to have to do it," insists McKeever.

While an extended run in championship football is the goal of every player and is the chief reason why teams put months of detailed preparation and planning into the provincial and All-Ireland competitions, McKeever recognises that players can end up skating on thin ice at times, perhaps finding themselves at the mercy of a refereeing call relative to one particular rule.

And that's why he is urging the GAA authorities to take an even broader view of the application of the black card sanction in the foreseeable future.

"I think the GAA has to make its move and look even closer at video evidence in relation to individual offences during the course of matches.

"This might certainly hold the game up for two or three minutes but I think that in this way everyone will be seen to get a fair crack of the whip," asserts McKeever.

"As things stand, a referee could make a rash call within a matter of seconds and when this is not the right call it could cause huge problems.

"I think that the introduction of a live video link similar to that employed in rugby would be even better and not just for black card offences but for general calls.

"Square balls, scores which are wides and vice-versa, sendings-off, yellow cards, black cards – I think all these and indeed other perceived offences would be better dealt with through a video link-up with the referee. And I believe this should apply throughout the GAA and not just for major championship matches."

But the long-serving Armagh defender is going to have to exercise patience.

The black card will be very much in focus over the next few months and the GAA may review the sanction at the end of the championship season.

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