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New GAA rules should not be brought in just because some clown in RTE throws toys out of pram, says Diarmuid Connolly

By Michael Verney

Diarmuid Connolly believes the introduction of the black card was an overreaction to Joe Brolly's comments after Sean Cavanagh's cynical foul on Monaghan's Conor McManus in the closing stages of 2013 All-Ireland SFC quarter-final.

The Sunday Game pundit was vociferous in his condemnation of the Tyrone star but change had already been passed at that year's Congress under the recommendation of the Football Review Committee.

Connolly, 29, is happy with football just the way it is, however, and feels that "bad publicity" is generated by such alterations to the game's rules.

"It's silly bringing in these rules," he said. "There is nearly one every two years, I don't think it's benefitting the game. It's putting bad publicity on the game.

"The black card has been over-publicised so much. Referees are coming under scrutiny for it. Players are coming under scrutiny for it and there was no need for it.

"Just because Sean Cavanagh pulled a guy down and some clown in an RTÉ studio decides to throw the toys out of the pram and make it more than it was. . ."

Connolly has his own views on how cards should be distributed: "It would be a red card for a clear goal-scoring opportunity, a yellow card for cynical play."

"We are a little quick to make rules in our game and I don't think we needed to. You see in the All-Ireland final, a guy pulling a fella down, how far away from goal, two minutes in and it's a black card," added Connolly.

"That's the reality of it, it was brought in because someone was pulled down in front of goal and they had a clear goal-scoring opportunity. I've got one black card in my whole time playing, but I don't play in a position where I have to make those tackles all the time.

"I can pull out of challenge in the half-forward line, but you can't do that when someone goes around you. The letter of the law says a deliberate pull-down is a black card. Like, how many times do you deliberately pull someone down? You might be leaving a hand in, in the tackle. A free is the right call.

"A black card and you lose that player for the whole game. You put enough into the training and playing, and for it to be taken away from you for one challenge when it's not forceful, or it's not deliberate that you are going to hurt anyone.

"There was a card for that already, it's called a red card. You see that in every other sport. I don't agree with the black card anyway."

The four-time All-Ireland winner, who will skipper St Vincent's against Rhode in Sunday's AIB Leinster club SFC final, also believes the new 'mark' rule is already a "dead duck" but admits he's unaware of its intricacies.

"I don't think it's going to be a major factor. How many clean catches have you seen outside the '45 in the last five years. Are they trying to bring that back? Will it work? I'm not sure," he said.

"Not too many goalkeepers in the modern game just bomb the ball out to the middle and look for someone to catch it. It might be factor, but I don't think it's going to be a major one. It's a dead duck really, they tried it before and it didn't work."

The two-time All-Star feels the sin-bin would suffer a similar fate if introduced, before outlining how targeting from opposition sides is a "testament" to his ability.

"It's part of the game. It's a physical game. Opponents go toe to toe with each other. I wouldn't call it targeting as such. If it's within the rules of the game, fair enough. If it's not, then it should be dealt with by the officials," he said.

"That's all we are asking for really, isn't it? At the same time isn't it a testament to your own skills that somebody needs to step out of line to curtail you. That's a compliment really."

Connolly is feeling the pinch mentally after a demanding year with club and county but he's hoping to keep the show on the road for another Sunday as the Marino men chase another Leinster crown.

Typically shy towards the media, captaincy leads to extra duties but he considers it an "honour" to represent this exceptional bunch.

"It's a massive honour to be asked to represent the group, especially a group that means so much to me and we've won so much together," he said.

"I'm not blind to media. When it's coming up to big games and there's pressure I tend not to read the papers or listen to too much radio.

"I just like to listen to what's happening inside (the camp)."

Irish Independent


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