Perhaps, for once, the GAA may have abated their often rightly stereotyped resistance to change in time. Now, the black card hasn’t sat well with everyone in the game. Ulster counties vehemently said no to the proposal – some things never change. However, having been able to take in more football in person thus far this season than has been the case for a long time, owing to the black card, in my view, signs of good football appear to be sprouting on the horizon again.
Utterances of professionalism will be decried and profoundly scorned upon by bastions of Gaeldom. Yet, a failure to realise that such is now transpiring in all but name within the playing ranks at the top level is to allow one’s mind reside at a fanciful sit point. And any activity that operates with a professional ethos is going to be a results driven environment.
Thus, whether the masses like it or not, the style of play utilised by the likes of Donegal and Tyrone and, to a lesser extent, Armagh very bountifully in their pomp. Still, Dublin demonstrated last term that those codes were rather open to cracking. By returning – to a large degree – to old style, long ball play.
Dublin had, of course, a coded system of their own. Fundamentally based around Stephen Cluxton’s kick outs. Meath did as good a job as any team last term in deciphering same. Central to their plan was pushing up tight for restarts. So denying the custodian his preferred option of quick restarts to half backs who attack at speed. Or at least limiting it.
What those efforts also allowed for was a platform to attack directly and at speed when possession was attained. One of the age old nuances of the game is that no defender seemingly likes an opponent who runs straight at them. Clearly, however, it was the ever more desperate attempts to combat exactly that by defending teams that led to the inception of the black card.
You’d think, then, that rivers of attractive, attacking football would now be flowing. Thereby sating often critical fans and media alike. Indeed it has, as seeing the likes of Meath newcomer Cillian O’Sullivan light up the early part of the campaign with direct running that has yielded plenty of scores for himself and his colleagues.
Those traits have been evident with many sides since the black card came into play. As high scoring games and entertainment that’s easy on the eye have, thankfully, become the norm once again. There may be a requirement to attach a few asterisks to all the abounding positivity, mind you.
This corner would, admittedly, be liable to bemoan the efficiency of the whistle clad official when matters concerning teams in which a vested interest is held go wrong. Well hold on to your hats lads and lassies, you’re about to get the sympathy vote from an unlikely source!
For it’s been very obvious that even the best referees on the circuit have been struggling to adjudicate on what form of defending merits what sanction given that yellow, red and black cards are now in force. What it does as well is create an utter conundrum for defenders faced with oncoming attackers. Regarding what class of roadblocks will or won’t be permissible.
At this juncture, the ball must go back into the court of the sport’s legislators. In other words, the time has arrived, once and for all, properly to define what constitutes a legitimate tackle in the game as distinct from what’s regarded as a foul.
Doubtless, that too will take further elongated periods of protracted negotiation before an amiable solution is arrived at. But, as well as being something well worth pursuing, it’s actually a necessity if the relative positivity surrounding the black card so far is to be continued and indeed built upon going forward.
The sooner the GAA delivers a dictum on what a properly defined tackle in the game is, the better.