The reforms of the GAA's Football Review Committee achieved a landmark victory this morning at the association's annual congress in Derry when the contentious black card sanction was accepted, comfortably reaching the weighted majority by a margin of 71-29 per cent.
After a tense morning during which FRC members were still unsure about the outcome of the debate on the first motion of a package of measures designed to improve football.
Their case was presented by Paul Earley and Tim Healy and featured a devastating 'show reel' of cynical fouls, such as rugby tackles, tripping and body checking or intentional collisions.
It was argued that the black card – requiring the offending player to leave the field and be replaced – would address this. A succession of passionate contributions followed from a variety of speakers including Pat McEnaney, chair of the National Referees Committee, former president Joe McDonagh and Kerry's Tony O'Keeffe, chair of the GAA's Central Competitions Control Committee and Andy Kettle, Dublin chair.
The black card offences accepted were: to pull down or deliberately trip an opponent and deliberate body collisions, provocation, verbal abuse and threatening gestures and to remonstrate in aggressive manner with a match official.
Although a number of counties had announced their intention to oppose the provision, very few spoke. President Liam O'Neill had to ask for contributions against the proposal. Only two answered, Cork delegate Christy Ring, son of the great hurler, and Tyrone chair Ciarán McLoughlin.
Overall the speaker count was 13-2. The new rule will come into force from January 1st next year.
There were mixed fortunes for the other reforms brought forward by the FRC. Three of the most prominent proposals failed to achieve the necessary two-thirds majority: moving the ball forward by 30 metres for interfering with frees and the clean pick-up fell decisively short but the mark for cleanly catching a kick-out at least 45 metres from goal came agonisingly close, falling one per cent short, at 65-35.