Remembering that foul and its consequences. Monaghan footballer Conor McManus coolly responded to a line of questioning yesterday on the impact of the black card, its debate and introduction, ever since defeat to Tyrone in last season’s All-Ireland quarter-final.
It was early August when Monaghan's Icarian summer tumbled into the sea as Seán Cavanagh provided the blazing sun that burned McManus's soaring wings. The black card was already suggested but that incident seemed to provide enough momentum to guide it through Congress.
The 49th minute. Canal End. Tyrone leading 0-11 to 0-9. McManus, the tip of Monaghan’s spear en route to their first Ulster title since 1988, beats the last defender only for Cavanagh’s rugby tackle to stop him dead.
The punishment could only be a yellow card and free-kick. Cavanagh went on to land a crucial point and collect his fifth All Star.
Tyrone won 0-14 to 0-12 sparking Joe Brolly to question Cavanagh "the man" on live television, which led to Mickey Harte calling for a "forensic examination" of the way teams foul.Forensic examination and subsequent introduction of the black card have come to pass.
This begged the question of McManus (back in Croke Park yesterday at the Go Games launch): if in the same situation arises this summer will the black card ensure the attacker avoids being dragged down?
“It depends on what time in the game it is. If it’s late on, the last five minutes, [the player] will probably still get taken down and that’s just it. Take the black card and go on ahead. If it’s early on in the game you are not going to want to miss 65 minutes of a championship quarter-final or semi-final. I think it will iron out a few things like that.”
McManus hasn’t noticed a “real major difference” during the league . Progress, if any, he feels, will only become apparent when the real show cranks into gear. “For the black card I don’t think we can judge it until a few days here in Croke Park.”
Statistics released by the GAA last week, revealing a dramatic decrease in cards and 10 per cent increase in scoring, don’t resonate for him.
“I know Monaghan are one of the top scorers in Division Two but you are just going out to work on your game same as any other year. I can’t put my finger on why it is. Maybe it is the black card. From a forward’s point of view I don’t find it any easier to get away from a defender than it was last year.”
Sunday's league semi-finals at Croke Park, considering they neared championship intensity, provided a useful barometer. No black cards. Five yellow cards in Derry's win over Mayo, leading to a red card for Fergal Doherty and zero cards in Dublin's defeat of Cork.
“You’ll do whatever you have to do to win,” he says. “If there is way around it I’m sure managers and players will find it.”
The suggestion put to him is that the black card has increased pressure on referees.
“It does, yeah, because referees if they are doing their job they are not talked about. They don’t want to be in the headlines and if they have to make a split call within a couple of seconds that will affect a game, that’s not where they want to be so it does put undue pressure on them . . .”
McManus finishes on an ominous warning.
"You go back to the All-Ireland club final and Richie Feeney. Technically I suppose it was a black card but five minutes into an All-Ireland club final for something fairly innocuous it was harsh enough."