Managers revert to type as first black cards are shown in early O’Byrne Cup games

Jim Gavin and Aidan O’Rourke consistent in their opposing views on FRC’s innovation

Wednesday night in Parnell Park was neither the time nor the place to be judging the worth or efficacy of the black card, purely because the only instinct any of the players had was surviving the wretched conditions.

The more interesting subplot was the subsequent reaction of the Dublin and Louth managers, neither of whom were surprising in their verdicts yet both of whom were worth the listen nonetheless.

Louth manager Aidan O’Rourke has been opposed to the black card from the beginning. One of the few intercounty managers to be active as well as entertaining on Twitter, the All-Ireland-winning defender from Armagh was damning of the whole enterprise as soon as it was passed last March. “Black card carried,” he wrote at the time. “Victory for the meddlers and little-to-be-ats who never coach. The game has been sanitised into a parody of itself.”

Mistaken identity
O'Rourke is no dark ages Luddite. His Louth side was one of the more enterprising sights in last year's championship, a well-coached team who probably deserved to go further than they did. He had every right to be sore after their opening O'Byrne Cup game on Sunday, where Brian White was black-carded as a result of mistaken identity.


All in all, there is little chance of him being convinced of the worth of it any time soon. It was actually Dublin who found themselves the subject of a black card on Wednesday night, yet afterwards it was O’Rourke who was scathing of the whole enterprise.

“Every game I watch is refereed differently now,” he told reporters afterwards.

“Offences that drew a black card at the weekend didn’t get a black card tonight. I’m reluctant to use the word shambles but that’s where we’re at. Players, officials, supports – nobody knows what a black card is going to be issued for.

“People will think I am a broken record at this stage but I just don’t think it’s working. Now, we have to give it time and we have to persevere. Hopefully officials will all get on the same page but at the moment it’s not happening.”

Referee's intervention
The one black card on the night went to Dublin defender Darragh Nelson. He grabbed Louth corner-forward Stephen Campbell and took him to the ground early in the second half, drawing a black card out of referee Fergal Kelly. Despite the very loud annoyance of the Dublin crowd, Jim Gavin had no problem with Kelly's intervention when asked about it afterwards.

“Yeah, I think Fergal Kelly did a great job. He gave some yellow cards there and let the game flow under some very difficult conditions and I thought that both teams should great endeavour out there and great discipline. There were some good hard tackles going in.

“As I said, he gave out some yellow cards deservedly and he gave out one black card for what he deemed a deliberate pull back. That’s what the rule says. If you deliberately pull down an opponent, you get the black card. So we have no issue with that.”

Gavin has been a consistent proponent of the black card from the start. Did he share O’Rourke’s doubts about refereeing consistency from game to game?

“No I wouldn’t. The rules say a deliberate trip, pull or block or verbal abuse to an opponent, team-mate or referee. And I think we all want to see that eradicated from the game.

“From the Dublin experience over the last two games – games do ebb and flow and sometimes you don’t get the break of the ball and that’s just football. But I think it has been handed very well by the last two referees.”

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin is a sports writer with The Irish Times