Team managers in Ó Fiaich tournament decided to trial black cards

Croke Park weren’t asked to authorise the initiative but have raised no objections

The initiative to play the Ó Fiaich Cup tournament under the new "black card" disciplinary rules came from the managers of the county teams involved and wasn't cleared by Croke Park but the GAA authorities have backed it nonetheless.

The tournament, which began last night with Armagh beating Down 2-15 to 1-17, was however sanctioned in accordance with rule.

“Central Council authorised the tournament,” said Feargal McGill, GAA head of games administration, “and whereas technically, if you’re going to modify playing rules that should also be mentioned in the application I think in these circumstances we’d welcome it, as it gives an opportunity for teams to get used to the new rules.”

The cup was presented in 1985 by the late Cardinal Tomás Ó Fiaich to honour the memory of his brother Patrick. Contested by the four counties in the arch-diocese, Armagh, Louth, Tyrone and Derry, the competition was revised by Armagh and Crossmaglen Rangers.

As Tyrone were All-Ireland semi-finalists their close season doesn't end until Sunday week, the last day of the tournament, and Down were invited to take their place.

"Our senior manager Paul Grimley had the idea," explained Armagh county secretary Patrick Nugent. "He was looking to play some games with the new panel once the close season ended on December 1st.

Back on track
"Crossmaglen were happy enough to get it back on track – it had lapsed when the club's success began to take over (in the late 1990s) and it was acceptable to Central Council.

“It was the team managers who thought that it would be a help to gain some experience of the new rules when they were speaking to each other.”

Coincidentally, while the first match under the rules was going ahead last night in the county grounds, the Armagh seminar on the new rules was being given by National Referees Committee chair Pat McEnaney and this year's All-Ireland football referee Joe McQuillan.

Meanwhile, Tipperary announced yesterday Skoda would be rolling over the county sponsorship for another year, their fourth in association with the county.

Over the past three years the sponsorship has been worth €800,000 and yesterday's announcement together with the launch of a new county jersey design marked the latest in a set of positive indicators for Tipperary's finances.

Much improved
"The accounts aren't finalised yet but the situation is much improved," said county PRO Ger Ryan. "Gate receipts for the county championship have gone up for the first time in four years.

“There were a number of factors involved in that: an exciting championship with a number of shocks, increased interest ahead of a new structure next year and because the county team had an early exit from the championship, we were able to spread the games rather than squeeze them into a short period.”

The county’s experience confirms the old joke about a county treasurer’s dream being a good run in the league followed by early exit from the championship, as the former earns money the longer you stay in it whereas the championship costs money the longer a county’s participation lasts.

Finally, the AFL will be conducting trials this weekend in DCU to identify two players to go forward to next year’s AFL Draft Combine in Melbourne in which the 100 best prospects for the Australian rules draft are identified.

Talent co-ordinator for the trial is former Sydney Swans and Kerry football Tadhg Kennelly.

Kildare's Daniel Flynn is the most recent county player to have been selected to try his luck in the AFL, having secured a deal with Port Adelaide.

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times