Be careful what you vote for. The game of hurling may be of intangible cultural heritage and entirely without cynicism, but, after a tempest of a weekend, the black card might well have been held up as the lesser evil to red.
It felt that way in Omagh on Saturday night, where Tyrone and Dublin escaped without losing anyone for more than 10 minutes – at least for now – despite several players and backroom members briefly throwing their caution on discipline to the reckless wind.
By Jorge standards it wasn’t exactly a storm, although there was no escaping the disturbance they suddenly whipped up at half-time.
There was nothing between the teams at the break – Dublin 1-2, Tyrone 0-5 – and likewise as both teams sprinted for the tunnel on the half-time whistle. Who could blame them? They've had stormy games at Healy Park over the years, but nothing like this, a night as much about playing the vicious wind and rain as it was each other.
For whatever reason, players and backroom members from both teams began to get stuck into each other, and the incident was caught by the TV camera positioned at the halfway line at the opposite side of the pitch. Punches were definitely thrown, but it was hard to tell exactly who was throwing them.
When they re-emerged for the second half, Tyrone midfielder Pádraig Hampsey was immediately black-carded by referee Cormac Reilly, and that may well be as far as it goes, given he was seen to deal with the issue at the time. The GAA's Central Competitions Committee is entitled to review video evidence, although neither Tyrone manager Mickey Harte nor Dublin's Dessie Farrell reckoned there was anything more in it.
“I didn’t see too much, just a lot of bodies in a confined space,” said Harte. “Maybe that was a good thing, that nobody could do any damage to each other.”
Asked if he expected any further investigation, Harte said: “I wouldn’t expect to lose anybody. We were the only one to lose a man at half-time, at all. Pádraig Hampsey got a black card out of it. We got a hint of it at half-time. Nobody else got anything, so I think we’ve served our punishment.”
For Farrell it seemed the disturbance was equally minor. “All I will say is that we came up here to play football and that was needless what happened at half-time. I could not see it. There were a hundred people in the tunnel ahead of me.”
Of more concern to Farrell was the result, Tyrone's 1-10 to Dublin's 1-7 inflicting a first league defeat of 2020. No player saw red on Saturday night, and it wasn't particularly stormy play: Niall Scully was also black-carded for Dublin in the second half, the only other sin-binning, Dublin getting three yellow cards.
However, the question of how– or why – the game went ahead will also linger. Though the pitch was clearly treacherous in places, Reilly carried out a final inspection 30 minutes before throw-in, somehow deeming Healy Park fit to play; Teresa Mannion would not have approved. Just 3,850 hardy souls made their way inside.
Meanwhile, the hurling action resumed on Sunday after GAA Congress had shot down a motion to introduce a black card in that game; accidentally or not, five players across three division one matches were red-carded, including three within nine minutes in Tipperary's win over Waterford.
That wasn't exactly stormy either until, 10 minutes before half-time, referee Sean Stack issued three red cards. Waterford were hit hardest, with Austin Gleeson and Kevin Moran sent off, the second for a straight red card after linesman John O'Halloran drew his attention to an off-the-ball incident with Jason Forde.
“I had no real issues with Austin Gleeson’s second yellow, it was high and warranted a yellow card, that’s the rules. I think the one with Kevin Moran was just a little bit of handbags,” said Waterford manager Liam Cahill.
Tipperary's Cathal Barrett then went for an early shower before half-time following an incident with Dessie Hutchinson, with manager Liam Sheedy saying they'll be appealing that decision. "If there was anything in it we absolutely would be looking for it to be rescinded. If there was, he will have to serve his time, but he is confident there was nothing in his tackle."
Limerick were also reduced to 14 men for the final 20 minutes of their win over Westmeath. Darragh O'Donovan was sent off for a challenge on Niall Mitchell in the middle of the field, and Cork's Robbie O'Flynn also got himself sent off less than a minute after setting up Tim O'Mahony for Cork's only goal in their loss to Galway.
When play resumed from the puck-out, O'Flynn caught Fintan Burke desperately high with a challenge. He was disconsolate at the red card, but there was no alternative. Not black anyway, not for another five years at least, the heavy defeat of that motion in Congress (82 per cent to 18 per cent) meaning no return of it until 2025. Be careful what you vote for.