GAA Football

Make-or-break year for black card: former referee Pat McEnaney

Former inter-county referee Pat McEnaney says more consistency in applying the black card is required if it is to survive beyond this season

FORMER inter-county referee Pat McEnaney believes it’s a make-or-break year for the black card.

The Monaghan native says referees would need to improve by “60 or 70 per cent” in applying the black card rule in order for it to survive beyond this season.

McEnaney, however, has praised inter-county referees on the Championship stage this year and highlighted the excellent displays of David Gough (Tyrone versus Donegal) and Joe McQuillan (Meath versus Kildare) from last weekend.

“It’s a big year for the black card,” said the Corduff clubman.

“We need to get better at it. And I think we’ve got a bit better at it. It hasn’t been bad this year but it still needs to get more consistent.

“I thought David Gough had a very good game between Donegal and Tyrone. There was probably one incident of a black card when a player was pulled to the ground. That should have been a black card but he didn’t give it.

“I also thought Joe McQuillan was good in the Kildare versus Meath game.

“I was at that Cavan-Monaghan game where [Paddy] Neilan of Roscommon was very good. Overall, our football referees have been going fairly well.”

But McEnaney stressed that the Championship is still in its infancy and feels the future of the black card is still in the dock.

“If we don’t improve the black card by 60 or 70 per cent, maybe 80 per cent on last year then I think it should be reviewed.

“It’s to do with consistency, but some of our referees got them wrong last year when you had spectators knowing it was a black card, commentators knowing it was a black card, co-commentators knowing it was a black card – and we go and do something different.”

“At the moment we’re going okay. In previous seasons, I’d say we were looking at 40 or 50 per cent [consistency].”

So far in the Ulster Championship there have been five black cards issued compared to three at the same stage of last year’s provincial series.

There have been 21 yellow cards issued in the five Ulster Championship matches to date – with a spike experienced in the Down-Armagh game (nine).

Taking the Down-Armagh game out of the equation, four yellow cards per match have been a steady average this summer.

At the same stage of last year’s Ulster Championship, there were 30 yellow cards and one red card issued.

During last weekend’s game between Tyrone and Donegal, former Antrim footballer Michael McCann highlighted on social media the outstanding disciplinary issues within the game.

The Cargin man tweeted: ‘The way around the black card is to decapitate players around the neck and take a yellow? Looks it!’

McEnaney, who was chairman of the GAA Referees’ Association up until 2014, rejected the notion of widening the black card to include shirt pulls, adding: “You don’t widen something that you haven’t got control of yet. We’ve got to get it right first.

“In all fairness, the big plus is that the black card has basically eradicated body-checking out of our game.

“The black card will survive providing we get it up to 70 or 80 per cent consistent this year.”

Currently managing Corduff’s minor team and still refereeing locally, McEnaney doesn’t miss the cut and thrust of the big Championship games.

“No, I don’t miss it - not at all. I don’t enjoy the whole negative football. The great thing about watching television is, if it gets boring you can leave it. If you’re refereeing a match that’s boring, you can’t leave it!”

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