SPRING PROMISE; Early Noises Positive after Introduction of Black Card Rule Change Can Prove a Success by Disappearing
Byline: SHANE MCGRATH
THERE is logic and there is GAA logic. These philosophies are not the same, but it is a blessing for Gaelic football that they have found a man with a fluent understanding of both. Eugene McGee has been a prominent journalist and pundit for 30 years. Winning the most famous All-Ireland title in living memory does no harm to a profile, but McGee's media reputation is attributable as much to plain speaking and solid analysis as it is to managing Offaly to the Sam Maguire in 1982.
He understands the favours and frustrations of that great constituency, the paying public. Equally, his achievements in the game that All-Ireland win, two All-Ireland club titles with UCD in the 1970s, Irish International Rules manager have allowed him to lead the latest attempt at reformation in a culture menaced by shadows of cynicism.
Declaring the black card the greatest cure since penicillin would, after just one weekend of substantial evidence, be very rash, the type of excitable blather that could draw a gruff reprimand from McGee, in fact.
However, less important than a modest 18 cards in 20 pre-season county matches was the reaction of those teams. There was some low-level grumbling but no sound, yet, of the wailing and bellicose posturing that ruined the yellow and black card experiment five years ago, or the sin-bin trial in 2005.
That is likely to come with the advent of the League, 'but that process will have to be gone through,' said McGee. The rage of players and managers will quickly cool, though, with the realisation that these new procedures are here to stay.
Unlike some earlier efforts at reform, these are not being trialled. They are, instead, the reality from now on.
'There are too many people abusing referees,' said McGee on Sunday, referring to one of the offences that now draws a black card. 'Players, managers, spectators, everybody, and this is the first step.' He expanded his point with some characteristic bluntness.
'Like, we'd all love to tell a referee to f*** off but you can't do it. The comparison is always made with rugby and this is a first attempt to try and rectify it because it's not fair to referees, especially club referees.' When introducing rules to stop verbal abuse, deliberate obstruction and calculated fouling, playing procedures are not the only area in need of attention; longstanding mindsets are, too.
Winning has been used for years to justify cheating of different types, but McGee has the support of years of reporting and coaching football in his attempts to tackle this.
There have been plenty of weasel words squeaked in opposition to the introduction of the black card, but the most disingenuous have related to referees. …