Eugene McGee says that the black card rule is “idiot-proof” and that frustration about how referees interpret fouls applies to all sports
McGee was the chairman of the Football Review Committee (FRC) that championed the rule, which passed in 2013 after receiving a 72% vote at GAA congress.
RTÉ football analysts Tomás Ó Sé and Bernard Flynn are among those who have called for the rule to be scrapped amid frustration about its application, and the question of whether the dismissal of the offending player, who can be replaced if substitutes remain, goes far enough.
Having compiled statistics about how scoring has improved in the three seasons since the introduction of the rule, McGee hit out at the critics, simply saying they are missing the point.
Speaking on RTÉ 2fm’s Game On, the former Offaly manager was asked to clarify the rule.
“The main one that attracts the attention is ‘deliberately’, and that’s the crucial word, ‘deliberately pulling down an opponent to the ground',” he explained.
“You could elaborate more than that but that’s fairly idiot-proof for most people.
“When people talk about variations from referees, the interpretation of a referee – one referee, whether it’s deliberate, and the other referee – whether it’s not, that’s a matter of opinion, the same as all the same as all the other topics in all refereeing around the world.
“It’s the same in the Premiership, in Australian Rules, American Football.
“A big issue is made of that but ‘deliberate’ is the crucial thing.
“The rule is carefully contrived not to embarrass people and punish them for making decisions which are purely accidental.
“If you are chasing a guy and he suddenly stops with the ball and you crash into him, maybe both people fall. In theory some people will say ‘that fellow was knocked to the ground’.
“So that sort of thing doesn’t apply.”
Former Meath player Flynn pointed to Sunday’s Dublin-Kerry semi-final as an example of how, when the black card was only used once, in stoppage time, the game should be refereed and played.
But McGee wanted to emphasise that Jim Gavin’s team have been able to adapt by improving their tackling technique.
“People look at the obvious but there are some less obvious things," said the 1982 All-Ireland-winning manager.
"The quality of tackling in Gaelic football has greatly improved in the last few years.
“Tackling used to involve physical contact, and very often illegal physical contact.
“In other words, if someone was going to tackle a fellow on the sideline, especially in a club match, [you’d hear] ‘will you hit him, hit him!’
“And you don’t hit people in tackling, there’s a skill in tackling.
“The quality of tackling has improved from those teams who are practicing it. For instance, Dublin conceded 11 frees [against Kerry].
“It can be done. I’ve seen several counties, in the lower grades especially, who are now tackling properly and reducing the number of frees and the game is much more attractive to watch."
The Longford native added that the FRC recommended a review after three years and was open to suggestions for how to tweak the rule.
“The idea is to stop the fouling and make the game more free-flowing,” he said.