If the enormous score line of 2-19 to 2-18 between Kildare and Mayo is a direct result of the new black card rule, then maybe it was not such a bad idea, particularly if you are a forward. However interpretation of the rules that merit a black card is likely to cause debate the length and breadth of the country. Rory Hickey issued two black cards in Newbridge last Sunday for fouls that would not have even warranted a yellow card in the old rule book. Paul Cribbin, the Kildare wing back, the first culprit. After making a brilliant block on Adam Gallagher and then trying to prevent Gallagher pick up the loose ball his outstretched arm tripped Gallagher, Hickey had no choice, it looked intentional and Cribbin walked. When Aidan O’Shea got into a rugby clutch with Gary White just before half time and allegedly threw him to the ground you knew there was only going to be one outcome. Hickey’s interpretation an intentional foul, so O’Shea walked. I am fully convinced if Kildare still had the full complement at the time of O’Shea’s incident, he would not have even received a yellow. Cathal Carolan got taken wildly around the neck late on while bearing down on the Kildare goal, Mr Hickey obviously thought it was an accident and not intentional, I thought differently.
There were big scores in a few games around the country, Galway scored 4-11 and still lost against Meath, which leads to my next point. Defenders are afraid to get stuck into their opponents for fear of the dreaded black card. For the last two decades Mayo teams have been built on exceptional backlines, last year’s abundance of talent in defence resulting in Keith Higgins being redeployed as a workhorse half forward. Higgins did well last Sunday but surely he should have been sent back to sort out Paddy Brophy who was having the game of his life skinning first Ger Cafferky and then Colm Boyle. Cafferky had a much better second half. Alarm bells do not need to be sounded just yet, after all it is only the beginning of February and Mayo are not long home from their holiday in Dubai.
You have to do what you have to do
What is quite worrying before we head up north on Sunday to play Tyrone is that Mayo conceded the huge haul of 2- 17 from open play. I do not imagine many Mayo teams in the past ever gave up that amount, if any. All of the Kildare forwards played well and contributed handsomely to the score board. It leaves a big decision before the Tyrone game, do the Mayo defenders get a lot tighter on Sunday with the risk of playing themselves out of the game by receiving a black card (they have too really )? Different referees will let different things go, I would test the water early on to see what the man in the middle might let go. Surely in the first minute or so you would get a verbal warning rather than a straight black. Paddy Brophy’s winning point for Kildare was the talk of the country this week, it was a brilliant score, but Mayo should have been a bit more cynical on the field and prevented wing back Kevin Murnaghan from taking the ball into dangerous territory before it arrived at Brophy. I am not condoning cynical fouling here, but at times you have to do what you have to do. Mayo responded brilliantly after falling behind last Sunday, particularly after losing first choice midfielders Tom Parsons to injury and then O’Shea to the black card. Parsons had a tear in his lung which resulted in his coughing up blood; he has been given the all clear but will be out of action for up to six weeks. I hope James Horan gives him another chance to impress. Jason Gibbons and Brian Gallagher played very well when they came in for the first choice pair. Adam Gallagher on his debut was the man of the match from a Mayo point of view, he scored a couple from play, kicked his couple of frees, worked really hard, but it was his assist for Jason Gibbons’ goal that was my favourite contribution.
All roads lead to Omagh on Sunday, or is it Croke Park?
Mayo have a tough task in Omagh on Sunday but last Sunday’s game will bring them on a lot, Kildare were miles ahead in terms of preparation yet Mayo only lost by a wonder score. Tyrone on the other hand threw away a 7 point lead against Derry which gives me renewed optimism. It will still be difficult and Tyrone owe Mayo after last year’s All-Ireland semi final.
I cannot imagine there will be many from the Bangor region in Omagh next Sunday. Kiltane take on Truagh of Monaghan in the All- Ireland intermediate final in Croke Park and I fully expect them to win. I have been at pretty much every Kiltane game in this campaign but will miss out on Sunday as I am on duty for the radio in Omagh. I am sure they will cope without my presence as long as Mikey Sweeney and Tommy Conroy keep the scoreboard operator busy; they have to for Kiltane to win. Best of luck to them.