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Connolly: Black card brought in 'because some clown in an RTÉ studio throws toys out of the pram'

Dublin star is no fan of the black card or the ‘mark.’

DUBLIN COUNTY BOARD CEO John Costello launched a scathing attack on the ‘targetting’ of Diarmuid Connolly on the field in 2016, but the player himself has no gripes over his treatment.

AIB GAA Leinster Football Club Championship Final Media Day Diarmuid Connolly was at the AIB GAA Leinster Football Club Championship Final Media Day. Source: Ramsey Cardy/SPORTSFILE

Costello wrote in his annual report that Dublin’s star forward was “struck about six times” prior to the start of a championship game this year.

“Okay, they were not Mike Tyson haymakers he was hit with but, nevertheless, each blow was an infraction of the rules and worse still, happened right under the gaze of one of the referee’s linesmen,” wrote Costello.

It is believed he was referring to Dublin’s defeat of Westmeath in the Leinster SFC final, although Connolly has no recollection of the incident.

“What game was that?” asked Connolly when he was quizzed about it yesterday at the AIB GAA Leinster Football Club Championship Final Media Day.

“Not that I remember anyway. I don’t know what game he was looking at. Some lad hit me six times before the ball was thrown in? Maybe it did happen, I don’t know.

“We’ve spoken about this before. It’s part of the game. It’s a physical game. Opponents go toe to toe with each other. I wouldn’t call it targeting as such.

Diarmuid Connolly with Aidan McElliggott Connolly tussles with Aidan McElliggott of Mullinalaghta during the Leinster club SFC semi-final. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

“If it’s within the rules of the game, fair enough. If it’s not, then it should be dealt with by the officials. That’s all we are asking for really, isn’t it?

“At the same time isn’t it a testament to your own skills that somebody needs to step out of line to curtail you. That’s a compliment really and that’s the way you look at it.”

What has annoyed Connolly though is the GAA constantly updating the rule book, which doesn’t make the referee’s job of policing the action any easier.

The GAA recently announced the ‘mark’ rule will come into effect across the board from January 1 next year. Two years ago it was the black card which was introduced at all levels in a bid to stamp out cynical fouling in Gaelic football.

“I think it’s silly bringing in these rules,” continued Connolly. “There is nearly one every two years, a different change or something going on.

“I don’t think it’s benefitting the game. It’s putting bad publicity on the game. The black card has been over publicised so much. Referees are coming under scrutiny for it. Players are coming under scrutiny for it.

People in the media. There was no need for it, I didn’t think. Just because Sean Cavanagh pulled a guy down and some clown in an RTE studio decides to throw the toys out of the pram really and make it more than it was.

“If they wanted it, in my opinion, make a rule, it would be a red card for a clear goalscoring opportunity, a yellow card for cynical play, for  me.  You have your two cards, there they are.”

Jonny Cooper holds back Donal Vaughan Jonny Cooper's All-Ireland final replay was ended after 19 minutes for this innocuous trip. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Connolly’s fellow Dubs James McCarthy and Jonny Cooper were black-carded in the All-Ireland final drawn game and replay respectively, while his man-marker Lee Keegan also received a black in the replay.

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“You see in the All-Ireland final, a guy pulling a fella down, how far away from goal… and it’s a black card. That’s the reality of it, but it was brought in because someone was pulled down in front of goal and they had a clear goalscoring opportunity.

“I think we are a little bit quick to make rules on our game and I don’t think we needed to. We had our two cards. A clear goalscoring opportunity should be a red card and that’s the way it should be in my opinion.

“I’ve got one black card in my whole time playing it, but I don’t play in a position where I have to make them tackles all the time. I can pull out of challenge in the half forward line, but you can’t do that when someone goes around you. The letter of the law says a deliberate pull down is a black card.

“How many times do you deliberately pull someone down. You might be leaving a hand in, in the tackle. A free is the right call. A black card and you lose that player for the whole game.

“You put enough into the training and playing for Gaelic football and for it to be taken away from you for one challenge when it’s not forceful, or it’s not deliberate that you are going to hurt anyone.

“There was a card for that already, it’s called a red card.  You see that in every other sport. I don’t agree with the black card anyway.”

What does he think about using the sin bin as an alternative to stamp out deliberate fouling?

“Tried that already, that’s another rule that they tried and it didn’t work.”

Stephen Cluxton Stephen Cluxton: Worthy of another All-Star according to Connolly. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Connolly did agree with Costello that Dublin were harshly done by after six players from the back-to-back All-Ireland champions made the All-Stars selection.

He felt Stephen Cluxton deserved to pick up his sixth award after the 35-year-old stopper enjoyed another outstanding campaign between the posts.

“I thought Stephen was harshly judged on probably a poor ten minutes in the whole year. For me he’s the best goalkeeper in Dublin, he’s changed Gaelic football so he’s probably one that missed out.

“If you were to look at his stats compared to any other keeper, his ball retention stats are actually frightening, 90 percent in most games, if not 100 percent, so what more do you want from a goalkeeper, but to keep possession of the ball. That’s the name of the game.”

– First published 06.15

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