Mayo’s win showed cynical football is alive and well

It’s been over seven years since Joe Brolly lambasted Tyrone’s Sean Cavanagh for pulling down Monaghan’s Conor McManus when he was through on goal.

Brolly was incensed by the cynical foul, saying it was “an absolute disgrace” and that he wanted “nothing to do with it.”

The black card has been introduced since that infamous day, but cynical fouling is absolutely still a part of Gaelic football and Sunday’s Connacht final was proof of that.

In the 73rd minute of the game, with Mayo up by two points, Galway’s Sean Kelly was through on goal.

Before he could get a shot away however, Mayo’s Eoin McLoughlin slammed into Kelly just outside the penalty box, taking his legs from under him.

McLoughlin was rightfully shown a black card but the chance for Galway was gone, with Shane Walsh having to settle for a point from the close-range free.

A minute later and the referee blew his whistle and Mayo won their first Connacht championship since 2015.

While McLoughlin’s challenge may not have been as bad as Cavanagh’s back in 2013, it had the same end result, sealing victory for their respective sides.

The black card, at least in this case, was a woefully inadequate punishment for McLoughlin, who would have slept soundly on Sunday night knowing he helped seal the win for his side.

While Kelly can’t be blamed for what he did, the GAA should be thinking of ways to prevent illegal challenges deciding games in the future.

Potential methods of preventing cynical play

The small size of the penalty box in Gaelic football makes it far too easy for defenders to take out onrushing attackers, safe in the knowledge that a point is all the opposition can hope for from the resultant free.

Therefore, increasing the size of the penalty box would result in less cynical fouls as defenders would be far more likely to give away penalties.

Rugby has a unique way in punishing cynical play, awarding a penalty try when a defender commits a foul that prevents a certain try.

While a similar punishment in Gaelic football may not fit in well with the game, it would certainly bring an end to the kind of challenges that set Brolly off on his tirade against Cavanagh all those years ago.

While there is no clear way forward for the rule makers at the GAA headquarters, it is clear that the black card has not been nearly as effective as they would have hoped.

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