Let’s start by saying that hurling shouldn’t be immune to rule changes.
The purists wish to back themselves into a corner and proclaim that “the greatest game on earth” needs no tinkering but the reality is that all sports could do with some tinkering.
After all, perfection is never the reality.
Hence the reason that some rule changes work and others don’t. Take soccer as an example, while goal-line technology has been a success, the issue of VAR is causing serious disruption.
We aren’t here to talk about VAR though.
Closer to home, we’ve seen a similar trend with rule changes in Gaelic football. The kick-out mark has proved to be a rip-roaring success yet the black card has continually caused headaches.
So, with that in mind, why in the hell are we trying to rush through a black card into hurling?
Reports of the controversial ruling’s introduction to the small-ball code hit the headlines just over two weeks ago before the announcement that it was to be voted on at Congress at the end of the month.
You have to feel genuine sorrow for hurling fans out there who’ve barely had the time to fathom seeing the rule introduced nevermind the means to act and try to stop it. At least with Gaelic football, the rule was debated and dissected before coming into effect.
The rule is there to combat cynicism but does hurling have a problem in this area? It does but so too does Gaelic football, soccer, basketball, baseball, MMA, rugby etc.
Elite-level sports are always going to have a level of cynicism attached to the game, whether that be through certain teams, players, rule loopholes, whatever it may be, teams are always going to be cynical in the pursuit of winning.
The saying “kill or be killed” springs to mind.
The recent ‘political-like’ movement to introduce a black card into hurling has come across as bitter old football heads somehow looking to even up the scores.
Honestly, who really wants to see a black card in hurling? Better yet, who likes the black card in football? Fans of the black card are similar, in many ways, to Tory voters in the UK – invisible until election time.
Why can’t we keep everyone happy by scrapping the rule altogether, in both codes, and coming up with fresh, innovative ways to tackle the problem of cynical play.
I say innovative to sound like an innovator but really the solution is so simple it begs belief as to why we have a black card in the first place.
First, let’s define what we mean by cynical play: A deliberate drag back, pull down, trip, blocking of runners, last man tackle.
These are the main components of what could be described as cynical play. If a player is adjudged to have committed one of these ‘professional fouls’ anywhere on the pitch, let’s award the opposition with a 14-yard free. Hit the offender where it hurts the most – the scoreboard.
If an offence is committed inside the scoring zone (inside 45-metres) let’s add a yellow card to the punishment alongside said 14-yard free. The closer we get to the goal, the harsher the punishment gets.
If a cynical foul occurs inside the 14-yard line, a penalty kick should be awarded.
If a player has the goal at his mercy and is taken out by a cynical foul, award the penalty and send off the offending player for a ‘last-man tackle’.
Critics will say this sounds too much like soccer but the simple response to that is, so what?
The ‘ground-ball’ game has its issues, sure! But the one rule they have in place that cannot be argued with is their approach to the last-man tackle, i.e cynical fouling. People in Gaelic games hate comparisons to soccer but there is no denying the nuts and bolts of the games are very similar.
Therefore, why is it so hard to fathom that we can take a rule from soccer and apply it to Gaelic? Hell hath not frozen over just yet, it’s not like we are introducing the offside rule.
In the six years since the black card rule was introduced to football, there have been, by some distance, more negative stories than positive ones. On what planet do we think this is going to be any different for hurling?
Time to act now, instead of debating whether or not hurling should introduce a black card, why can’t common sense prevail and just pull it from everything?
Let’s bury the black card and never speak of it again.