The black card in local club games is like a lottery and I can see a lot of unrest in the summer
THE UNDER-21 All-Ireland semi-final between Roscommon and Cork held over the Easter weekend in Portlaoise was a brilliant advertisement for all that is good about Gaelic football.
This game formed part of a double bill with the other semi-final between Dublin and Cavan. To add to the excitement both games ended in dramatic and somewhat controversial circumstances.
As my late father was a proud Roscommon man I've always held a great affiliation with all GAA matters in Roscommon.
In the 70s and 80s I travelled the length and breadth of the country to watch the Roscommon county footballers play both league and championship games.
I was privileged to watch some brilliant footballers at that time such as Danny Murray, the late Dermot Early and Tony McManus to name but a few. Unfortunately for the most part the important trips ended in disappointment with the biggest heartbreak being that of losing the All-Ireland to Kerry in 1980.
In the recent semi-final Roscommon U21s showed what a complete team they are. They were confident in every aspect of the game and created and executed some fantastic scores. In Smith and Murtagh they have two excellent forwards who I expect will be around for a long time.
My only concern for this team is the manner in which they conceded the three goals and unless they can tighten up this area they could very well fall short against the high profile Dublin squad.
Anthony Nolan's decision to award a last minute a free to Roscommon was correct. This free, I felt, should have been for the foul by the Cork defender on the Roscommon forward and not for the questionable pick-up.
Anthony did a fine job but I was getting a bit worried for the Wicklow officials when there was confusion and uncertainty surrounding the awarding of the first scores by each team. Thankfully for all concerned this didn't continue.
Dublin were very lucky to come through the other semi-final. The awarding of the final free to Dublin was very harsh on the Cavan team.
I felt the Dublin forward had missed the chance to score and the referee was very severe to award the subsequent free.
The game hinged on two black cards offences, one awarded to the Cavan forward and the other not awarded to the Dublin forward, McHugh.
The Cavan forward was one of the main scoring threats for his team and Cavan suffered when he was forced to leave the pitch.
McHugh scored the third of his points when many felt he should have been off the field. Dublin were very poor on the day and were very wasteful with the numerous chances they created especially Paul Mannion and Cormac Costello both of whom have figured regularly with the Seniors. I felt Dublin found it difficult to lift their performance and at times many seemed more interested in how they looked rather than reaching an All-Ireland final.
With the final fixed for Tullamore this weekend I predict that Roscommon, if they can tighten things up in defence, will be crowned champions (hopefully!).
The Wicklow Minor footballers not surprisingly got a walk-over from Kilkenny in the losers group of the Leinster Championship. Wicklow now face a much tougher assignment against Westmeath.
Wicklow will be anxious to put that disappointing defeat to Meath behind them when they face Westmeath where hopefully they can put in a performance that reflects the effort the team has made to date.
I was interested to read the manager's preview of the Meath game. John Murphy was, correctly, extremely positive of his team's chances and was satisfied that both he and his management team had prepared this squad to the best of their ability since last October. Unfortunately, the Meath result highlights the contrasting standards in Leinster and the amount of work counties like Wicklow need to undertake to compete at the closing stages of the Leinster Championship.
What about the Black Card? At intercounty level I expect to see much greater use of this card in the championship, especially in the televised games.
In local club games it has been a lottery. When a tackle is made in club games people don't know what colour card to expect.
Referees rightly or wrongly have been very inconsistent in their use of black cards and unless there is more consistency one way or the other I would anticipate a lot of unrest when the championship begins.
The Junior ' B' League has kicked off on Thursday nights. Not a great start on the first night especially in the north of the county as we had two walkovers, no referee turning up for one match (despite the fact the appointed ref had told both the office in Arklow and the Referees Body he was unavailable in advance) and finally an abandoned game. Things can only improve.
The Senior hurlers commence their Christy Ring campaign this Saturday with a difficult away assignment in Newbridge against Kildare.
Wicklow will be hoping to replicate the form they showed in winning the Division 2B final.
With Eamonn Kearns still unavailable and Christy Moorehouse suspended, a strong showing will be needed by all to secure a victory and qualification for the more direct route to the final stages.
Reports coming from the camp indicate that both Luke Maloney and Geoffrey Bermingham are pushing hard for a starting role in defence and both T.J. Hennessey and Aaron Nugent would be hoping to receive the nod to replace Moorehouse.
On current form there is no reason why Wicklow can't reverse last year's defeat at the hands of Kildare in Arklow.