The day the yellow and red cards got their first airing in Killarney

A picture by MacMonagle Photography of Weeshie Fogarty. Did you know that in 1979 Weeshie was a top class referee but one of his many claims to fame, is that he was the first ref in history to flash the red card in a GAA match? Weeshie continues to record history with his award winning Terrace Talk programme on Radio Kerry.

A picture by MacMonagle Photography of Weeshie Fogarty. Did you know that in 1979 Weeshie was a top class referee but one of his many claims to fame, is that he was the first ref in history to flash the red card in a GAA match? Weeshie continues to record history with his award winning Terrace Talk programme on Radio Kerry. Picture taken outside his front door in O’Sullivans Place. Trial for the yellow and red cards back around the 80o’s Kerry v Offaly in Killarney. Big news but no cards came from Croke park so these cards here are cut outs from the covers Weeshie’s daughters Denise and Carol Ann school copy books. Aloysius “Weeshie” Fogarty is a radio broadcaster and former Gaelic footballer from Killarney, County Kerry. He works for Radio Kerry where he hosts his award winning show called Terrace Talk on Monday evenings. He also writes for The Kerryman newspaper. During his playing days he played with the Killarney Legion club. He had great success with them during his career as both a player and trainer. He was part of the East Kerry team that won County, Munster and All Ireland titles during the 60’s & 70’s. He also played with Kerry at all levels. He was part for the Kerry team that won the 1969 All Ireland title as a sub. He won a Munster Under 21 Championship in 1962 the first year of the championship. He won Munster Championships at Junior level also in 1967 & 1969, he also went on to add an All Ireland medal in 1967. He was also a top class referee, he has officiated at the highest level. Apart from football he was also a top class basketball player. He has represented his county in at all grades. A fanatic Manchester United follower since 1956, he visits Old Trafford at least once a year. Although the card system was formally introduced in 1999, the idea was actually first mooted 20 years earlier. In an unusual spell of liberalism, the GAA decided to experiment with introducing red and yellow cards at a number of minor games. They first picked out an Easter Sunday Grounds Tournament fixture between Kerry and Offaly. The press publicised the initiative and the news drew a reasonable level of public interest. Thus everything was ready for the grand experiment except one small detail: Croke Park forgot to issue the referee with the cards. Weeshie Fogarty, the man in charge, decided to improvise. “At the time my daughters were young, so I got two of their copy books, one red, one yellow, cut two squares out of each and pasted them back to back. I told the two managers before the game that, whatever happened, there was no way was I sending anyone off, but that I would be showing the yellow one. Offaly’s Mick Wright became the first player in GAA history to be carded, provoking an ironic cheer from the crowd Sure enough in the second half, Offaly’s Mick Wright became the first player in GAA history to be carded – an action that provoked an ironic cheer from the crowd. Perhaps they were also sceptical that the scheme would ever catch on. If so, they were correct. The initiative was continued for a few more games but quietly petered out. KILLARNEY’S Weeshie Fogarty will become the first man to show a yellow card (and possibly a red one!) in Gaelic football when he referees the Kerry v Offaly Whitsunday tournament game in Fitzgerald Stadium, Killarney, on Sunday week, June 3. The Killarney match, which is in aid of the Gary Scollard Accident Fund, is the first to try-out of the proposed changes in the playing rules in Gaelic football. A display of the yellow card means a caution to a player for a deliberate personal foul. If the player repeats the offence he will be shown the red card-and ordered off. Weeshie Fogarty will also be enforcing the rule regarding the solo run, which is now curtailed to one hop off the ball and two toe taps, or vice versa. “I suppose I will have to call to at least pull the yellow card a few times,” said Weeshie. “It’s hard to know whether I will have to pull the red card. “I think the cards are a good idea, but they should apply right accross the board. For instance, if a player commits a dangerous foul you only take his name and then if he comes along and commits a deliberate personal foul you show him the yellow card. People will want to know why you didn’t send him off. The Kerry v Offaly game is being organised jointly by Fitzgerald Stadium Committee, the Kerry G.A.A. Board and the Austin Stacks club. Admission tickets, which cost £1 each, were being distributed to clubs in the county this week. “We are hoping that every club will take fifty,” said Michael O’Connor, secretary of Fitzgerald Stadium /committee. People without tickets can, of course, gain entry in the normal way through the turnstiles on the day of the match. A curtain-raiser will involve the Kerry and Offaly football teams of 1972.

The day the yellow and red cards got their first airing in Killarney

May 19th, 2009
by Weeshie Fogarty

An article which appeared in the archive section of this paper last week certainly invoked a multitude of memories for me as it referred to a match between Kerry and Offaly which I refereed in Killarney 30 long years ago, May 1979. Despite the fact that it would only be a so called challenge match it carried the possibility of literally changing for ever the face of Gaelic football which we know today.

The game was being played to raise funds for the late great Austin Stacks footballer and hurler Garry Scollard who had suffered very serious spinal injuries in an accident returning from a trip with the Kerry hurlers. This very worthy benefit was been organised jointly by the Fitzgerald Stadium Committee, the Kerry County Board and Garry’s club Austin Stacks. The late Michael O’Connor, one of the great men in the history of Kerry GAA, was secretary of the stadium at the time and it was he who approached me following advice from Croke Park as to taking charge of this particular match.

So why was this seemingly unimportant challenge game to remain so vivid in my memory and awaken so many memories which came flooding back as I read “Kerry Down The Years” recounting past pages from The Kerryman? Well, Michael O’Connor explained all to me when he visited my home a few weeks before the event. And what he had to say in relation to certain proposals could prove to be hugely revolutionary in the overall context of Gaelic football. Croke Park officials, in their wisdom, had decided to use this game between Kerry and Offaly as a try out of new rules being proposed, which they felt would greatly improve and speed up the playing of Gaelic football.

My instructions were short and simple. Players would be allowed just two solos and one hop of the ball when in possession. Also the yellow and red cards, now such an accepted part of the game, were to be introduced for the first time in an attempt to explain to the spectators the seriousness of particular fouls. This was a God sent for the organisers of the game and it immediately elevated a seemingly unimportant fixture in Killarney to national prominence. The media jumped on the bandwagon just as they did recently when the recent experimental rules were being tried out.

My phone began to hum as journalists sought my thoughts on the upcoming experiment. Questions such as, are we just following soccer? will you issue the red card and if so will a player be banned for his county’s next game? and will you be visiting the two teams in the run up to the fixture? etc were some of the questions being put to me. I diverted all queries as far as possible to Croke Park. The Kerryman’s photographer Michelle Cooper Galvin pictured me flashing the infamous red and yellow cards as I might in the forthcoming match. The experimental rules were creating a little bit of frenzy and I was in the middle of it.

However, there was one little problem as the build up the game continued. Not one official from Croke Park had contacted me high up or low down. And as for the actual red and yellow cards themselves, not a mention from headquarters. I was expecting something in the post every day. Friday dawned, the postman came and went. Nothing. On Saturday I rang Croke Park for advice and a little bit of encouragement. No answer. It was the weekend and the offices were closed down and all staff was off until Monday.

It was all great fun for those hopping the ball to me in relation to what I should do with the cards on Sunday. However, it was serious business for the players and officials of both counties as the championship loomed and I would be responsible for any serious consequences during or after the game. So the situation was, the yellow and red cards were being introduced to Gaelic football for the very first time but there were no cards available for the occasion.

Necessity is the mother of invention, they say. I raided my daughters Denise and Carol Ann schoolbags as two of their copy books had covers of red and yellow. Two squares of each colour were cut out, placed back to back, sellotaped together and, hey presto, the first cards were ready for “official” use in an inter-county football match.

I visited both dressing rooms before the game and guaranteed managers Mick O’Dwyer and Eugene McGee that I would not be flashing any red cards that day. A huge crowd turned up, the trial was a great success and to this day every time I meet Mick O’Dwyer he enthuses greatly about those rules. No continuous basketball passing as we see today, quick release of the ball, high scoring and long accurate kicking.

Oh, and least I forget, there was one yellow card issued for the sake of the crowd. It got a huge cheer as Mick Wright, that former great Offaly defender, became the very first man in the annals of Gaelic games to receive a yellow card. So there is one for your quiz. And by the way I never did hear from Croke Park after that game.

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