A total of 19 red cards have been dished out in the 2015 League of Ireland Premier Division so far and Sam Oji serves the final game of his four match suspension tonight.
Galway’s new signing was sent off in successive games against Drogheda and Longford last month, which made Irish Sun columnist Dermot Keely reminisce about an even worse experience during his Dundalk days.
Keely’s memory is playing tricks on him, however, as he did not receive a red card in three League of Ireland games in a row during the 1980-81 season.
He wrote that it all happened on a Sunday, Wednesday and Sunday in the same week, but he in fact saw red at Oriel Park on Thursday September 11th, Sunday September 21st at Dalymount Park and four Sundays after that in Ballybofey.
Keely was sent off near the end of the 5-2 win over Drogheda United following a clash with Ray Treacy (RIP). There were no automatic bans back then.
His second early bath in ten days was in a 1-1 draw against Bohemians. The 27-year-old defender had received his first warning for pulling Peter Conway’s shirt just before half-time, so a foul on Paddy Joyce led to his departure.
Keely then played the full ninety minutes in league games against Thurles Town, Galway Rovers and Shelbourne before a 2-1 victory over Finn Harps on October 21st. Harps had pulled one back from the penalty spot in the 85th minute.
Keely was sent off shortly after the penalty kick when he continued to argue with referee Sean Kinsella from Dublin about his decision. He had already been given a yellow card for handling the ball in an unrelated incident.
Keely was handed a four-match suspension in mid-December. In March 1981, a 3-0 defeat at home to eventual champions Athlone Town saw the Dundalk captain pick up his fourth red card of the campaign after a challenge on the league’s top scorer, Eugene Davis, in the 73rd minute.
Referee Paddy Mulhall had booked Keely earlier for holding Frank Devlin and the inevitable marching orders came after that tackle on Davis, which, perhaps, was worse than appeared to the spectators.
Keely got a lucky break as the FAI’s Disciplinary Committee would not meet in late April, so the offence carried over to next season which allowed him to line out for Dundalk in their FAI Cup final triumph.
But when the decision was finally set down it was a severe one. After reaching the maximum 12 penalty points, Keely had a six-match ban imposed on him along with a £5 fine.
Dundalk chose not to appeal the suspension and they were quietly confident that it would have expired in time for Keely to play in the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup.
With two President’s Cup games and a Donegan Cup (the Jim Malone Cup of the day) fixture to fulfil, the Lilywhites were hopeful that they could fit in three League Cup games in order to clear the way for his return to action.
Keely did play in Europe but it was for Glentoran in the European Cup against Luxembourg’s Progres Niedercorn, before losing out to CSKA Sofia in extra time. He joined the Irish League club for a fee of around £12k.
In an interview with the Irish Independent, the Dublin schoolteacher said he felt he had become a marked man and he was left deeply disturbed by the disciplinary system in this country.
He deserved to be sent off against Finn Harps and Drogheda, he confessed, but maintained he did nothing to warrant a dismissal against Bohs and was unlucky against Athlone. His move did result in a complicated cross-border situation though.
Initially, the FAI fought for the six-match suspension to be recognised by FIFA. The football governing body had cleared Keely to play for Glens in Europe but rescinded this decision after an FAI appeal. And so, suddenly, it did count in the North.
However, on September 11th, 1981, one year to the day of that red card in the Louth derby, everything was smoothed out between the two Irish associations.
IFA secretary Billy Drennan announced that Keely would get the all clear to play in Europe after the removal of the ban by the Football Association of Ireland.