Applauding red-carded players’ stupidity is a load of ‘clap’-trap

IT’S one of those things in football that is guaranteed to make my blood boil...

Ballymena United's David Cushley begins the long walk for the tunnel after being sent off by referee Colin Burns in Saturday's draw with Glentoran. Picture: Pacemaker Press.

Right up there with people who shout for offside at a throw-in; equal to that ridiculous scenario where a defender can blatantly block an attacker in an attempt to shepherd the ball out for a goal kick when, in any other area of the pitch, it would be deemed obstruction; on a par with that absurd suggestion that ‘2-0 is the worst lead to have in football’.

The incident I refer to from Saturday’s game against Glentoran relates to David Cushley’s red-card. Not so much the dismissal itself – we’ll come to that in due course – but rather what happened in the immediate aftermath.

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As the crestfallen midfielder made his way towards the tunnel, head in hands, I waited for something to happen and lo and behold, there it was...the inevitable ripple of applause from sections of the home support.

Can someone, anyone, please explain to me what possible reason there would be for applauding any player whose stupidity could easily have cost his side a result in a match?

This isn’t an isolated incident relating solely to Cush’s dismissal on Saturday – I’ve seen this ridiculous practice take place at the Showgrounds since I was a boy.

Now don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that there should automatically be a set of gallows erected by the side of the pitch for any player who fails to finish the match. Like many things in life, it’s not always as black and white as it seems.

There have been occasions where I have joined in a sympathetic round of applause for a sent-off player who has been on the wrong end of an appalling, over-the-top refereeing decision.

Similarly, I could forgive it if a player ‘takes one for the team’ and sacrifices himself by making a tackle or perhaps handling the ball on the goal-line, in the hope that the resultant penalty is missed.

I’m not in favour of cheating in any way, shape or form but until football follows the example of rugby’s penalty try and awards a ‘penalty goal’ for deliberate foul play, you play within the regulations that are in place and ‘gamesmanship’ is part and parcel of the game.

So there ARE circumstances where a player heading for an early bath can prompt an outpouring of support from the stand.

Booting an opponent into the air at the corner flag 100 yards from the goal you’re defending, while your goalkeeper hobbles on one leg at the other end – Cushley’s ‘crime’ on Saturday – is not one of them.

Contrast his actions with the heroics of Dwayne Nelson who could barely walk after picking up a second half knee injury but yet managed to repel Glentoran’s attack with some confident handling, while the save he made to paw away Andy Waterworth’s lob as the striker bore down one-on-one with him has to go down in the top-drawer category, given the keeper’s lack of proper mobility.

There was much to admire in Ballymena’s performance in terms of the effort and application they showed in a rearguard action – the sort of fight that has been sadly absent in some of those horror defeats which were mentioned in last week’s column.

The weekend draw rubber-stamped United’s place in the bottom six once again but at least Saturday’s efforts suggests that the players are not simply going to go through the motions in the closing weeks.

* Follow Ballymena Times Sports Editor Stephen Alexander on Twitter (@Stephen_Bmena)