Martin Breheny: Kerry and Waterford sagas underpinned by nonsense
As a microcosm of the long-standing and totally unnecessary irritants which continue to afflict the GAA, last weekend's Kerry and Waterford county football finals hit the spot.
Kerry delivered controversies over time-keeping, discipline and fixture chaos, while Stradbally's reward for winning the Waterford title on Friday night was to be forced into a Munster championship tie on Saturday.
Portlaoise survived a similar scenario last month but they were playing Carlow champions, Palatine, whereas Stradbally lined up against Nemo Rangers, the most successful club in the history of the All-Ireland championships.
Not surprisingly, Stradbally were well beaten, leaving manager Pat Curran outraged at the workload imposed on his players.
He described it as "a complete and utter disgrace" and added that the Waterford County Board should be "ashamed of themselves from top to bottom".
He also urged football clubs to stand up for themselves, noting how he admires the hurling clubs, who "fight their own corner".
Curran is right about the ridiculously unfair demands placed on his squad, but when it comes to slating the county board, the question arises: who exactly makes the decisions?
Clubs everywhere are represented on county boards so if the system is working even reasonably efficiently, administrators have to abide by club instructions when it comes to structuring fixtures.
The executive of county boards usually take the flak when unsustainable situations, similar to Stradbally's experience, arise but it's rarely that simple.
I questioned here in recent weeks why the Laois football championship was completed so late, despite the county team being eliminated from the All-Ireland race in June.
It transpires that clubs in both codes decided on the late start to the championships.
Buck-passing happens everywhere. Just as clubs will make a decision and later blame county administrators for enacting it, counties sometimes support a proposal, whether at Congress or Central Council, only to castigate "that crowd in Croke Park" when the impact of its implementation doesn't suit a specific case.
Waterford's fixture problem on Friday/Saturday became Kerry's issue on Sunday when Killarney Legion and South Kerry drew in the county final, sparking a difficulty over who would represent the county in the Munster championship next weekend.
Yet again, the late completion of a county championship had created a mess. Kerry will argue that their involvement in the All-Ireland final left them with little wriggle room but, of all counties, they are most accustomed to September activity in Croke Park.
Surely, they can devise a system that doesn't leave them without county champions by mid-November.
Apart from the replay and Munster championship dilemma, the Kerry final threw up some other talking points too, including the referee being escorted off the pitch by gardaí at the end of the game, a dispute over whether a wide was flagged as a point, plus the mystery of the extra stoppage time.
On the latter issue, not playing enough stoppage time is quite common but, in Kerry's case, it came as a surprise that almost four minutes were added when only two were signalled.
All of this uncertainty could have been eliminated from the entire GAA landscape if the clock/hooter, as proposed, and twice passed by Congress, had been introduced.
Instead, it allegedly failed a series of trials but instead of sorting out the anomalies, Congress dispensed altogether with the concept.
A final point on the incidents at the end of the Kerry final and the embarrassing pictures of gardaí escorting the referee off the field. It's just not good enough to claim that it was all down to passions and emotions running high on county final day.
That sort of nonsense has been tolerated for far too long all over the country. Gardaí have far more to be doing than providing safe passage for referees from people who can't control their temper.