Cast your mind back to last month and the scene of manager Denis Moynihan attempting to depart the Rathmore field, mobbed by a throng of home supporters wanting to offer their heartiest congratulations. On Saturday, Moynihan, along with the three members of his backroom team, trudged off Austin Stacks Park with not one fan in sight.
For the winners, it was a case of taking another step along the road on their quest to return to the showpiece event, to correct the wrongs of 2013.
An interval scoreline of 1-5 to 0-8 was a grave injustice to the hosts and winning manager Stephen Stack provided the blueprint for victory in his half-time team talk.
“Rathmore are a team that have always had great championship pedigree. They beat a Dr Crokes team that hadn’t been beaten for five years so if that didn’t put you on guard nothing would,” he said.
“Their first-half goal, from a defensive viewpoint, isn’t one you would like to give away. I thought in the second half we tightened up an awful lot. I thought our ball-winning ability around the middle was quite good. I thought when we needed to defend well in the second half we did.
“We moved the ball quite sensibly with the wind. We didn’t just kick the ball up the field. I told the lads the wind would give our kicking an extra 10 yards, but we still had to create the scoring openings. The wind won’t do that for you. We wanted fellas moving into space, getting fast ball into them and making sure we took the right options. In the main I felt we did.”
Shane Carroll, Adrian Mannix and an excellent Pa McCarthy effort propelled Stacks into an early advantage, cancelled out on eight minutes by an Eoin Lawlor penalty; the Rathmore centre-forward earning and dispatching the spot kick.
The placed ball accuracy of Carroll and Mannix re-established Stacks’ lead, Rathmore, however, refused to allow a sizeable gap develop. Two Michael O’Riordan frees, added to a superb Aidan O’Mahony kick and Eoin Lawlor brace saw the sides deadlocked at the interval.
Rathmore, sorely lacking an authoritative figure up front, a second Aidan O’Mahony if you will, were a shadow of the side which had so comprehensively dismissed Crokes. Hindering their cause was the absence through injury of full-forward, and free-taker Shane Ryan.
At the change of ends, Stacks finally began to make their dominance count.
Efforts from Shane O’Callaghan, Wayne Gurthie, Fiachna Mangan, along with three Shane Carroll frees, pushed Stacks out of sight (0-14 to 1-5), a slow but effective kill.
A sweeping passage of play on 45 minutes, ending as it did with midfielder George O’Keeffe finding the net, handed Rathmore a lifeline, but not alone did they fail to build on the green flag it would prove their sole score of the second half.
Credit in this regard to Austin Stacks’ defensive set-up.
Petering out to its inevitable conclusion, Mannix, Guthrie and sub Darragh Long completed the rout with late points.
Scorers for Austin Stacks: S Carroll 0-7 (7f); D Mannix 0-3 (2f); W Guthrie (1 ’45), P McCarthy 0-2 each; F Mangan, S O’Callaghan, D Long 0-1 each.
Scorers for Rathmore: E Lawlor 1-2 (1-0 pen); G O’Keffee 1-0; M O’Riordan 0-2 (2f); A O’Mahony 0-1.
AUSTIN STACKS: J Conway; C O’Connell, F McNamara, C Jordan; P McCarthy, B Shanahan, G Horgan; W Guthrie, K Donaghy; M Collins, S Carroll, F Mangan; D Mannix, S O’Callaghan, D O’Brien.
Subs: D Bohan for O’Connell (47) , D Long for Carroll (49), P Barrett for Shanahan (58), E MccAllen for Collins (60).
RATHMORE: P McCarthy; B O’Leary, J O’Sullivan, C Jenkins; P Murphy, A O’Mahony, C O’Sullivan; D O’Sullivan, G O’Keeffe; B Moynihan, E Lawlor, B O’Keeffe; M O’Riordan, P Reen, M Kelleher.
Subs: J O’Keeffe for Reen (45) , S Reen for Moynihan (45).