Stack: ‘Come home with your shield or upon it’

Kerry SFC: A couple of weeks after their 16-point mauling at the hands of Dr Crokes last year, manager Stephen Stack called a meeting of his Austin Stacks players.

The efforts of October 20 were not acceptable, the preparations leading into the decider not sufficient. Sacrifices were required.

Summer holidays, J1’s and music festivals were off the menu. “Last year was an awful blow. We decided we needed to make more sacrifices, needed to be more obsessive,” reveals Stack.

“We met as a group last November. It was as honest a meeting as I was ever at. We stripped ourselves bare. We did a lot of soul searching and worked out what we needed to do to be different. That was a great starting point.

“I would give huge credit to the players for the way they bounced back from the defeat. The senior lads are still prepared to make sacrifices at 30 and 31 years of age, then we have brought some new players into the panel this year and they have brought an extra edge which is great.

I have to give great credit here to Ciarán McCabe who came in with me this year and he has worked wonders with the players in terms of strength and conditioning.”

The easy option was to slip off the track. Every player kept their end of the bargain from the November meeting. Manager Stack is dearly hoping they are rewarded tomorrow.

“I think every player has been honest about what they said they would do and what they have done. I think the other thing is that if you bring additional players into a squad, they will strengthen it. What was also very important to us is that we had only two players away during the summer. Most other clubs were decimated with the numbers that headed off for the summer. Take Kerins O’Rahilly’s who had eight away. Now players only go because they have to go. We were lucky our vice-chairman Liam Lynch put a committee in the club together and they worked from January to get employment for the lads which we felt was very important.

“We had five away last year, but only two this year. Denis McElligott had told me late last year that he was going away for a while. Ronan Shanahan had put off going away for a couple of years and I understood. Only for Liam Lynch and his committee four or five more of would have gone to the USA.

“There are two aspects about fellas going to America whether they would admit it or not, one is the economic side and then there is the social pull.

Sometimes the social side can be the bigger draw because some of these guys are in their last year at college and they want to enjoy life away from football before they join the workforce.

That is life and I understand that, but the lads who stayed at home this year I have to give them credit.

“Hopefully it will make a difference in that we will be sharper, more streetwise and very together.”

Stack has a simple message for his charges. He said: “If we are to curb their danger men, whether it is Darran O’Sullivan, Donnchadh Walsh, Gavin O’Grady or Gary Sayers, it starts with our own corner-forward. My hope is that the players go out and do justice to the efforts they have put in this year. If they do that, whether we win or lose, we will have no complaints.

My father, God rest his soul, used to say to me before matches — as the parents of Roman soldiers used to say ‘come home with your shield or upon it’.

“I think they were very wise words to any man going out on the field of play.”

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