Austin Stacks might feel more rueful, having led by three at the break, 1-8 to 1-5, and then going four up, only to be clawed back and going one behind with 14 minutes remaining.
Collecting eight second-half wides, they had the chances but like their opponents, never harnessed the wind advantage as they would have wished.
Three scores on the bounce, the last two beauties from Shane Callaghan and Kieran Donaghy, turned the game in Stacks’ favour once more, only for Gavan O’Grady to cancel out their two-point lead with a brace of frees.
O’Grady had another late chance to put Mid Kerry ahead, with a close-range free but shot wide. Shane Carroll was then presented with one at the other end but couldn’t find his range and the final whistle was blown.
For O’Grady, who other wise had a fine outing, it was one of two inexplicable misses from frees in the second half, and manager James Sheehan knew how much they counted in the end.
“They should have been banged over the bar. That showed some lack of conviction but I’ve addressed that inside in the dressing room. We’ll just have to continue on what we’re good at and correct the small details.”
O’Grady and Carroll might be kicking themselves this morning but referee Eddie Walsh was arguably the biggest villain on the day, showing yellow cards for several black card offences. Mid Kerry’s Darran O’Sullivan, Ronan Murphy and Gary Sayers should have been sent to the line for cynical fouls. Likewise, it was mind-boggling how Austin Stacks’ Pat McCarthy and captain Barry Shanahan remained on the field.
Had they been dismissed from the action, this game could have taken another complexion entirely but there were few quibbles from either side afterwards.
Mid Kerry’s second-half revival, which had much to do with O’Sullivan taking a deeper role and their middle third players breaking more ball, was confirmed by a fortuitous Donnchadh Walsh goal.
Facing that strong wind in the first half, it appeared that period was going to be about containment for Stacks, especially when O’Grady goaled in the sixth minute. Just prior to that, O’Grady was almost put in for a goal when Kieran Courtney squared the ball to him.
After an early James Long point as well, Mid Kerry were 1-1 to 0-1 up and riding their luck too when O’Sullivan was fortunate to remain on the field after tripping Wayne Guthrie.
The next four scores, though, came from Stacks as they showed more urgency in breaking from kick-outs and frees. McCarthy’s ninth minute point hopped before bouncing over Michael Moriarty and the Mid Kerry crossbar. Having opened scoring proceedings after just 22 seconds, Carroll posted his first free in the 10th minute, penalising a foul on Mikey Collins.
By the 11th minute, Donaghy had moved from midfield to the edge of the square and it wasn’t long before he and his marker, Mid Kerry captain Fergal Griffin, were getting to know one another. Away from their tussles, Daniel Bohan, a late replacement, was kicking a brace of scores, his second a marvellous shot floating over from the left having initially appeared to be going wide.
A Sayers point arrested some of Mid Kerry’s momentum but only temporarily. Murphy was yellowed instead of black-carded for a pull down tackle but at least Carroll converted the free. He was handed another easy free in the 18th minute to push Stacks two ahead, 0-7 to 1-2.
Walsh found his range in the 20th minute, only for David Mannix to respond seconds later. And then came Donaghy’s goal. It wasn’t the prettiest although it appeared he was initially fouled by Griffin, having caught and turned to strike for goal. Whether the Mid Kerry defenders thought a penalty was coming and switched off, Donaghy was allowed to adjust himself and react quickest to find the net.
Mid Kerry kicked six first-half wides, Stacks registering their first of two in the 24th minute, but Darran O’Sullivan at least retaliated with a point to finish out the scoring for the half.
Austin Stacks manager Stephen Stack was satisfied with how they used Donaghy, bringing him out of full-forward after 10 minutes of the first half before he alternated between there and midfield in the second half.
“Against a very strong wind, the one thing you don’t want with a player like Kieran is to not have him involved,” said Stack. “It was very important to get him on the ball. He’s a great leader and you could leave him inside against the wind and he mightn’t see the ball. So we just decided to deploy him as smart as we could and I think it worked well for us today.”
Scorers for Austin Stacks: S Carroll (0-5, 4 frees); K Donaghy (1-1); P McCarthy, D Bohan (0-2 each); D Mannix, M Collins, S Callaghan (0-1 each).
Scorers for Mid Kerry: G O’Grady (1-6, 0-4 frees); D Walsh (1-1); J Long, G Sayers, D O’Sullivan (0-1 each).
AUSTIN STACKS: D O’Brien; R Shanahan, B Shanahan, F McNamara; P McCarthy, C Jordan, G Horan; W Guthrie, K Donaghy; M Collins, S Carroll, D Bohan; D Mannix, W Kirby, S Callaghan.
Subs for Austin Stacks: D O’Brien for W Kirby (46); F Mangan for D Bohan (58); D McElligott for B Shanahan (60+2).
MID KERRY: M Moriarty (Beaufort); P Kilkenny (Glenbeigh-Glencar), F Griffin (Glenbeigh-Glencar), G Hartnett (Beaufort);) , A Cahillane (Glenbeigh-Glencar), R Murphy (Beaufort), MJ O’Connor (Beaufort); C McGillicuddy (Glenbeigh-Glencar), T Ladden (Keel); G Sayers (Keel), D O’Sullivan (Glenbeigh-Glencar), J Long (Keel); G O’Grady (Glenbeigh-Glencar), D Walsh (Cromane), K Courtney (Glenbeigh-Glencar).
Subs for Mid Kerry: J Hoare (Glenbeigh/Glencar) for MJ O’Connor (16); L Carey (Beaufort) for J Long (21); S O’Sullivan (Cromane) for K Courtney (42); D O’Sullivan (Glenbeigh-Glencar) for A Cahillane (52); Referee: E Walsh (Rathmore).