Stacks were beaten by unfancied Milltown/Castlemaine, in the first round of the relegation play-off games, at Castleisland on Saturday and there was no fluke about it.
Stacks find themselves facing a doomsday scenario, because of the recommendations of a Review Committee, ironically chaired by Tony O’Keeffe, a former Austin Stacks great that has decreed, only eight clubs sides instead of the current eleven, can only play in the SFC of 2016.
This, despite the fact that Stacks have record only bettered by Dr Crokes in recent years: 2009 semi finalists, 2010 finalists, 2013 finalists, and 2014 winners.
Milltown-Castlemaine played with a ferocious hunger and had the Stacks on the back foot in the opening quarter, leading 0-4 to 0-0, with Jack McCarthy converting three frees and substitute Jerome Flynn, firing over from play.
Stacks then struck for their first score in the 16th minute, a well worked goal, finished to the net, by Seán Ryan.
Wayne Guthrie added a quick free, but that was their total for the opening half, as the Milltown-Castlemaine defence were superb, with Damien Murphy, John Blennerhassett and Marcus Mangan, frustrating the Stacks attack. Points from Jonathon O’Sullivan and Brendan Delaney saw Milltown-Castlemaine go in 0-6 to 1-1 in front at the interval.
The expected Stacks onslaught never happened as the game boiled over in the third quarter with several bouts of fisticuffs, and Kieran Donaghy and his marker Damien Murphy were central figures, and was lucky to see only yellow.
When Jack McCarthy finished a cross to the Stacks net in the 33rd minute, an upset was on.
Then Greg Horan lost his cool and picked up a second yellow, as Donal Kelliher inspired Milltown to stay three ahead and then David Roche made it four.
Then came a dramatic climax, as Donal Kelliher saw his effort for a point, drop into the Stacks net, in the 58th minute.
But Darragh O’Brien goaled for Stacks at the other end. Donaghy reduced the gap to two in the 62nd minute, but Cathal Moriarty had the final say for Milltown-Castlemaine, who secured their SFC status for 2016.
J McCarthy (1-4, 4 frees), D Kelliher (1-0), J Flynn, J O’Sullivan, B Delaney, D Roche and C Moriarty (0-1 each)
S Ryan and D O’Brien (1-0 each), S O Callaghan (0-2, 1 free), K Donaghy, J O’Shea, C Jordan, W Guthrie (free), (0-1 each).
C Leane; D Roche, D Murphy, J Blennerhassett; P Carroll, M Mangan, Pa Wren; M Burke, D Kelliher; Jer Hayes, S Murphy, N Wrenn; J O’Sullivan, C Moriarty, J McCarthy.
J Flynn for J Hayes (6); B Delaney for J O’Sullivan (25); E O’Brien for J Flynn (52); G McKenna for N Wrenn (53).
Darragh O’Brien; B Walsh, B Shanahan, F McNamara; J Morgan, C Jordan, J O’Shea; W Guthrie, S Guthrie; S Ryan, P McCarthy, F Mangan; G Horan, K Donaghy, S O’Callaghan.
D McElligott for J Morgan (half-time); Darragh O’Brien for P McCarthy (50); M O’Donnell for S Guthrie (52).
T McCarthy, (Desmonds).