But winning manager Stephen Stack took little satisfaction in the victory at Lewis Road yesterday.
“There is no great joy in this result to be honest. We’ve played 56 games over the last two years, winning 52 of them and here we are today trying to justify our existence as a County Championship team in Kerry. Quite frankly I think that’s appalling.
“It is a shame a team like Laune Rangers who have such a proud record in this competition and always prepare properly find themselves in this position where they are now relegated. I know people said that things had to be overhauled in the county championship, but to me it was only an overhaul of the club sides.
“This relegation process did not include the other teams (divisional/group teams) that are involved in the competition and I don’t think that was fair or proportionate,” he said of the controversial process that has seen both Ardfert and St Michael’s/Foilmore lose their senior status alongside the Killorglin side.
The losers showed plenty of heart and character in the first half with veterans Mike Frank Russell and John Sheehan to the fore.
David Mannix goaled for Stacks inside the opening two minutes but Laune Rangers hit the net through David Costello to edge 1-2 to 1-0 ahead. But a Denis McElligott goal turned the game back in favour of Austin Stacks who led 2-2 to 1-4 at the interval.
Stacks were a lot more composed in the second period as Laune Rangers’ energy began to diminish. Kieran Donaghy put in a good shift, slotting over two points, as a free from Russell and John Sheehan were the Killorglin side’s only second-half scores.
Austin Stacks’ supporters applauded both teams off the pitch in a dignified gesture as the inaugural winners of the Kerry SFC in 1889 make their exit from the competition after a 46-year run.
Meanwhile, Rathmore and Legion will meet in a repeat of last year’s O’Donoghue Cup final on Saturday, but both just prevailed in contrasting fashion. Champions Rathmore defeated Kilcummin on Saturday, 3-10 to 1-14, thanks to goals from John Moynihan, Paul Murphy and Brendan O’Keeffe.
Crokes and Legion required extra time to decide their semi-final after they finished level on 2-8 each but two late Legion points saw them beat their rivals 3-12 to 1-11.
D Mannix (1-3, 1f), D McElligott (1-1), K Donaghy (0-2), S O’Carroll (0-1, 1free), S O’Callaghan, C Jordan and D O’Brien (0-1 each).
D Costello (1-0), MF Russell (0-3, 2frees), S McSweeney, C Doona and J Sheehan (0-1 each).
D O’Brien; B Walsh, B Shanahan, J O’Shea; D McElligott, F McNamara, S Guthrie; J Dennis, S Carroll; P McCarthy, S O’Callaghan, G Horan; D Mannix, K Donaghy, F Mangan.
C Jordan for McElligott (half-time), D Bohan for Guthrie (half-time), Darragh O’Brien for Mangan (half-time), J Conway for D O’Brien (38), S Ryan for McCarthy (53) and B Mangan for Mannix (60).
T Lyons; C O’Riordan, M O’Sullivan, J Carey; K Crowley, R Sayers, R Keane; J Sheehan, J Tyther; D Costello, S McSweeney, P Joy; MF Russell, C O’Shea, C Doona.
P Murphy for Costello (41), S Daly for O’Shea (55) and P Sheehan for Sayers (55).
E Walsh (Rathmore)