Austin Stacks progress but fail to impress

Austin Stacks 1-13 St Michael’s/Foilmore 2-6: Champions Austin Stacks opened their Kerry SFC title defence with a laboured victory over St Michael’s/Foilmore at Austin Stack Park Tralee on Saturday night.

Stacks led by a point, 1-7 to 2-3, at half-time after two fortuitous goals gave the underdogs hope against their illustrious opponents.

Points from wing-back Pa McCarthy — his second of three — and David Mannix soon after the restart gave the champions a firmer foothold, though, and they improved around the middle to ensure they secured victory.

Manager Stephen Stack was happy with the result but agreed the performance was not of the required standard.

“I said to the lads last night and today that the most important thing was to get the result and that I’d be happy with a one-point win,” he said. “I meant that but you’d have to say that there were a lot of basic mistakes made throughout the game, obviously we wouldn’t be happy with the two goals conceded. Those goals came at stages when we were playing reasonably well and they gave them a lift.

“These things happen and I thought we were forcing it a bit. They had a lot of players back and we were trying to kick it into the full-forward line, which was stupid.

“We needed to grip around the middle, which we did in the second half, and we worked the ball through the hands more, with a bit more width to draw them out.”

The opening eight minutes brought two points apiece before Shane O’Callaghan goaled for Stacks, reacting quickest when Shane Carroll’s 45 hit the post. When Mannix, who would finish with eight points, added a free to make it 1-3 to 0-2, the widespread expectation was Stacks would push on and assert their authority. St Michael’s/Foilmore’s defensive strategy meant full-forward Mark McCarthy was often their only player inside the opposition 45 and the precision of the deliveries up until then weren’t causing any concern for the favourites.

However, on 15 minutes, a high ball from Bernard Kelly dropped dangerously and goalkeeper’s Jonathan Conway attempted punch went disastrously wrong and the ball nestled in the net.

The score didn’t seem to rattle the champions, as Mannix subsequently scored two frees while McCarthy landed a fine point after good work by O’Callaghan.

Even when Pádraig King got a point in response to bring the deficit back to three points, Stacks looked comfortable but then a second freak goal concession rocked them.

Seán Fogarty would get the credit, after a probing delivery went in off the post as Conway was unsighted.

Mannix’s fifth point ensured Stacks retired with the half-time lead but the murmurs of an upset had begun to get louder.

Pa Fitzgibbon replaced Conway at the break while at the other end McCarthy pointed within 20 seconds of the restart before Mannix added another from play.

Mark Griffin was getting more involved further up the pitch for St Michael’s/Foilmore but, even though Kelly did get a fine free from distance, they ceded a lot of the initiative as Stacks improved.

Two more Mannix frees put four between the sides by the three-quarter mark, though it had taken good Ronan Shanahan defending to deny King a goal in between those scores.

Kelly, with a free brought in for encroachment on 53 minutes, made it a three-point game again but O’Callaghan had an instant reply and it was a similar story late on as Fionán Tarrant’s effort was cancelled out by McCarthy.

Victory for the champions, but manager Stack has plenty to work on in the weeks ahead. “If we perform like that in the next round, that’ll be it for us,” he said.

“We have an awful lot of improving to do. You want to put these things right, particularly in our execution of the basics. The decision-making wasn’t up to scratch, we could have been a lot smarter and that’s something we have to work on.”

Scorers for Austin Stacks: D Mannix 0-8 (six frees), S O’Callaghan 1-2, P McCarthy 0-3. 

Scorers for St Michael’s/Foilmore: B Kelly 1-3 (two frees), S Fogarty 1-0, DJ Moran, P King, F Tarrant 0-1 each. 

AUSTIN STACKS: J Conway; R Shanahan, J Dennis, D McElligott; P McCarthy, F McNamara, C O’Connell; C Jordan, K Donaghy; F Mangan, S Carroll, M Collins; D Mannix, S O’Callaghan, D O’Brien. Subs: P Fitzgibbon for Conway (half-time), B Mangan for Jordan (38), S Ryan for F Mangan (41), J Morgan for O’Connell (48), D Long for O’Brien (54), D O’Sullivan for Collins (60). 

ST MICHAEL’S/FOILMORE: J O’Shea; D Scanlon, M Griffin, A O’Connell; DJ Moran, S O’Shea, A Smith; S O’Connor, C O’Sullivan; P King, D O’Sullivan, S Fogarty; S O’Sullivan, M McCarthy, B Kelly. Subs: J Moran for DJ Moran (half-time), V Casey for D O’Sullivan (44), F Tarrant for J Moran (51). 

Referee: T Ahern (Listry).


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