Stacks end 20-year wait in sizzling 20 minute spell

CHAMPIONS: The Austin Stacks team celebrate after victory over Mid Kerry in the Kerry SFC final replay in Fitzgerald Stadium. Picture: Brendan Moran

Mid Kerry 1-07 Austin Stacks 2-13 
In less than 20 minutes, Austin Stacks effectively put an end to 20 years of waiting for a 12th county title.

That’s all it took in this one-sided affair, which couldn’t have been more removed from the drawn game seven days earlier. Two goals in the space of nine minutes and Stacks became a speck on the horizon that Mid Kerry had to squint to see.

But as manager Stephen Stack revealed afterwards, this was a victory 12 months in the making. His euphoria was in sharp contrast to the disenchanted figure he cut in Fitzgerald Stadium last October when Dr Crokes ran riot against his team.

Almost a month after that 16-point reverse, he gathered the troops and plotted once more: “I’m nearly speechless because we were in a very difficult place last year but I never, ever lost faith in them. We came together on November 19 and thrashed a lot of things down, stripped ourselves down and said we just have to work harder, it’s as simple as that.

“William Kirby said to me last year, when the two of us were absolutely blind drunk on the counter of Connolly Park inside in our own club park, he banged the counter and said: ‘Stephen, we just have to f**king work harder!” and we all felt the same.

“We were prepared to make the sacrifices this year and those fellas deserve everything they got. They’ve been magnificent, a credit to their parents and to the club and I’m so proud of them today.”

Prior to throw-in, the general consensus was the extra game would suit Mid Kerry having not previously played together as much as Stacks. But that theory appeared porous after seven minutes when a Shane O’Callaghan score stretched the Rockies’ lead to 1-3 to no score.

The goal had come a minute earlier, O’Callaghan involved in the build-up to Kieran Donaghy’s score. Donaghy should never have been given the time and space he was afforded to correct himself before netting for the second successive game. It was almost with a nervous reverence that he able to manoeuvre into a position to strike past Michael Moriarty.

But worse was to follow for the Mid Kerry goalkeeper in the 14th minute when he brought Donaghy to ground in the penalty area. Donaghy may have been fortunate himself not to be pulled up for a slight push on Fergal Griffin just before the foul but Moriarty was correctly issued with a black card. Substitute goalkeeper Rory O’Connor replaced him but wasn’t able to keep out Pat McCarthy’s spot kick.

It wasn’t until the 22nd minute that Mid Kerry registered their second score after Liam Carey’s eight minute effort. That Carey point was their only score from play in the first half, which they lost 2-7 to 0-3.

Key to Stacks’ dominance apart from their superior attitude were a few personnel and positional changes from last week. Donaghy’s presence at midfield in the opening half extended only to the throw-in as he stationed himself at full-forward.

Veteran William Kirby was kept in reserve as Greg Horan moved from half-back line to join Wayne Guthrie in midfield and the tactic worked a treat. “We felt the diamond area was going to be absolutely critical and we made changes and we dominated it again,” said Stack.

“Mick Galwey said to me a few weeks ago ‘make sure the opposition earns every score!’. He came down to us and spoke to us and there was a couple of others I’d prefer not to mention.”

Unlike the drawn game where he struggled on occasions, goalkeeper Darragh O’Brien certainly made Mid Kerry do that. Gavan O’Grady’s goal in the final minute of normal time only came after he had deprived the divisional outfit of three other attempts.

On top of a regimental display by the Stacks’ defence, the beaverish work ethic of Shane O’Callaghan and Mikey Collins was fundamental in the victory. And then there was Donaghy, completing a county-club double with a superb individual performance.

“He’s such a magnificent leader!” gushed Stack. “If he is going to be captain of Kerry I can tell you he is going to be a great captain. In time I believe he’ll be a great coach but for now we want to hold onto him as a coach and I thought he was magnificent again today. The ball going into him was very good.”

For a club as proud as Stacks, the 20-year gap was understandably special but especially after a year where a lot of the group had suffered personal heartache. As Stack revealed: “I’m particularly delighted for William and Darragh Long, both of them will know why. One of them is waiting 19 years and DL will know why we’re so delighted he kicked the last score of the game.

“We’d another great colleague of ours that we lost during the year, Trevor Barrett (died suddenly this year from brain haemorrhage at the age of 29). That was for Trevor today, he died, his brother Paul was on the bench today, we were thinking of Trevor today. My dad passed away, our chairman and vice-chairman lost parents. The club had a lot of losses during the year but that was always there behind us and that is for all of those people and all those people who have gone before us.”

What stirred Listowel man Stack was a sense he and his the team were always going to land the Bishop Moynihan Cup. “I had absolute conviction and belief that we’d win a county title (at some stage). It wasn’t arrogance, I just had absolutely belief in them. It’s great for Tralee and North Kerry, it’s not just an Austin Stacks thing. I sang with Strand Road!”

You can imagine he wasn’t shying away from a chorus or two in Connolly Park last night either.

Scorers for Austin Stacks: K Donaghy (1-2); S Carroll (0-5, 4 frees); P McCarthy (1-1, 1-0 pen); M Collins (0-2); S O’Callaghan, D Mannix, D Long (0-1 each).

Scorers for Mid Kerry: G O’Grady (1-4, 0-3 frees, 0-1 45); S O’Sullivan (0-2), L Carey (0-1).

AUSTIN STACKS: D O’Brien; J Dennis, F McNamara, R Shanahan; B Shanahan, P McCarthy, D McElligott; W Guthrie, G Horan; M Collins, S Carroll, D Bohan; S O’Callaghan, K Donaghy, D O’Brien.

Subs: D Mannix for D O’Brien (h-t); C Jordan for R Shanahan (37); F Mangan for D Bohan (47); W Kirby for G Horan (53); D Long for M Collins, C O’Connell for P McCarthy (both 55).

MID KERRY: M Moriarty (Beaufort); G Hartnett (Beaufort), F Griffin (Glenbeigh/Glencar), P Kilkenny (Glenbeigh/Glencar); A Cahillane (Keel), R Murphy (Beaufort), Danny O’Sullivan (Glenbeigh/Glencar); C McGillicuddy (Glenbeigh/Glencar), T Ladden (Keel); G Sayers (Keel), L Carey (Beaufort), D Walsh (Cromane); G O’Grady (Glenbeigh/Glencar), Darran O’Sullivan (Glenbeigh/Glencar), K Courtney (Glenbeigh/Glencar).

Subs: R O’Connor (Glenbeigh/Glencar) for M Moriarty (black, 14); M Burke (Keel) for C McGillicuddy (21); S O’Sullivan (Cromane) for G Sayers, J Hoare (Glenbeigh/Glencar) for R Murphy (both h-t); J Long (Keel) for M Burke (53).

Referee: P O’Sullivan (Firies).

Game-changer

Onlookers may say Austin Stacks’ second goal but Kieran Donaghy’s fisted point in the 48th-minute point, putting them 10 up, sealed the lid on this final.

Talk of the town

Stacks’ latest vintage getting a 20-year monkey off their backs.

Did that just happen?

The nervousness of the Mid Kerry cover that allowed Donaghy in for his goal. The worst thing was the same anxiety let him in for a goal in Tralee last week.

Best on show

The vast majority of the press box voted for Donaghy, understandable, but Mikey Collins was very impressive.

Black card watch

Michael Moriarty saw the line after taking down Donaghy for a penalty.

Sideline superior

Stephen Stack’s decision to keep Kieran Donaghy at the edge of the square, even with William Kirby remaining on the bench deep into the second half, was a bold and ultimately excellent call.

The man in black

Composed game by Padraig O’Sullivan and got the black card call right.

What’s next?

Stacks face Cork champions Ballincollig in Kerry on Sunday week.


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