BRAGGING rights in Tralee were shared on Saturday afternoon as cross town rivals Kerins O'Rahillys and Austin Stacks settled for a low scoring draw in a game that produced just enough heat to stave off the biting cold that whipped around Strand Road on the opening day of the county league.
Usually a fixture guaranteed to generate plenty of interest and no little controversey, in the greater scheme of things this latest meeting of these rivals never really caught the imagination; perhaps coming a little too early in the season for that. The quality of football never rose above the ordinary either, although the closeness of teams on the scorebaord was enough to keep the crowd on its toes right up to Eugene McGrath's injury-time equaliser that ensured the home side escaped with a draw.
It was a reasonable outcome in a game in which neither side was able to produce anything special enough to grab the initiative and both points, and when both teams reflect on the match it's Stacks who will feel they probably had the better chance to win the game.
Playing with a strong wind in the first half there was little to choose between the teams, both of which fielded quite a number of younger players and less of the older, more familiar names of the last few years. That said, Micheal Quirke and William Kirby were familiar and central players in the midfield, while recent county panelists Daniel Bohan, for Stacks, and Barry John Keane and Barry John Walsh, for O'Rahillys, were also centrally involved.
David Moran was expected to play for O'Rahillys but a shoulder injury picked up training with Kerry the previous mid-week kept the unfortunate Moran out of the action. One might assume that he might have made the difference for O'Rahillys on a day where little could separate the teams.
An early exchange of points left the side tied at 0-2 apiece before Shaen O'Callaghan's clever pass put Dara Long through on goal but with only Gary Kissane to beat Long slid the ball wide of the target.
Minutes later Barry Shanahan threaded the ball over the top to Long - again left unmarked inside the O'Rahillys defence - but with Kissane quickly off his line the Satcks man again skewed his shot wide of the goals for another let-off for O'Rahillys.
Twenty minutes in and the sides were level at 0-3 apiece, before Stacks introduced Paul O'Donoghue - late for the start of the game after a delayed flight - to try and get a little more possession and momentum through the middle. A third goal chance fell to Stacks as Mikey Collins rounded the defence and stole in along the end line before hitting a ground shot for goal but Kissane stood strong to parry the ball behind for a '45', which Shane Carroll converted to leave Stacks 0-4 to 0-3 ahead at the break.
Given the wind strength it seemed a flimsy lead for Stacks but they deployed Bohan back as an extra defender and went aboutb shutting out O'Rahillys who lacked a natural scorer outside of Keane. David Mannix and Carroll traded points with Keane (free) and John C O'Connor to keep a point between them after 40 minutes, as O'Rahillys introduced Declan Quill as they looked to rescure the game.
Keane's fifth score levelled matters before Stack keeper Darragh O'Brien was called into action to deny Kieran O'Mahony with a great save. Mannix knocked over free to nudge Stacks ahead again and it looked as if that was good enough to give the Rockies the win as the game trickled over into injury-time, but O'Rahillys were quite done and after some huffing and puffing they eventually worked the ball to Eugene McGrath who thumped over the equaliser in the last minute.
Kerins O'Rahillys: G Kissane, M Tierney, S Brosnan, T Begley, G O'Grady, G Duffy, A Thompson, J C O'COnnor (0-1), M Quirke, D McLoughlin, BJ Keane (0-5, 3f), K O'Mahony, E McGrath (0-1), BJ Walsh, J Savage. Subs: D Quill for Thompson, J Ferguson for McLoughlin.
Austin Stacks: D O'Brien, F McNamara, B Shanahan, J Dennis, G HOran, TJ Hogan, C O'Connell, P McCarthy, W Kirby, D Bohan, S Carroll (0-2, 1 '45'), D Long, D Mannix (0-4, 2f), S O'Callaghan (0-1), M Collins. Subs: P O'Donoghue for Long, D Clifford for Collins.
Referee: P Lyons (Cromane)