IN the aftermath of his side's loss in the U-21 County Championship Final, Killarney Legion manager John McCarthy expressed his hope that Tommy Naughton would be the club's saving grace for 2012. .
He was of course referring to the name of the Cup awarded to the winners of the Acorn Life U-21 Club Championship which his side will be defending this Saturday against Austin Stacks in the final in Fitzgerald Stadium
This match is a repeat of the U-21 County Championship semi-final between the two sides back in July, a dour game decided by David O'Sullivan's accuracy for the Killarney side in a 1-6 to 0-8 win. Stacks had plenty of chances to turn the result the other way however, letting a number of good opportunities slip by in the second half (not least a goal line clearance from a late Shane O'Callaghan effort) before bowing out.
Legion overcame their loss to Rathmore/Kilcummin in the U-21 County Final with victories over St Michaels/Foilmore, Laune Rangers and Templenoe in the semi-final to earn their chance at redemption. Stacks on the other hands saw off St Marys/Renard, Kenmare and Ballymacelligott/St Pats to make it to Saturday's decider. One would be hoping that the game is of a higher quality than its predecessor back in July, there is enough quality on both sides to suggest it can be.
Legion have Chris Davies and Sean McCarthy in defence, Shaun Keane at midfield and Tom Moriarty and David O'Sullivan up front to lead the way. However Conor Keane's return for this final (after missing the County Final due to Kerry Minor commitments) is tempered by the loss of Kieran Slattery through suspension.
Austin Stacks have a number of defensive concerns ahead of Saturday such as Conor Jordan and Alan Crean with Ronan Shanahan rated as very doubtful by manager Wayne Quillinan after getting injured in the Senior County Championship against Dr C rokes.
The 'Rockies' need a much better return from their forward line which will be led by Shane O'Callaghan, Darragh O'Brien and David Mannix, they will certainly feel they owe the Killarney side one after last July's encounter. Both teams really need this as a confidence booster to make up for disappointments not only at U21 level but senior also. If Legion can nullify the Stacks threat up front, they should have enough to retain their title.