LEGION retained the Under-21 Club Championship title in the most dramatic of circumstances at Fitzgerald Stadium on Saturday, firstly by forcing the match into extra-time through a last-gasp Padraig Lucey point and then stretching away to finally dispose of the challenge posed by Austin Stacks.
LEGION 1-16 AUSTIN STACKS 1-13
In extra-time, the Killarney side out-scored their Tralee rivals by 1-4 to 0-4 with a superb goal from substitute Tom Slattery ultimately proving crucial.
After 80 minutes of football, Legion were deserved winners. They had a greater spread of scorers, seven in all, while Austin Stacks were heavily dependent on David Mannix for scores. In saying that, the game was nip-and-tuck the whole way with never more than two points between the sides until super sub Tom Slattery fired home a cracking goal in the first period of extra time to put Legion 1-13 to 110 ahead. Stacks did manage to narrow the deficit to just two points with time almost up before David McCarthy had the last say for the Killarney club.
The first half action did not hint at the drama to come later in this game. The exchanges were pedestrian to say the least with little urgency being displayed by either team. At half-time, Legion led by 0-6 to 0-4, and that advantage was deserved, given that they had played slightly the better football in the opening half hour. The eventual winners opened in brighter fashion and raced into a two-point lead inside four minutes â?“ David O'Sullivan doing the needful from frees.
Austin Stacks pegged back that lead by the 10th minute. Darragh O'Brien was given all the time and space in the world to notch their first score, while the impressively accurate Mannix equalised matters after David Courtney's hard work.
The remainder of the half belonged to Legion, on the score board at least. David O'Sullivan got three points â?“ two from frees â?“ while the brilliant Shaun Keane weighed in with another. For Stacks, the David Mannix Show continued. The full-forward kept the Tralee side in touch, firstly by converting a free and then arrowing over a sublime sideline kick, to leave the scoreboard reading 0-6 to 0-4 in favour of Legion.
The fare improved considerably in the second half with Austin Stacks making a concerted effort to wrestle the tie from the reigning champions. Shane O'Callaghan and David Mannix turned the heat up by scoring early second half points; Legion responded through Jack O'Neill and Thomas Moriarty. Back came Stacks with two points of their own courtesy of the ever-accurate David Mannix, before a brace from David McCarthy and David O'Sullivan eased Legion 0-10 to 0-8 ahead with three-quarters of the game elapsed.
At this stage, Legion seemed to be doing just about enough, however they were soon rocked back on their heels by a determined Tralee outfit. With four minutes to go the Killarney side led by 0-11 and 0-9 and seemingly set for victory. Then came a Greg Horan goal that swung the pendulum in favour of the team in black and amber. Running through despairing challenges, Horan despatched an unstoppable shot to the top left-hand corner of Andrew O'Connor's net to change the complexion of the game.
There was time enough for Legion to come back however and when Padraig Lucey fisted a long free over the bar for an equalising score, the tall midfielder ensured a further 20 minutes of action. The decisive score of the match came eight minutes into the opening period of extra time. A defence-opening move involving Conor Keane, Thomas Moriarty, David McCarthy and finally Tom Slattery, gave the substitute the opportunity to find the net and he made no mistake shooting past Barry Galvin.
Both sides managed three further points in the remaining 12 minutes or so. David Mannix knocked over three frees for Stacks while man-of-the-match Shaun Keane, Thomas Moriarty and David McCarthy sealed a Legion win with scores from play. LEGION: Andrew O'Connor; Chris Davies, Sean McCarthy, Cathal Sheehan; Damien Lyne, Danny Sheehan, Jack O'Neill (0-1); Shaun Keane (0-2), Padraig Lucey (0-1); Billy Maguire, David McCarthy (02), Thomas Moriarty (0-3); David O'Sullivan (0-7, 0-5 frees), David Gleeson, Conor Keane. Subs: Killian Treacy for B Maguire (45), Aiden Slattery for D Gleeson (52), Tom Slattery (1-0) for Cathal Sheehan (56), Scott O'Mahony for C Keane (et) AUSTIN STACKS: Barry Galvin; Barry Walsh, Feargal McNamara, Alan Crean; Seamus Bastible, Ronan Shanahan, Gary O'Connor; Shane Carroll, Ciaran O'Connell; Shane O'Callaghan (0-1), Grteg Horan (1-0), Danny Carroll; David Courtney, David Mannix (0-10, 0-8 frees), Darragh O'Brien (0-2). Subs: Conor Jordan for B Waklsh (ht), Kyle Fitzgibbon for D Carroll, Joe O'Kelly for S Carroll (et) REFEREE: Seamus Mulvihill (St Senans)