Stacks dig deep to retain their senior status and relegate Laune Rangers
Last year's Munster champions Austin Stacks preserved their senior championship status by getting the better of former All-Ireland kingpins Laune Rangers in a Kerry SFC relegation play-off yesterday.
The 2-10 to 1-6 victory for the Tralee club condemned Laune Rangers to intermediate status next year - an alarming fall for the Killorglin side who won the All-Ireland title in 1996.
But while relieved that his side preserved their top-flight status, Austin Stacks manager Stephen Stack took no pleasure in sending Laune Rangers down in grade for the first time in 46 years as he took a sideswipe at the fact that no divisional side were put in the relegation process.
"There is no great joy in this result," said Stack. "We've played 56 games over the last two years, winning 52 of them and here we are today trying to justify our existence as a county championship team in Kerry.
"Quite frankly I think that's appalling. It's also a shame that a team like Laune Rangers who have such a proud record in this competition are now relegated.
"People said that things had to be overhauled in the county championship, but to me it was only an overhaul of the club sides.
"This relegation process did not include the other teams (divisional/group teams) that are involved in the competition and I don't think that was fair."
The other teams demoted to intermediate level were Ardfert and St Michael's/Foilmore.
Stacks got off to a quickfire start with an early goal from David Mannix before Laune hit back with a goal from David Costello. Denis McElligott's goal helped Stacks to a 2-2 to 1-4 half-time lead.
The Rock Street men upped the ante in the second half and with Kieran Donaghy putting in a good shift, they pulled away.
Meanwhile, Rathmore and Legion will meet in a repeat of last year's East Kerry Division final on Saturday after coming through their semi-finals in contrasting fashion.
Spearheaded by Aidan O'Mahony, champions Rathmore beat Kilcummin by 3-10 to 1-14, thanks to goals from John Moynihan, Paul Murphy and Brendan O'Keeffe.
Legion required extra time to beat Killarney rivals Doctor Crokes after they finished level on 2-8 apiece after the initial 60 minutes.
Crokes goaled through Tony Brosnan in extra-time, but Legion got a debatable free at the start of the second period, and Conor Keane raced through for a goal to level matters.
Crokes took the lead again through Brosnan, but two late Legion points saw them edge their neighbours.