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Austin Stacks hang on against Kerins O’Rahillys to keep of Senior Club Group B wide open ahead of final round

Gearoid Fitzgerald goals for Stacks in first half as Gavin O’Brien gets O’Rahillys goal late in second half in gripping contest in Connolly Park

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Austin Stacks' David Mannix looks to get past the challenge of Padraig Neennan of Kerins O'Rahillys in this afternoon's County Senior Club Championship game in Connolly Park, Tralee. Photo by Mark O'Sullivan

Austin Stacks' David Mannix looks to get past the challenge of Padraig Neennan of Kerins O'Rahillys in this afternoon's County Senior Club Championship game in Connolly Park, Tralee. Photo by Mark O'Sullivan

Austin Stacks' David Mannix looks to get past the challenge of Padraig Neennan of Kerins O'Rahillys in this afternoon's County Senior Club Championship game in Connolly Park, Tralee. Photo by Mark O'Sullivan

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COUNTY SENIOR CLUB FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP GROUP B ROUND 2

Austin Stacks 1-15

Kerins O'Rahillys 1-14

Bragging rights for the Rockies in a gripping Tralee derby against cross-town rivals Kerins O’Rahillys in a game Stacks – the reigning Senior Club champions – simply had to win to keep their title defence and ambitions of a fourth title in a row alive, which they did by the narrowest of margins at a stiflingly hot Connolly Park this afternoon.

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The prospect of seeing several recently crowned All-Ireland champions in action in a repeat of last December’s county SFC final in action drew a large and partisan crowd to Stacks home ground on ‘The Rock’, and they witnessed a game which, while no classic, was a tough, tight, fiercely contested game that brought the best out in both team in tough conditions.

Overall, Stacks just about deserved the win given they played better for longer as a unit; they got at least one score from play from their six starting forwards; and they showed great nerve and resolve to recover from a late, lead-grabbing O’Rahillys goal after the home side had led for most of the contest.

The O’Rahillys goal arrived in the 55th minute from Gavin O’Brien, set up by Tommy Walsh, and thrust the Strand Road men into a 1-13 to 1-12 lead in a game they had trailed in up to then. But they could only muster one more score after that – a point from sub Ben Hanifan, which was the very last play of the game. In the meantime, Stacks reeled off three late scores to regain the lead and ultimately the win that keeps Group 2 very much a going concern heading into the third round of matches next weekend.

In one of the key match-ups of the day, county colleagues Joe O’Connor and David Moran squared off each other in midfield, with the latter certainly winning the duel in the first half, though O’Connor stepped up a gear in the second half to keep Stacks in plenty of possession around the middle third.

Greg Horan was a big influence for the Rockies, too, kicking a point from wing back and generally driving his side forward; the only negative being a serious looking injury near the end of the game which saw Horan grounded for almost five minutes before he, thankfully, was able to walk off the pitch for further treatment.

Conor Jordan, Michael O’Donnell, Michael O’Gara and David Mannix all made telling contributions to Stacks’ cause, but none more so than centre-back Jack O’Shea who was excellent in launching several attacks from deep, and his three points from play won’t have gone unnoticed by Kerry the Kerry management.

Strand Road looked quite unsettled in the first quarter as Stacks ran hard at them, but they eventually settled into a more discernable pattern, with Moran putting a lot of ball through his hands, Jack Savage always looking to get on the out ball on the ‘forty’ and Tommy Walsh providing an outlet inside when O’Rahillys opted to go direct to him. 

Indeed, Walsh won and converted three marks – two in the first half – but O’Rahillys never really looked to capitalise enough on the ‘route one’ option in the second half, something they might reflect on with regret.

By the first water break Stacks were full value for their 1-4 to 0-3 lead, with Fitzgerald bundling the ball over the goal line after Shane Foley had parried Joe O’Connor’s close-range shot into his path.

Mannix and Jack Savage had traded the game’s first two points, and after the Stacks goal Sean Quilter, O’Gara and O’Shea pointed for the home side, with Moran and Savage (free) keeping O’Rahillys in touch.

O’Rahillys thundered into the second quarter, winning that period by 0-5 to 0-1, with Stacks going 13 minutes with a score until O’Donnell’s effort levelled the match at 1-5 to 0-8, which is how the scoreboard read at half time. 

After scores from Barry John Keane, a couple of marks from Tommy Walsh, and a converted ‘45’ from Jack Savage brought O’Rahillys back level, 0-7 to 1-4, wing back Padraig Neenan kicked the visitors into a brief lead before O’Donnell levelled things up for half time.

The third quarter was a tight affair: Greg Horan, O’Gara, O’Shea and Shane O’Callaghan raising flags for Stacks while Jack Savage converted three frees for O’Rahillys.

Armin Heinrich and Cormac Coffey then traded scores, but by the 53rd minute Stacks still led by that early goal, 1-12 to 0-12, and looked, if not quite in control, at least they hand their destiny in their own hands.

Tommy Walsh won a converted his third ‘mark’ before Jack Savage and Walsh combined to set O’Brien through for a well taken goal that threw the proverbial cat among the Rockies pigeons. But no sooner had Strand Road wrestled the lead than Quilter nailed an equalising free, and Mannix and then sub Cian Purcell added the insurance scores to secure a crucial and just about merited Rockies win.

What it all means is that Templenoe sit top of Group 2 with 4 points, with Stacks and O’Rahillys next on 2 points each, and Dr Crokes without a point from their two games. Next weekend Stacks are away to Dr Crokes, while O’Rahillys host Templenoe, where wins for both Tralee clubs will force a three-way play-off with themselves and Templenoe, while defeat for both would bring Crokes into a three-way play-off with the Tralee sides.

AUSTIN STACKS: Wayne Guthrie, Colin Griffin, Barry Shanahan, Niall Fitzmaurice, Conor Jordan, Jack O’Shea 0-3, Greg Horan 0-1, Joe O’Connor, Michael O’Donnell 0-1, Michael O’Gara 0-2, Shane O’Callaghan 0-1, Armin Heinrich 0-1, Sean Quilter 0-2 (1f), Gearoid Fitzgerald 1-0, David Mannix 0-3 (2f). Subs: Jordan Kissane for G Fitzgerald (47), Cian Purcell 0-1 for S O’Callaghan (56), Adam Curran for A Heinrich (56), Conor Horan for G Horan (inj, 60), Luke Chester for C Griffin (inj, 66).

KERINS O’RAHILLYS: Shane Foley, TJ Heaphy, Ross O’Callaghan, Cormac Coffey 0-1, Darragh McElligott, Shane Brosnan, Padriag Neenan 0-1, Sean Walsh, David Moran 0-1, Tom Hoare, Jack Savage 0-6 (4f, 1 ‘45’), Gavin O’Brien 1-0, Gearoid Savage, Tommy Walsh 0-3 (3m), Barry John Keane 0-1. Subs: Ben Hanifan 0-1 for Heaphy (47), Darragh O’Connor for S Walsh (50), Diarmuid O’Sullivan for G Savage (55).

Referee: Eddie Walsh (Rathmore)


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