Legion rally but Stacks prevail

County SFC Round 2A: Austin Stacks 4-13  Legion 3-6

Timmy Sheehan, Connolly Park, Tralee

A feast of goals in Connolly Park last Friday evening where Austin Stacks booked their place in the quarter-final of this year's SFC with a display that was notable for some brilliant passages of play throughout the opening half at the end of which they held a fairly commanding 10-point lead.

Increased to 16 points within three minutes of the restart, the outcome was largely a foregone conclusion at that juncture, but a spirited response from Legion made for a pretty exciting and entertaining second period with the deficit being reduced to seven points with under ten minutes of normal time remaining.

Certainly, Stacks struggled during a period of sustained pressure from the Killarney side, but a late response with David Mannix - a central figure - sealed what was, in the end, a comfortable and comprehensive victory.

The locals got off to the perfect start with Michael O'Donnell stroking home a goal inside the opening minute after Shane O'Callaghan had created the opportunity. Mannix followed with a point almost immediately, but two superb points in quick succession from opposite sides of the pitch from James O'Donoghue offered the perfect response from the visitors.

However, Legion failed to add to their tally until the final minute of the half with Stacks exerting a firm grip in all sectors, with Kieran Donaghy operating to good effect in a variety of roles and positions.

The strong and purposeful play of Greg Horan and Wayne Guthrie was a notable feature, as was Jack Morgan who was deployed as a sweeper in a defence that individually and collectively was rock solid. Therein Ronan Shanahan, Ferghal McNamara, Jack O'Shea, Pa McCarthy and Morgan offered pace and penetration in offensive situations.

With Barry Walsh also a pillar of strength at the rear, Stacks had a platform and a launch-pad for many of their attacking thrusts. They were six points in front (1-5 0-2) at the end of the first quarter with Mannix having kicked three of their points.

O'Donnell, industrious and resourceful throughout, added to their tally, as did Shane O Callaghan, and when Morgan at the end of a 50-metre run converted low for goal number two in the 27th minute Stacks had opened up a significant scoring advantage and led 2-7 to 0-3 at the interval, after Legion had been off target with a number of scoring opportunities late in the half.

That lead was increased to unassailable proportions within three minutes of the restart with goals from Horan and Guthrie. Picking up positions in acres of space inside Legion's last line of defence they availed of inch perfect deliveries from Pa McCarthy and Denis McElligott before applying clinical finishes in one-on-one situations with the goalkeeper.

Sixteen points adrift, Legion threw caution to the wind and poured forward in waves of attacks. Defender Chris Davies provided the impetus with some surging runs, Jamie O'Sullivan was also seen to good effect, while half time substitute Tom Moriarty posed a constant threat along the left flank.

O'Sullivan forced home his side's first goal with a two-handed finish from close range in the 34th minute while four minutes later Legion doubled their goal tally. With Stacks having been awarded a free after Horan was fouled, his kick after the tackle was deemed to have been a free taken. Amidst some confusion some of the Stacks players rather unwisely continued to challenge the decision with Legion capitalising in a breakaway move that ended with they getting their second goal in a goalmouth melee.

Seemingly, Conor Keane got the final touch in a scramble amongst a cluster of players, and, while Stacks responded with two unanswered points Legion's momentum never wavered. A series of aerial deliveries caused havoc in the Stacks goalmouth area with goalkeeper David Hennessy who again made a number of fine stops electing to punch rather than catch on occasion.

Certainly some anxious moments for the home side and, while they still led rather comfortably 4-10 to 2-5 at the end of the third quarter, Legion's relentless pressure continued to cause them problems.

Pretty frantic stuff, and when James O'Donoghue converted a penalty in the 51st minute to leave just seven points between the teams, momentarily there was the possibility that maybe we might have a sensational comeback against all of the odds.

However, Stacks regained their composure and with space in which to operate they put the issue beyond doubt with their top scorer Mannix scoring their final three points, with being fine efforts from play. It put paid to Legion's brave challenge and sealed a victory which owed much to Stacks tremendous level of athleticism, along with the variation of their movement and combination play which was seen to great effect throughout the first half, at the outset of the second, and in the closing stages.

Legion battled bravely, but the gap in scoring terms was always sizeable once the Rockies scored their second goal late in the first half. However, it always remained a Championship contest in the real sense, full of fervour for the duration, providing some excellent passages of play and some superb scores for quite a sizeable crowd at the Rock Street venue.

Austin Stacks: David Hennessy, Barry Walsh, Fearghal McNamara, Ronan Shanahan, Pa McCarthy, Jack O'Shea (0-1), Jack Morgan (1-0), Shane Carroll, Wayne Guthrie (1-1), Denis McElligott (0-1), Greg Horan (1-1), Michael O'Donnell (1-1, 0-1f), David Mannix (0-7, 2f), Kieran Donaghy, Shane O'Callaghan (0-1). Subs: Fiachna Mangan for M O'Donnell, Sean Ryan for W Guthrie, Denis Costello for F Mangan.

Legion: Brian Kelly, Cathal Sheahan, Danny Sheahan, Chris Davies, Cian Gammell, Denis Sheahan, Jonathon Lyne, Shaun Keane, Billy McGuire, Rob Leen, Jamie O'Sullivan (1-0), Jack O'Neill, James O'Donoghue (1-4, 1-0 pen, 0-1f,) Finbarr Murphy, Conor Culloty. Subs: Conor Keane (1-2, 0-2f) for F Murphy, Thomas Moriarty for C Culloty, Alan Moriarty for R Leen, Ciaran Lyne for J O'Neill, Sean McCarthy for D Sheahan.

Referee: Paul O'Sullivan (Dromid).


The game in 60 seconds

Main man

One could really consider six or seven different Stacks players who contributed handsomely at varying intervals, and certainly there was an awful lot to admire about the teams endeavour and cohesion as a unit, with some really creative and unselfish play, especially in the first half. However, seven points, five from play was a significant contribution from ace attacker David Mannix.

Key moment

Probably Jack Morgan's goal in the 27th minute. It put Stacks ten points clear at the break, and, left Legion with a mountain to climb. They did rally in the second half, and matched Stacks scoring wise, but at the end of the game it was still ten points which seperated the sides, with that second goal turning a comfortable lead into a sizeable margin at that particular juncture.

Talking point

The decision to fix the game for a Friday evening. It had been the subject of much discussion and opinion during the week, with very few, if any, in agreement with the fixture as scheduled. Certainly it didn't show a lot of regard for the players many of whom were hugely inconvenienced in terms of their work schedule and the logistics of travelling.