Rock cracked by classy East Kerry

County SFC Round 2B: East Kerry 3-13 Austin Stacks 3-7

Paudie Clifford, East Kerry scoring a great goal against Austin Stacks in the Garvey’s SuperValu Kerry Senior County Championship Round 2B at Fitzgerald Stadium, Killarney on Sunday. Photo by Michelle Cooper Galvin
Paudie Clifford, East Kerry scoring a great goal against Austin Stacks in the Garvey’s SuperValu Kerry Senior County Championship Round 2B at Fitzgerald Stadium, Killarney on Sunday. Photo by Michelle Cooper Galvin

Damian Stack, Fitzgerald Stadium

Is it a surprise that Austin Stacks were beaten late on Sunday afternoon by East Kerry? Not particularly.

The form-lines of the previous weekend suggested as much. Nevertheless it is a surprise that the reigning Senior Club champions bowed out of the county championship at the earliest possible convenience.

For Wayne Quillinan and his panel of players that's going to sting in a pretty major way. A lot of it was down to the vagaries of the draw, a tough opening round assignment followed by an equally tough one in the second round. Both away from home in the belly of the beast.

Are there teams still remaining in this championship against whom Austin Stacks would have fancied themselves to get a result against? Absolutely there is. Again though that's no consolation to the Rock and its aficionados.

The fact is they're gone... and, yet, they're not quite gone at the same time. There remains a path for them to the Munster club championship, should a club side fail to win the county championship. Again, cold comfort at this moment in time.

To give Quillinan's men their dues they absolutely died with their boots on here. In the wake of Michael O'Gara's second goal of the afternoon with thirteen minutes to go they actually led the game. Against the run of play maybe, but the scoreboard doesn't lie.

There's fight and there's spirit in this Austin Stacks outfit. There had to be admittedly to battle back into contention following a terrible start for the Connolly Park outfit. The pre-match favourites looked every inch the likely winners early doors.

East Kerry started with five points unanswered as the Rock struggled to gain traction in the game. A '45 for Paudie Clifford got the ball rolling followed by points from Ronan Buckley, Brian O'Donoghue and a free from David Clifford.

In those opening twenty minutes both sides had chances to raise the green flag - substitute Brian Lynch brilliantly snuffing out a Stacks effort fifteen minutes in and Robbie Murphy saving from Liam Keaney on seventeen minutes - but the pattern of the match seemed set with East Kerry on top and Stacks very much contained.

Their opening point - a free from Darragh O'Brien following a following by Chris O'Donoghue on Donaghy - twenty two minutes in settled nerves. A couple of more swapped points from the impressive Brian O'Donoghue and Seán Quilter left it a four point game with the half-time break fast approaching - 0-6 to 0-2 after twenty seven minutes.

Stacks, though, were beginning to get on top around the middle and started to pressure James Devane's kick-outs. From a kick-out Ronan Shanahan won the break and fed Michael O'Gara who showed a real predator's instinct to finish with aplomb past Devane.

Against the run of play it may have been, but it gave new life to a game, which was threatening to get away from the Rock. If anything, however, it seemed to anger East Kerry who were having none of it. Straight away they went down the other end with Buckley assisting Shane Curtin for a brilliant goal in riposte.

Dara Roche pointed shortly thereafter to put five points between the sides again as they retired for the half-time break - 1-7 to 1-2 - leaving the Rockies right back where they started pretty much before their rally late in the half.

Ten minutes into the second half it remained a five point game - 1-10 to 1-5 - with the Rock really pressuring the East Kerry restarts now. It was no massive surprise, therefore, when Stacks struck for a goal forty three minutes in.

Stacks won the kick-out. Darragh O'Brien fed O'Gara and the on-form wing-forward did his thing again. Still a two point lead for East Kerry, but there was a definite nervousness to Jerry O'Sullivan's men now.

Shane O'Callaghan kicked a massive score on forty six minutes to bring Stacks to within a single point and, while East Kerry responded with a fisted point from goal-scorer Cronin, the Rock were definitely on the move as was proven when they bagged their third goal and second in the space of about five minutes.

O'Callaghan sending the ball in long towards Kieran Donaghy (who overall did his best work playing deep around the middle than his traditional role on the edge of the square). Donaghy rose highest claimed possession and found the in-rushing Michael O'Donnell for the finish. Stacks in front - 3-6 to 1-11 - and everything to play for.

East Kerry remained cool as you like though and following a pointed free from David Clifford on fifty minutes it was level again. A foul on Brian O'Donoghue two minutes later resulted in a penalty, despatched ruthlessly by Paudie Clifford past Robbie Murphy (who guessed correctly) and all of a sudden East Kerry had weathered the storm.

Clifford's second goal on fifty six minutes came with Stacks chasing the game, but it was still a very impressive finish from the Fossa man (taking an assist from Buckley). From there to the finish there was no way back for the Rock, try as they might, as brave as they were.

East Kerry were a cut above on this occasion and teeming with potential - David Clifford has much more to give if he gets better service. One Tralee giant felled, O'Sullivan and co will be loading up their sling for a shot at another next Saturday evening, this time on enemy territory.

East Kerry: James Devane (Spa), Chris O'Donoghue (Glenflesk), Shane Courtney (Glenflesk), Niall Donohue (Firies), Dan O'Donoghue (Spa), Jack Sherwood (Spa), Pa Warren (Gneeveguilla), Liam Kearney (0-1) (Spa), Shane Cronin (1-1) (Spa), Ronan Buckley (0-2) (Listry), Paudie Clifford (2-1, 1 pen, 1 '45) (Fossa), Brian O'Donoghue (0-2) (Glenflesk), David Clifford (0-3, 2f) (Fossa), Dara Roche (0-3, 2f) (Glenflesk), Evan Cronin (Spa) Subs: Brian Lynch (Spa) for S Courtney (inj), 6, Mike Foley (Spa) for B O'Donoghue, 54, David Spillane (Spa) for E Cronin, 59, Eoin Fitzgerald (Spa) for N Donohue, 61, Pádraig Doyle (Gneeveguilla) for S Cronin, 61

Austin Stacks: Robbie Murphy, Jack O'Shea, Barry Shanahan, Dylan Casey, Jack Morgan, Conor Jordan, Ronan Shanahan, Wayne Guthrie, Joseph O'Connor, Michael O'Gara (2-0), Darragh O'Brien (0-3, 2f), Michael O'Donnell (1-0), Seán Quilter (0-3, 2f), Kieran Donaghy, Shane O'Callaghan (0-1) Subs: Ciaran O'Reilly for C Jordan (inj), 38, Colin Griffin for J Morgan, 43, Fichna Mangan for D O'Brien, 49, Shane Carroll for S O'Callaghan, 59

Referee: Billy O'Shea (Keel)

The game in 60 seconds

Main man

A lot of very good performances here - some from Stacks, more obvioulsy from East Kerry - without there being a really stand-out performer. Ronan Buckley was excellent, as was Michael O'Gara who took both goals with aplomb, but we're going to go with Paudie Clifford who brought a real driving presence to East Kerry.

Talking Point

The senior club champions are gone from the championship after the second round. It just goes to show that nothing can be taken for granted in this competition - and we're not suggesting Stacks did - where anybody can beat anybody.