A forty five year tradition filled with unmatched success came to an end on Sunday evening, as Laune Rangers fell to a defeat to Austin Stacks in the County Senior Relegation Playoff. Austin Stacks were near full strength, with just Wayne Guthrie missing from their team, but the absence of injured trio Maurice Foley, John O’Shea & Kerry centre back Peter Crowley proved too much to overcome for the Killorglin side.
The game itself shot into life from the outset, as Mike Frank Russell pointed a free in the opening minute from the first attack of the game. It took just a minute for Stacks to respond as the Laune Rangers defence was caught short with a long ball from midfield finding David Mannix, who fired to the Rangers net for an Austin Stacks goal. Rangers responded well though, and following a Shane McSweeney point, the Launesiders found the net themselves – David Costello finishing excellently past Darragh O’Brien to put Rangers ahead once again. An error strewn first half for Laune Rangers gave Austin Stacks chances to score, & Denis McElligott capitalized on another of these to score Stacks’ second goal & put Stacks ahead by 2-0 to 1-2 after a quarter of the game. Further points for Stacks from David Mannix (free) and Kieran Donaghy – who pointed from distance when left unmarked outfield – put Stacks into a strong lead, but late points by Kieran Doona and a Russell free. The score at Half Time:- Laune Rangers 1-4, Austin Stacks 2-2.
Austin Stacks came out firing after the break, and by the 40th minute they were ahead by 4 points. Three unanswered point from David Mannix, Denis McElligott and Shane O’Callaghan put Stacks in control, and their grip on the game was not to be loosened for the remainder of the game. They would go on to score five more points – Conor Jordan, Shane Carroll (free), David Mannix, Kieran Donaghy & Darragh O’Brien ensuring Stacks would see the game out. Rangers only response came from the pair playing their 20th County Senior Football Championship – Mike Frank Russell and John Sheehan who both played their first SFC game back in 1996. Final score: Laune Rangers 1-6, Austin Stacks 2-10.
It was an uphill task for Laune Rangers on the day with injuries to key players depleting the team. Colm O’Shea was one of these and he put in a great performance, especially in winning possession outfield. Kieran Doona looked dangerous throughout, goalscorer David Costello continues to grow as a senior footballer, while Kieran Crowley has shown great leadership in the absence of his cousin Peter and will be continue to be a key player for years to come for Rangers.
The final whistle on Sunday marked a low point in the history of not alone Laune Rangers GAA Club, but for Kerry Club football also. Laune Rangers will now compete in the Intermediate Football Championship, and the ‘romance’ of the County Senior Championship has been diminished greatly as the competition loses one of its great ‘championship’ teams. There will now be more Divisional sides (9) than clubs (8) in the County SFC. Austin Stacks supporters applauded Laune Rangers from the field after the game.
Laune Rangers: Tony Lyons, Chris Riordan, Michael O’Sullivan, Johnny Carey, Kieran Crowley, Ronan Sayers, Ryan Keane, John Sheehan (0-1), Shane McSweeney, David Costello (1-0), Shane McSweeney (0-1), Pa Joy, Michael Francis Russell (0-3f), Colm O’Shea, Kieran Doona (0-1). Subs: Padraig Murphy, Daniel Macbeth, Shane Daly.
Austin Stacks: Darragh O’Brien, Barry Walsh, Barry Shanahan, John Dennis, Denis McElligott (1-1), Fearghal MacNamara, Jack O’Shea, Shane Carroll (0-1f), Shane Guthrie, Pa McCarthy, Shane O’Callaghan (0-1), Greg Horan, David Mannix (1-3, 1f), Kieran Donaghy(0-2), Fiachna Mangan. Subs used: Daniel Bohan, Darragh O’Brien (0-1), Conor Jordan (0-1).