Sport: Weakened Rockies To Find It Tough Up North

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AUSTIN STACKS open their Super Valu Senior Football County Championship campaign with a trip to Listowel to face Feale Rangers this Sunday at 3.30pm. 

It’s now 20 years since Stacks lifted the county championship wearing those iconic Dee Butchers emblazoned shirts. Too long a wait for one of the most successful and storied clubs in the county.

Despite a hiccup away to Dingle in the club championship, form has been good coming into this opening round county championship game Stacks have gone unbeaten so far in the league.

Action from the game on Saturday night. Photo By Dermot Crean

Action from the game between Stacks and Milltown/Castlemaine in the club championship a few weeks ago. Photo By Dermot Crean

The Rock have been disrupted though by injury and exile to experienced campaigners and leaders in the club Daniel Bohane and Kieran Donaghy, also Denis McElligott has left for the US this week and Paul O’Donoghue  has returned to his club in England.

“We had a young squad last year, we’ve an even younger one this year,” said Austin Stacks’ manager Stephan Stack.

Greg Horan, Conor Jordan and Shane O’Callaghan are some of the young Rockies who have impressed so far this year.

Stacks and Feale Rangers faced off in the county championship semi-final last year, the north Kerrymen were on the end of a 18 point drubbing that day.

But the divisional side have been bolstered by Finuge players, Paul Galvin among them, returning to the fold after their club’s year in the senior grade in 2013.

Inter-county experience is something they are not in short supply of with Anthony Maher and Paddy Curtin also well accustomed to the green and gold.

“The game last year will have no bearing whatsoever, to be honest. That game was a freak,” said Stack.

The injured Kieran Donaghy shouting encouragement to the players from the sideline on Saturday night. Photo by Dermot Crean

The injured Kieran Donaghy will have to make do with shouting encouragement from the sideline on Sunday. Photo by Dermot Crean

Stephen Stack was on the touchline the last time Feale Rangers lifted the county championship in 2007. A Listowel Emmets man, he soldiered long and hard with the North Kerry side.

“The worry of relegation is a motivational factor [for Stacks], but having played with Feale Rangers, I can assure you that losing the game last year the way they did will be an even bigger motivation for them,”  he added.

Stacks have lost quite a few players in the run up to this one. Though league form has been good, they were given a nice lesson by Dingle in the club championship and shown to have weak centre in that one also with their second half capitulation.

As you would expect with any North Kerry side, Feale Rangers have plenty of strength, but also wealth of experience.

Away from home this is going to be a very tricky test for the Rock, one I find it hard to see them come out on top of.

Verdict: Feale Rangers by three points

Related Story: Can Kerins O’Rahilly’s win in South Kerry?

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