A game that was won by the managers in many ways. The Nire started with the better tactics and studied the Ballincollig game well. They stunned Austin Stacks who were as slow to start in this game as in the semi final. The Nire on the other hand came out with all guns blazing and obviously knew Kieran Donaghy was going to roam. Austin Stacks GAA never panicked though and kept chipping away at the Nire lead even though the first 15 minutes of the game it looked like their campaign was over. Then Shane Carroll was sent off for a second yellow in the 14th minute in one of the strangest decision by the referee all game. It looked ominous for theAustin Stacks, but a Shane O’Callaghan goal brought them back into the game. The Nire, who started the game with a high tempo and controlled aggression then decided to soak up the Austin Stacks GAA Club pressure by putting more and more men behind the ball, which was obviously the wrong tactic as this give Stacks the incentive and the teams were level at the break: 2-1 to 1-4 After leading 1-3 to no score the Nire scored only 1 more point in the last 10 minutes of the first half as the Stacks sprung to life. That first half was not a classic though and was marred mostly by a very bad pitch, causing players to slip and slide all over, and inexplicable decisions by a referee who clearly had a bad day at the office or left the rule book at home. Black cards were not given, yellow cards were given at random and frees were awarded at his peril. It was totally unclear what frees were for at times as the very same offence would be allowed at one point and cost you a yellow a few seconds later. The referee did improve in the second half though so all in all I doubt either club will have to file a complaint about his conduct. That first half though was tough to watch and I’m sure that neither manager was happy going in to the dressing rooms.
An 8th minute goal by Shane O’Callaghan and a 20th minute goal by David Mannix (after a huge mistake by The Nire goalkeeper who kicked it straight in the hands of O’Callaghan who then handed off to Mannix who could pick his corner at ease) kept the Rockies in the game.
That made all the impact though. Stacks stayed in the dressing room a good bit longer than the Nire and whatever Stephen Stack said to them it definitely rang home with the players. The Nire scored only once in the second half when they hit the net early on but after that they kept missing frees and kicking wides as the Stacks sorted out their defence. The Stacks scored 1-4 in that second half meaning they won the game by 4 points. A very well deserved win as they were definitely the better and more skilful team on the day. They almost shoot themselves in the foot though in the first half with their slow start, something that was obvious in the semi final as well.
If they are to defeat Slaughtneil, the Ulster champions, on Valentine’s day 2015 they will have to sort that out as Slaughtneil will not invite them back into the game.
No doubt parties will go on all week in Tralee after the Rockies bridged a 38 year wait for another Munster title, but if they can play two halves like that second half they will be able to display their skills on St. Patrick’s Day as well.