Keys to the footballing Kingdom at stake as Stacks bid to end Dr Crokes’ four-in-a-row bid
Traleee club keen to end a title drought stretching back to 1994
Colm Cooper and his Dr Crokes team-mates during the pre-match parade before last year’s Kerry senior football final. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
“Stacks are Stacks,” was the succinct compliment offered by Dr Crokes manager Noel O’Leary when asked to consider his team’s opponents in tomorrow’s Kerry senior football championship final.
N’er a truer word: of all the associative words in Kerry football lore, none carries quite as much weight as Stacks, the Tralee club that is towny to the last and boasts more All-Ireland senior football medals than any other club in Ireland and more than several counties.
It is somehow fitting that it was Austin Stacks who have survived to become the last team standing between Dr Crokes, the standard-bearers for the Kerry game for the past half decade, and their quest for what would be a new accomplishment for an old club: a fourth consecutive Kerry football championship.
Stacks are Stacks all right but the club has been trading on an illustrious past for quite some time now. In fact the date of their last Kerry title – 1994 – comes as quite a shock. A lot of Kerry football history has gushed under the bridge since then.
“It is a long time. It is well overdue,” acknowledges John O’Keeffe, whose five county championship medals with Stacks stretch over the period 1973 to 1986.
“It goes in cycles in Kerry. The divisional teams can be very strong when they get it together so it is really good that two clubs teams have come to the ultimate game. We haven’t had a good Stacks team for a while.
“Since Stephen Stack took over I have seen a different Stacks team; they are well prepared and highly motivated and he is highly astute. Mickey Collins is having a fine season and Kieran Donaghy is playing well in the middle of the field and Daniel Bohane is very good at full back. But I feel everything will have to fall into place for Stacks on Sunday.”
This is the problem. Few teams have pushed Dr Crokes as hard as Austin Stacks in recent seasons. They came out the wrong end of 1-15 to 0-11 county final result three years ago and then lost the quarter final to the black and amber team 1-14 to 1-13 the following year.
The grip that Crokes have on Kerry bragging rights is nothing like as oppressive as the stranglehold Crossmaglen have on the Armagh championship – at least not yet.
But Crokes are still in their pomp. Eoin Brosnan is one of the gilded Kerry players who have yet to decide whether or not to commit to another season for the county, but he sounded as if he was enjoying playing club foot ball when interviewed after their semi-final win.
“The five county fellas were training at a very high level. But the others trained very, very hard over the summer. We talked about it at the start of the year. It is a huge challenge for us. Kerry is a huge commitment and we will concentrate on the club for the time being. We will concentrate on the club for the moment. The next few months will hopefully be injury free and we’ll take it from there.”