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'It’s a dream come true. I sound like John Mullane now…I was going to say I love my club!'

A jubilant Wayne Quillinan reflected after Austin Stacks triumphed in yesterday’s Kerry senior final.

Celebrations for Austin Stacks.
Celebrations for Austin Stacks.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

EARLY DECEMBER GLORY in Tralee and emotion flowed freely at the final whistle.

Getting Austin Stacks back to the summit of Kerry club football made this a landmark occasion for Wayne Quillinan.

Managing his native club to success in a Tralee town derby against Kerins O’Rahilly’s, coupled with the painstaking effort and time put in since their last triumph in 2014, elevated this day all the more.

“Em, it’s a dream come true. I sound like John Mullane now … I was going to say I love my club!

“No, you cut me open, I bleed black and amber. I’m just so happy for the players. For me, management is all about the players and seeing them getting the rewards … looking around and seeing the emotions of some of the players is just fantastic to see.

“People just don’t realise the work that goes into it; it’s a second job. To be honest with you, the training field is the easy part.

“We always felt the talent was there, we had this group at minor level in 2017. We won the club championships but we didn’t push on in the championship in the last two years, losing to Crokes and East Kerry and we felt it was time that we needed to take that step up. And thankfully it came to fruition today.”

For all the plaudits showered upon the Austin Stacks players, Qullinan was happy to elaborate on the contribution of one team member.

As captain Dylan Casey singled out Kieran Donaghy in his acceptance speech, the veteran forward was looking around the pitch for his manager.

dylan-casey-lifts-the-trophy Austin Stacks captain Dylan Casey. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

When the pair eventually crossed paths, Donaghy hoisted Quillinan into the air, sparking another great roar from the Rock Street faithful.

“Outside of football, myself and Kieran are best auld buddies. And ‘allow him back in’? Kieran Donaghy will come into any football set-up I’m ever involved in anyway.

“He’s just an amazing man. You have all these sporting accolades but Kieran Donaghy the person is a special man.

“He’s a driving force for us as well. All of his experience. And for such a young team, it’s vital to have him around the place. And I can’t even put into words how happy I am for Kieran. I’m sure I’ll tell him later after a few pints!”

“That’s what Kieran Donaghy does. It’s amazing to see it; but it’s just his drive, his passion. He’ll go through mountains and walls and climb them. He just doesn’t know how to lose. He’ll always find a way.”

kieran-donaghy-consoles-jack-savage Kieran Donaghy consoles Jack Savage after the game. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Quillinan’s respect extended to their Tralee rivals, left downcast after this loss.

“This thing about bitterness and hatred in a rivalry, that’s absolute nonsense. I mean, rivalries come out of respect for me and I’ve nothing but respect for Strand Road.

“We knew you couldn’t get proper messages in so we just singled out one word and with that word the lads take everything on board.

“A few words, just our own language and made it easier for us today.

“To get proper instructions in was very hard to do because of the carnival atmosphere, which is brilliant for Tralee, the town.”

In the opposite camp experienced the sense of dejection was Kerins O’Rahilly’s manager William Harmon.

A tough outcome after a day where they always faced uphill struggle, losing Gavin O’Brien to a hamstring problem in the warm-up and then seeing David Moran limp off after a mere six minutes with a groin injury.

“When you come into a county final, you want to give it your best shot with everybody on the field, but unfortunately, we lost Gavin, then we lost David Moran. Two huge setbacks because you are straight away using two of your subs. You are missing two great players for us.

“If they were with us, you just don’t know what could have happened. That’s life. You’d love to have said what if we had our full complement for the full game, where would it have brought us, but that is sport.”

Kerins O’Rahillys fought to compensate for their loss in their tactical approach, whittling down the Austin Stacks lead in a pulsating finale.

“You are trying to plug holes, you are trying to make the best scenario of what you have on the field of play,” said Harmon.

“Ideally, we want Tommy (Walsh) inside, but he had to come out at times to win primary possession to get the ball in. I thought Conor Hayes, Barry John, Jack Savage worked hard, but with Tommy not around the square, it does take away a small bit.

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cormac-coffey-dejected-after-the-game A dejected Cormac Coffey after Kerins O'Rahillys lost. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“When we got it back to one score, it just didn’t seem to fall for us. I can’t but praise the lads who came in, just thrown in at the deep end there. The lads who came in did us proud and fought really well.

“These things happen so you just gotta accept them. We weren’t able to play our normal game. We did our best with what we had.

“Today just wasn’t our day, unfortunately.”

The Narries reach the end of the road for 2021, Stacks will soak in the celebrations and prime themselves for a Munster assault.

Limerick’s Newcastlewest await in a Munster semi-final on the weekend before Christmas.

“It will be difficult to focus for today and tomorrow, but we said there in preparation for this, we’re playing for Wednesday,” said Quillinan.

“One of our selectors is down with Covid, Eoin Colgan who has played a vital role for us in our management and we missed him today.

“And we promised him that we’ll be back next Wednesday night training, so he’ll be back with us again.

“We’re delighted that we could fulfil that for him because he’s been a massive cog in what we’re trying to do.”

BTL 5

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Fintan O'Toole

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