Austin Stacks 1-15 Newcastle West 0-08
Brendan O'Sullivan's 42nd-minute goal killed off whatever lingering hope Newcastle West still harboured of an upset in the Munster senior club football semi-final, but in truth, Austin Stacks were already on their way to a provincial final meeting with St Finbarr's of Cork by then.
The Kerry champions had led by eight points at half-time and had built up a 10-point lead early in the second half before a brief rally by the Limerick visitors cut the deficit to six points.
But Stacks were simply too strong in too many areas of the field to be derailed from their business, and O'Sullivan's goal simply meant they could coast to the final whistle, which hasn't always been the case in the county championship.
Stacks were without starters Ronan Shanahan and Shane O'Callaghan, but nevertheless, they hit their stride from the start against a Newcastle West side that was energetic and purposeful but lacked the scoring prowess to in any way trouble a Stacks team built on a brilliant defence.
O’Callaghan’s replacement Sean Quilter pointed Stacks into the lead from a free in the third minute, and the scores came regularly for the Rockies thereafter.
Darragh O’Brien converted two frees before Brendan O’Sullivan worked a neat move with Fiachna Mangan for the former to score Stacks first point from play. Another O’Brien free saw Stacks lead 0-05 to no score at the water break.
The Limerick champions had offered plenty of sound defending, for the most part, and were competitive around midfield, but it was up front where Newcastle West really fell down. Too often their inside forwards were too isolated, and they struggled for time and space when they did secure possession.
Credit to Stacks for much of that, whose defending was excellent, collectively and individually. As they have been all season, they defended in numbers and with great discipline, forcing the visitors into low percentage shots when they could eventually find a sliver of time and space for themselves.
O’Brien hit two early scores after half time to stretch Stacks’ lead, but then the Limerick men enjoyed their best period.
Shane Stack had a sniff of a goal but was fouled in the build-up and Hurley converted the free.
Mike McMahon then converted a mark, sub Diarmaid Kelly scored from play, and then their county man Iain Corbett fired over from distance to make it 0-11 to 0-05.
It gave the travelling Newcastle West supporters something to cheer about but their excitement and hope was short-lived.
Greg Horan whipped over a good point just before Joe O’Connor’s surging run fed Quilter near the end line, and his inviting cross was tapped to the net by O’Sullivan to make it 1-12 to 0-05. O’Sullivan followed up with a point to put Stacks 11 ahead at the water break, and it was elementary thereafter.
It was a Stacks victory not without perspective as their manager Wayne Quillinan, who was present, had his mother-in-law pass away the day before, and which was marked by a minute's silence before the game.
It was also a Stacks' victory built on their very sound defence, backed up by some clinical scoring and a powerful display by Joe O'Connor at midfield. The overall performance might need improving on for the Munster final, but they have a few weeks to work on that. The main thing is Stacks are back in a provincial final, their first since beating The Nire in 2014.
Austin Stacks: Wayne Guthrie, Colin Griffin, Dylan Casey, Jack O’Shea, Paul O’Sullivan, Conor Jordan, Barry Shanahan, Joseph O'Connor, Greg Horan 0-01, Michael O’Gara, Fiachna Mangan, Brendan O’Sullivan 1-02, Sean Quilter 0-01 (0-01f), Kieran Donaghy 0-02 (0-01m), Darragh O’Brien 0-08 (0-05f).
Subs: Armin Heinrich for J O’Shea (42), Shane O’Callaghan 0-01 for F Mangan (43), Michael O’Donnell for K Donaghy (51), Jack Morgan for P O’Sullivan (53), David Fitzmaurice for M O’Gara (54)
Newcastle West: Andrew Ruddle, Michael O’Keeffe, Darren Carmody, Brian O’Sullivan, Eoin Murphy, James Kelly, Steven Brosnan, Cian Sheehan 0-01, Iain Corbett 0-01, AJ O’Connor, Shane Stack, Brian Hurley, Bryan Nix, Mike McMahon 0-01 (0-01m), Eoin Hurley 0-03 (0-03f).
Subs: Diarmaid Kelly 0-02 for B Hurley (29), Sean Murphy for S Brosnan (ht), Thomas Quilligan for S Stack (39), Lee Woulfe for J Kelly (46), Donnchadh Woods for M McMahon (52).
Referee: Sean Lonergan (Tipperary)