By Aisling Clery
Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh kicked eight points as Kerry secured a crucial win in their TG4 All-Ireland Senior Championship opener at the expense of Galway at St Brendan’s Park in Birr.
Kerry were three points in front at the break and dominated possession for long spells with Cáit Lynch and Lorraine Scanlon impressive. Second half goals from Paris McCarthy and Niamh Carmody were also vital. Galway did fight back and with Olivia Divilly and Tracey Leonard in fine form, they were unfortunate to fall short.
Despite a nervous opening from both sides, Nicola Ward stormed through to finish Galway’s opening score in the fifth minute. Kerry fired back immediately and Ní Mhuircheartaigh fired over despite the attention of several Galway defenders.
A surging run from Aishling O’Connell pushed Kerry into a two-point lead that lasted until Tracey Leonard opened her account from a free on twelve minutes.
Ní Mhuircheartaigh was impressive in the opening half, hitting the first of four frees on 15 minutes to push Kerry one clear. However, the game was turned on its head when Leanne Coen punched to the net with Olivia Divilly, Mairéad Seoighe and Andrea Trill all involved. Tracey Leonard followed up with a superb score a minute later.
Kerry upped their intensity and a long high pass from Sarah Ní Loingsigh found Scanlon and she fired home from short distance to level the game at 1-3 each.
Then Ní Mhuircheartaigh kicked three frees to hand Kerry a 1-6 to 1-3 cushion at the break.
Cáit Lynch scored on the resumption but Galway responded when Olivia Divilly found Leonard and she fired over. Leonard added two further points from play to leave the minimum between the sides but Kerry responded decisively.
Ní Mhuircheartaigh pointed her sixth of the evening before two goals inside three minutes. Substitute McCarthy got on the end of a free that dropped short, to punch to the net, before Niamh Carmody added Kerry’s third goal two minutes later with a sumptuous finish.
Ní Mhuircheartaigh and Leonard traded points and Galway were disallowed a goal when Ailish Morrissey was adjudged to have been in the square. Kerry ended the game with 13 players as both Scanlon and Ní Mhuircheartaigh were shown yellow cards.
And in a frantic final five minutes, Olivia Divilly got on the scoresheet before Louise Ward drilled the ball into the bottom left corner before Leanne Coen made no mistake with her second goal. However, time ran out and Kerry held on.
Scorers: Kerry: L Ní Mhuircheartaigh 0-8 (5f), L Scanlon 1-0, P McCarthy 1-0, N Carmody 1-0, C Lynch 0-1, A O’Connell 0-1. Galway: T Leonard 0-6 (1f), L Coen 2-0, L Ward 1-0, N Ward 0-1, O Divilly 0-1.
Kerry: C Butler; É Lynch, K Cronin, A Dillane; A O’Connell, E Costello, C Murphy; C Lynch, A Galvin; D O’Leary, N Carmody, L Scanlon; N Ní Chonchúir, E McGlynn, L Ní Mhuircheartaigh.
Subs: P McCarthy for Ní Chonchúir (21), S O’Shea for McGlynn (46), C Evans for O’Leary (52), C Ní Chonchúir for Dillane (56), M O’Connell for Carmody (59).
Galway: A Griffin; S Molloy, S Ní Loingsigh, E Gavin; C Cooney, N Ward, K Geraghty; A Davoren, L Ward; L Coen, A Trill, M Seoighe; L Noone, O Divilly, T Leonard.
Subs: K Slevin for A Trill (26), C Trill for Gavin (30), S Divilly for Davoren (30), A Morrissey for Seoighe (36), A Molloy for S Molloy (52).
Referee: M Farrelly (Cavan).Tweet