by Dan Kearney
Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh scored 1-8 to propel Kerry to a narrow victory over a Donegal side that gave everything but ultimately came up short in this Lidl NFL Division 1 thriller.
Susanne White matched that 1-8 tally for Donegal but it was Ní Mhuircheartaigh’s goal from a penalty in the 55th minute that made all the difference in the finish at Austin Stack Park.
Her strike put Kerry into a 2-10 to 1-8 lead that Donegal couldn’t claw back despite a couple of late frees courtesy of White.
Kerry’s first goal had come in the 50th minute when Donegal failed to deal with a long ball from Niamh Ní Chonchúir and Síofra O’Shea made the most of her chance.
Donegal played against the breeze in the first half but got out of the blocks early when Shannon McGroddy pointed after two minutes as she gathered the rebound from a Ciara McGarvey shot that hit the crossbar.
The next four points belonged to Kerry, however, with Ní Mhuircheartaigh getting the first of her six first half points in the fifth minute followed by O’Shea, dual star Patrice Diggin, and Ní Mhuircheartaigh again.
Kerry looked well in control with the elements at their backs but Donegal got the lifeline that they needed when Laoise Ryan and Tara Hegarty combined to put White in behind the cover and she palmed to the back of the net.
White followed up with a free straight afterwards to put Donegal one ahead, and with Kerry turning over a lot of ball, Donegal were hitting them well on the break.
Ní Mhuircheartaigh levelled matters with a free following a foul on Mary O’Connell and Kerry, with the pep now back in their step, struck for a further two scores from the mercurial Ní Mhuircheartaigh before Donegal goalkeeper Aoife McColgan kicked a free straight over the bar from a 14-metre free on the angle.
The last score of the first half belonged to Ní Mhuircheartaigh following a Cáit Lynch assist to see the home side lead by 0-8 to 1-3 at half-time in Tralee.
The rain affected the flow of the game on the restart but the goals from O’Shea and Ní Mhuircheartaigh meant that Kerry now have a 100 percent win record after their three games while Donegal remain winless.
Scorers – Kerry: L Ní Mhuircheartaigh 1-8 (0-4f, 1-0 pen), S O’Shea 1-1, P Diggin 0-1. Donegal: S White 1-8 (0-6f), S McGroddy 0-1, A McColgan 0-1, C Gillespie 0-1.
Kerry : ME Bolger; C O’Brien, K Cronin, A Dillane; C McCarthy, E Costello, A O’Connell; M O’Connell, C Lynch; P Diggin, N Carmody, A Galvin; S O’Shea, R Dwyer, L Ní Mhuircheartaigh.
Subs: L Scanlon for Carmody (41), N Ní Chonchúir for McCarthy (41), H O’Donoghue for Dwyer (41), C Evans for Diggin (49), F Tangney for A Galvin (54), C Murphy for O’Brien (54), E Lynch for Dillane (54), L Galvin for M O’Connell (58), KA Hanrahan for C Lynch (62).
Donegal: A McColgan; N Carr, E McGinley, S Boyle; A Boyle Carr, E Gallagher, T Hegarty; S Twohig, R Rodgers; S White, K Long, L Ryan; C Boyle, S McGroddy, C McGarvey.
Subs: C Keon for C Boyle (5), N McLaughlin for Rodgers (41), J McFadden for S Boyle (42), C Gillespie for Long (49), D McDevitt for McGroddy (60).
Referee: Shane Curley (Galway).Tweet