Kerry regained top-flight status by holding off a spirited Galway fight-back in the Tesco Homegrown Ladies National Football League Division 2 final at Parnell Park in Dublin, 1-13 to 1-10.
With 13 minutes remaining, the Kingdom led by eight points but with Aoife Lyons sin-binned, Galway took advantage of their numerical advantage to cut the deficit to just two with time running out.
But sub Lorraine Scanlon settled Kerry’s nerves with three minutes remaining and William O’Sullivan’s side held out to claim a first league title for the county since the 1991 Division 1 showpiece.
For Galway, this was a second successive Division 2 final defeat, following on from the 2012 loss to Connacht rivals Mayo.
With the aid of the strong wind in the first half, last year’s beaten All-Ireland senior finalists Kerry took advantage to open up a 1-08 to 0-05 half-time lead.
They raced into a 1-04 to 0-00 lead with 14 minutes on the watch before Galway’s leading scorer Edel Concannon opened her side’s account.
Kerry struck early for the game’s opening goal as Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh blasted home a third-minute penalty after Rebecca McPhilbin fouled Margaret Fitzgerald.
Four minutes before the break, Ní Mhuircheartaigh’s second point of the first half opened up an eight-point lead for Kerry – 1-08 to 0-03.
But Galway responded with points from Deirdre Brennan and Concannon to leave six points between the sides at the interval.
Galway’s top scorer Concannon and player of the match Sarah Houlihan traded frees after the restart before Kerry sub Laura Rogers tested Galway’s crossbar with a blistering drive in the 41st minute.
Points from Houlihan and Rogers had Kerry eight points in front – 1-11 to 0-06 – but Galway responded strongly and were right back in the hunt when Annette Clarke buried a 47th minute penalty.
The award was probably the correct call by referee Maggie Farrelly, who whistled for over 60 frees during a stop-start encounter, but the decision to yellow card Lyons was somewhat harsh.
Galway kicked on and were breathing down Kerry’s necks approaching the finish.
But it was final heartbreak for the Westerners again as Kerry, with three current All-Stars in their starting line-up, returned to Division 1 after a three-year absence.
Overall, Galway struggled to break down a Kerry defence superbly marshalled by full-back Aislinn Desmond.
Galway boss Barry Downey took off four of his six forwards during the game and at midfield for Kerry, captain Bernie Breen led by example before accepting the coveted silverware.
Scorers for Galway: E Concannon 0-06f, A Clarke 1-00 pen, B Hannon, D Brennan, A Daly & L Hannon 0-01 each.
Scorers for Kerry: L Ní Mhuircheartaigh 1-03 (1-00 pen, 0-2f), S Houlihan 0-06 (4f), B Breen, P Dennehy, L Scanlon & L Rogers 0-01 each.
GALWAY: J Connolly; A Rohan, R McPhilibin, N Ward; B Hannon, E Flaherty, S Burke; A Clarke, E Curley; G Conneally, D Brennan, A Daly; T Leonard, R Leonard, E Concannon.
Subs: L Joyce for T Leonard (h.t.), L Hannon for Conneally (45), C Cormican for Curley (45), C Hehir for Brennan (48), G O’Connor for R Leonard (54).
KERRY: E Murphy; C Lynch, A Desmond, A Lyons; B Lane, C Kelly, D Hallissey; E Sherwood, B Breen; D Corridan, M Fitzgerald, S Houlihan; L Galvin, P Dennehy, L Ní Mhuircheartaigh.
Subs: L Scanlon for Fitzgerald (h.t.), L Rogers for Dennehy (h.t.), M O’Connell for Galvin (45).
Referee: M Farrelly (Cavan).