Kerry 1-22 Donegal 2-14
William O’Sullivan’s Kerry got their TG4 All-Ireland Ladies SFC campaign back on track today, but they needed extra-time to overcome the challenge of Donegal in Birr.
The Kingdom needed huge contributions from player of the match Sarah Houlihan and substitute Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh to get over the line.
Ní Mhuircheartaigh didn’t start the game due to an injury, but was sent in to rescue her colleagues late in normal time and scored three crucial points from play.
Donegal endured a hugely difficult league campaign but they played their best football of the year in the Ulster championship against Armagh.
And the gritty north-westerners carried that form into this game, with Katy Herron, Karen Guthrie and Geraldine McLaughlin showing plenty of power down the middle.
Both sides played an extremely defensive brand of football in the opening half, and forwards on both sides found themselves heavily outnumbered.
But the lateral movement of Patrice Dennehy and Sarah Houlihan allowed Kerry to pick off six early scores in heavy traffic, to lead by three after twenty minutes.
A punched goal by Emma McCrory got Donegal right back into the tie, however, and a second major from Geraldine McLaughlin gave the outsiders a narrow 2-04 to 0-09 interval lead.
Neither side led by more than two points at any stage in the second half and as Donegal grew in confidence in the latter stages, it looked as if an upset might be on the cards.
Katy Herron struck two wonderful long-range points to give them the lead on two separate occasions, but Ní Muircheartaigh saved Kerry’s skin with a point just twenty seconds after being introduced, while Laura Rogers delivered the run and score that sent the game into extra-time.
Kerry’s supremacy finally began to tell in the extra 20 minutes and a 1-03 salvo in just five minutes of play towards the end of the first period essentially killed off Donegal’s challenge.
Louise Galvin scored the crucial goal after O’Muircheartaigh picked open the Donegal defence and the beaten Munster finalists had some badly-needed breathing space.
Donegal reduced the gap with some late points, but strong defensive work from Kerry’s Cáit Lynch and Aisling Leonard ensured that they never came close to getting the third goal that they badly needed.
Scorers for Kerry: S Houlihan 0-8 (0-4f), L Scanlon (0-1f), P Dennehy, B Breen 0-3 each, L Galvin 1-0, L O’Muircheartaigh 0-2, E Sherwood, L Rogers, D Hallissey 0-1 each.
Scorers for Donegal: G McLaughlin 1-6 (0-4f), K Herron 0-4, E McCrory 1-0, SJ McDonald 0-2, Niamh McLaughlin, K Guthrie 0-1 each.
Kerry: E Murphy; A Lyons, A Desmond, D Hallissey; E Sherwood, C Kelly, D Corridan; L Scanlon, B Breen; M Quirke, C Lynch, A Leonard; P Dennehy, L Galvin, S Houlihan.
Subs: L Rogers for Corridan (46), M O’Connell for Scanlon (46), L Ní Muircheartaigh for Galvin (52), Galvin for Rogers (65), C Buckley for O’Connell (74)
Donegal: L Gallagher; Nicole McLaughlin, E Gallagher, O Carr; R Boyle, K Keaney, S McGroddy; K Herron, E Ward; Niamh McLaughlin, R McCafferty, K Guthrie; SJ McDonald, G McLaughlin, E McCrory.
Subs: K Feeney for McGroddy (31, temp), A Cunningham for McCafferty (45), Feeney for McGroddy (57), R Friel for McCrory (FT), C Hegarty for Boyle (63), J O’Donnell for Feeney (70), AM Logue for Friel (74), K Wilson for Nicole McLaughlin (78)
Referee: Des McEnery (Westmeath)