A 1-06 haul for Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh was enough for Kerry to book their place in the Lidl National League Division 2 final, where they’ll face either Cavan or Waterford in two weeks’ time.

This was a patient and convincing win for the Kingdom over table toppers Armagh in a sun-drenched Athy on Saturday afternoon.

The game hung in the balance at the break but an unanswered 1-05 in the second-half was enough to seal victory for Donal O’Doherty’s troops. 

The sides were evenly matched in the opening quarter, Ní Mhuircheartaigh swapping scores with Niamh Reel in the opening minutes. With Armagh missing regular sharpshooters Aimee and Blathin Mackin, the pressure was on Reel to keep the Orchard County’s score ticking over and the Silverbridge player performed admirably, kicking 0-5 over the hour.

Early chances for Armagh to go ahead were missed and 1-01 in a minute for Miriam O’Keeffe put Kerry in the driving seat midway through the half. Ní Mhuircheartaigh and Sarah Houlihan pushed Kerry further in front and with 20 minutes gone, Armagh were trailing by six and could have been further behind as Houlihan saw her effort drift wide.

Armagh – who also lined out without Caroline O’Hanlon – hit a purple patch of their own with Reel and captain Kelly Mallon hitting a brace of scores each to bring the gap back to two. The sides went point for point as O’Keeffe raised her second white flag before a Mallon free and a Reel point brought the gap back to the minimum.

The sides traded scores once more before the break with Hannah O’Donoghue pointing her first score but Aoife McCoy had the last say of the half, shooting over right on the half-time whistle to leave just one between the sides.

Niamh Carmody and substitute Laoise Coughlan gave Kerry a three-point lead at the start of the second-half but McCoy and Reel brought the Orchard County back to within a point.

However, Kerry were enjoying more of the possession and their constant pressure finally cracked the Orchard rearguard. O’Donoghue pointed before Ní Mhuircheartaigh hit 1-01 in a minute to open up a six-point gap. It was a gap Armagh could not come back from and further scores from O’Donoghue and Ní Mhuircheartaigh ended the game as a contest.

There was consolation for Armagh as Kelly Mallon found the net on 60 minutes but it wasn’t going to be enough to change the outcome. Anna Galvin raised the last white flag of the contest deep into injury time and the Kingdom can now prepare for a date with either Waterford or Cavan in the decider.

Kerry; R White, C O’Brien, T Breen, E O’Sullivan, S Murphy, A O’Connell, A Galvin (0-01), L Scanlon, A Brosnan (C), M O’Keeffe (1-02), C Murphy, N Carmody (0-01), S Houlihan (0-01), L Ní Mhuircheartaigh (1-06), H O’Donoghue (0-03).

Subs: L Coughlan (0-01) for O’Sullivan (28), E Dineen for O’Keeffe (33), S Lynch for Carmody (34), E McGlynn for Houlihan (54), A Foley for C Murphy (56).

Armagh; C O’Hare, S Marley, M Moriarty, C McKenna, A Donaldson, C McCambridge, R O’Reilly, T Grimes, N Coleman, N Marley (0-01), K Mallon (1-03), A McCoy (0-02), N Reel (0-05), N Murphy, S Grey.

Subs: E Lavery for Murphy (37).

Referee: J Murphy (Carlow)