Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh's tally of 2-03 and a powerful third-quarter surge helped Kerry past Galway 3-11 to 0-17 to finish top of the Lidl NFL Division 1 table.
With these sides set to meet again in the Lidl NFL Division 1 decider on Saturday, 15 April, Kerry’s greater goal threat proved decisive against a fast-finishing Galway.
In a lively opening half, Galway raced in to an early 0-04 to 0-02 lead with Ailbhe Davoren, Eva Noone and Kate Slevin (two) on the mark. Kerry though showed their prowess with scores from Fiadhna Tangney and a Ní Mhuircheartaigh free.
Kerry almost rattled the Galway net in the eighth minute when Aishling O'Connell’s fierce drive crashed off the base of the post and in to the grateful arms of Galway 'keeper Karen Connolly. Galway went close moments later as Davoren saw her close range effort blocked by Kerry goalkeeper Ciara Butler.
Maghnus Breathnach and Fiona Wynne’s side charged 0-07 to 0-02 ahead with Davoren, Leanne Coen and Slevin all on target. However, Kerry refused to panic as they outscored their opponents by 2-03 to 0-01 from the 20th minute to half-time.
Ní Mhuircheartaigh and Niamh Carmody kicked scores for the Kingdom before the former palmed to the net following an excellent team move. This levelled the contest before Ní Mhuircheartaigh moved her side in front for the first time following a sweet right footed effort.
Kate Slevin hit back for Galway but a Niamh Ní Chonchúir delivery broke to the dangerous Ní Mhuircheartaigh, who slotted to the net to help Kerry lead 2-05 to 0-08 at the break.
Despite losing Ní Mhuircheartaigh at the break, Kerry dominated the third quarter with a goal from substitute Hannah O’Donoghue alongside two scores from Fiadhna Tangney and an effort from Niamh Carmody in to a 3-08 to 0-10 lead.
Kerry’s bench made a sizeable impact with replacements Amy Harrington and Rachedl Dwyer both slotting over. However, Galway produced a fierce finish to set up a tense finale.
Olivia Divilly (free), Davoren, Tracey Leonard, Aoife Ní Cheallaigh and Slevin (two frees) made this a one score game.
The Kingdom remained composed as Rachel Dwyer slotted over late on as Daragh Long and Declan Quill’s side secured their first Lidl NFL win over Galway since 2016.
Scorers - Kerry: L Ní Mhuircheartaigh 2-3 (1f), H O’Donoghue (1-0), F Tangney 0-3, N Carmody and R Dwyer (1f) 0-2 each, A Harrington 0-1. Galway: K Slevin 0-8 (4f), A Davoren 0-3, O Divilly 0-2 (2f) L Coen, T Leonard, A Ní Cheallaigh and E Noone 0-1 each.
Kerry: C Butler, E Lynch, K Cronin, C Murphy, A O’Connell, E Costello, C Lynch, L Scanlon, M O’Connell, N Carmody, N Ní Chonchúir, A Galvin, F Tagney, S O’Shea, L Ní Mhuircheartaigh.
Subs: A Harrington for Scanlon (18), N Broderick for Cronin (ht), H O’Donoghue for Ní Mhuircheartaigh (ht), A Dillane for E. Lynch (40), R Dwyer for O’Shea (47), ME Bolger for Butler (49), E McGlynn for C Lynch (52), C McCarthy for Ní Chonchúir (52), A Doherty for Murphy (57), K Brosnan for Carmody (60+2).
Galway: K Connolly, C Trill, S Ní Loingsigh, A Ní Cheallaigh, C Cooney, N Ward, H Noone, A Davoren, S Divilly, L Coen, L Ward, O Divilly, A O’Rourke, E Noone, K Slevin.
Subs: T Leonard for Coen (ht), L Noone for O’Rourke (ht), J Burke for Cooney (34), L Booth for S Divilly (41), C Cleary for O Divilly (53), A Molloy for H. Noone (53), M Glynn for Davoren (55), M Seoighe for E Noone (60+1).
Referee: Garryowen McMahon (Mayo).