Kerry 5-11 Galway 1-10
Ahead of Saturday’s league final, the Kerry management showed their players a short video of Banna Beach. There they all were among the sand dunes, getting battered by the salty wind hissing in off the Atlantic. It was November. Croke Park on their minds.
The message from showing those training clips was uncomplicated: Look how hard you have worked to get here, now go and finish the job.
Which they did. And in some style. Only nobody in the Kerry camp believes the job is finished on the back of capturing the county’s first women’s Division One National Football League title since 1991. This is but another milestone along their journey.
Because this run of form wasn’t merely dug out from the sand in Banna last winter. This Kerry team has been a work in progress for several seasons now. Under the guidance of Declan Quill and Darragh Long they have been constantly evolving.
Kerry might have lost the All-Ireland senior final to Meath last year, but even before that game there was a sense the big show had arrived ahead of schedule for the Kingdom. However, after their clinical dismantling of Galway in this league final it is hard not to feel a big summer is now on the horizon for Kerry.
“What a Division One title is going to do for this group is it’s going to make us 10 foot tall,” said Long.
“It’ll probably be another target on our back going to championship in two weeks, but we’ll enjoy the next few days, I think these girls thoroughly deserved it.
“After 31 odd years to get a Division One title back to Kerry is massive and we’re just over the moon.”
Kerry, who only won the Division Two final last April, are the form team in the women’s game right now.
Full back Kayleigh Cronin is an outstanding leader of their defence, while all the Kerry players look so comfortable in possession and knowledgeable as to their role on the team.
But more than anything, Kerry possess an array of scoring talent that must be the envy of so many other counties. They are not reliant on the same two or three players to keep the numbers ticking over and all six of Kerry’s starting forwards were on target against Galway.
Kerry also score goals. Lots of goals. They finished the league with 20 in eight games. Galway registered three.
“I think it’s from our movement, right from the girls at the back all the way up the field, the off the shoulder running, the cuts, the loops,” explained Long.
“Everything we do in training is not particularly to get those goals but it’s to create those opportunities.”
Two of those goals arrived in the first half to give Kerry a 2-5 to 0-4 lead at the interval. Even at that early stage the game had slipped from Galway’s reach. Kerry then pulverised the Connacht outfit in the third quarter by hitting 2-6 without reply to lead 4-11 to 0-4. Hannah O’Donoghue helped herself to 1-3 during that period.
“I suppose internally we always knew the girls were capable of really blowing a team away and dominating a game from the first minute to the last, in every aspect of the game today I think we were first to the ball and the attitude and effort was top class,” added Long.
Just as matters veered on getting very ugly for Galway, they rallied and outscored Kerry 1-6 to 1-0 over the last quarter. But the contest was long over by that stage. Kerry are now level with Cork on the roll of honour with 12 Division One league titles. Galway are still waiting for a maiden crown.
If this Kerry display wasn’t impressive enough in its own right, add in the complexity that seven of the squad only arrived home from the All Stars tour in Texas last Wednesday – a trip that included a delayed flight scuppering a connection to Farranfore, leaving them on an evening train from Dublin instead for the last leg of their journey.
Of the septet, Kayleigh Cronin, Aishling O’Connell, Cáit Lynch, Niamh Carmody, Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh and Anna Galvin all played on Saturday.
“Thankfully, it didn’t really seem like we had much jet lag,” said Lynch.
“There was just over 26 hours travelling in total on Wednesday. It was a long old haul but we got home eventually and got a good lot of sleep.
“Louise Galvin, who is used to doing a lot of travelling and playing from her Irish rugby Sevens days, gave us a lot of advice in terms of how to avoid jet lag – drink lots of water, take lots of protein, compression socks, walks, and sleep as much as you can at the right times.”
These certainly feel like good times for Kerry. From a long way out at Croke Park on Saturday, it was clearly going to be their day. And it’s starting to feel like it might just be Kerry’s year as well.
KERRY: Mary Ellen Bolger; Eilís Lynch, Kayleigh Cronin, Ciara Murphy; Aishling O’Connell, Emma Costello, Cáit Lynch; Lorraine Scanlon (0-1), Mary O’Connell; Niamh Carmody (0-2), Niamh Ní Chonchúir (2-1), Anna Galvin (0-2); Hannah O’Donoghue (1-3), Síofra O’Shea (1-0), Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh (1-2, two frees).
Subs: Amy Harrington for M O’Connell (43 mins); Louise Galvin for Costello, Aoife Dillane for Murphy (both 52); Fiadhna Tangney for O’Donoghue (53).
GALWAY: Alanah Griffin; Kate Geraghty, Sarah Ní Loingsigh, Eimile Gavin; Roisin Leonard (0-2, two frees), Nicola Ward, Aoife Molloy; Ailbhe Davoren, Siobhán Divilly; Charlotte Cooney, Leanne Coen (0-1), Olivia Divilly (0-2); Eva Noone, Louise Ward, Kate Slevin (1-3, 1-0 penalty, two frees).
Subs: Chellene Trill for Gavin (25 mins); Shauna Brennan (0-2) for R Leonard (h-t); Hannah Noone for Molloy (39); Tracey Leonard for S Divilly (43).
Referee: Jonathan Murphy (Carlow).