IT was a case of so near and yet so far for Kerry as they lost out in their bid to end the county's 19-year famine for an All-Ireland senior football title.
Over the coming weeks and months this team and the management can reflect on a rewarding season, with that first All-Ireland final appearance in almost two decades proof that great strides are being made in the game here right now.
Small consolation this week, however, as the players couldn't conceal their disappointment at losing to their neighbours and defending champions, Cork, by nine points.
The losing margin wasn't as emphatic as the bookmakers might have predicted, but this was a comfortable win for the champio n s who were probably just a s wasteful in front of the target as a clearly nervous Kerry were.
Crucially, however, Cork were also very good in front of the posts. While Kerry managed just four points from play Cork converted nine points from open play, and coupled with Valerie Mulcahy's excellent free taking the Rebels were always able to keep Kerry at arm's length.
To put this game in context, Cork were winning the Brendan Martin Cup for the seventh time in eight seasons, and since 2005, Eamonn Ryan's all-conquering players have lost just one championship match, against Tyrone in 2010.
Kerry, contesting a first All-Ireland senior decider since 1993, suffered a firstever defeat in a senior final.
Knowing the scale of the challenge awaiting them Kerry set out to contain Cork and manager William O'Sullivan made a number of tactical moves as a result.
Kerry packed their defence and overall did quite well in that department but the pay off for that was a slowness to counte r - attack and an uncertainty in attack when they did get into the Cork half. Sarah Houlihan ( pictured left) carried the fight to Cork in attack and goalkeeper Edel Murphy kept a clean sheet but overall, this was a chastening experience for Kerry.
Lorraine Scanlon, named at midfield, was deployed at full-forward, where the Castleisland Desmonds woman enjoyed some good moments on the edge of the square. Overall, though, the Cork defence coped quite comfortably with Kerry's aerial threat.
Lousie Ni Mhuircheartaigh cut a lonely figure in the corner, with the Corca Dhuibhne player never getting enough of a supply of ball with which to display her unquestionable array of skills.
Captain Bernie Breen picked up a serious shoulder injury very early in but with the management not wanting to withdraw one of their natural leaders, Breen carried on bravely but less influentially.
For Cork, wing backs Briege Corkery and Geraldine O'Flynn were in magnificent form, surging forward from defence and putting their opponents on the back foot.
Three of Cork's six starting forwards failed to score from play but the Rebels kept raising white flags with regularity.
By the end of the first quarter Cork led by 0-4 to 0-2 and by half time they looked every bit the champions they are, taking a 010 to 0-3 lead to the dressing rooms.
Emma Sherwood had created a reasonable goal chance after 19 minutes but Elaine Harte saved smartly in the Cork goal, while Edel Murphy needed to be just as alert in the Kerry goal to deny Cork on a couple of occasions.
The free count heavily favoured Cork – 32-11 – which was a fair indication of Kerry's over-zealousness in the tackle, and while William O'Sullivan might have had some justifiable gripe with some of the referee's interpretation of the tackle, Kerry paid a price for their fouling. Valerie Mulcahy's unerring free taking punished Kerry time and time again as she converted six free kicks, including four in that first half.
Kerry went for too long at times without a score in the first half, which left them a considerable mountain to scale after the interval.
A Mulcahy free extended Cork's lead to eight just after the re-start before Kerry - for the only time - scored successive points f early in the second half but they never looked like launching a revival.
Cork chipped away with the scores, their confidence growing as they realised the Brendan Martin Cup was returning to Leesdie for a second winter, with Doireann O'Sullivan - the centre forward ended with four points from play, two in each half - and Geraldine O'Flynn landing the best of Cork's second half scores.
Kerry's fate was well known long before the final hooter but their misery was complete in the final minute when Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh was sinbinned after picking up a yellow card.
This latest success for Cork means that eleven of their starting line-up have now collected seven AllIreland medals, while sub Angela Walsh has also featured in each of those AllIreland successes since 2005.
For Kerry it was a bittersweet end to their season. This was no moral victory. They came to Croke Park
to win the All-Ireland title and anything less was - in their own eyes - a failure.
Their manager admitted disappointment that the performance he had wanted never materialised, but there were no excuses and no recriminations. How could there be? Kerry had just lost to the greatest football team of this generation, and the greatest ladies team since the Kery team of the 1980s.
It's back to the drawing board now for the players and management and a reflection on 2012 before a look ahead to 2013.
Acute disappointment, then, on a most colourful day in Croke Park. Kerry will just have to find the silver linings on the black clouds. KERRY: E Murphy; C Lynch, A Desmond, A Lyons; J Brosnan, A Leonard, L Galvin; E Sherwood, B Breen; C Kelly, D Corridan, S Houlihan (0-3, 2f); M O'Connell, L Scanlon (0-2), L Ní Mhuircheartaigh (0-1f). Subs: P Dennehy (0-1) for Corridan (24), M Fitzgerald for Galvin (44), D Corridan for O'Connell (58), S.J. Joy for Sherwood (58). CORK: E Harte; A.M. Walsh, B Stack, D O'Reilly; B Corkery (0-1), R Buckley, G O'Flynn (0-2); J Murphy, N Kelly; O Farmer (0-1), D O'Sullivan, C O'Sullivan (0-4); N Cleary (0-1f), V Mulcahy (0-7, 6f), R Ní Bhuachalla. Subs: Angela Walsh for A M Walsh (38), O Finn for Ní Bhuachalla (38), L McMahon for Farmer (46), A Hutchings for Kelly (53), Annie Walsh for C O'Sullivan (57).
REFEREE: G Corrigan (Down)