Patrice Diggin scores a perfect 10 as confident Kerry ease past Laois en route to League Final
Kerry were always in control against visiting Laois team to Knockanure for final group game in Division 2 Camogie League campaign
NATIONAL CAMOGIE LEAGUE DIVISON 2
Kerry closed out the group stage of their National League campaign with a very convincing victory over a relegation-threatened Laois, in what was essentially a free shot of a game for the hosts, who has already secured qualification for the Division 2 Final, although it was evident that competition for places and the confident mood within the camp meant Kerry played in top gear throughout.
The game was switched from its original venue in Austin Stack Park to Knockanure as a result of the inclement weather of the past week, but that didn't deter the enthusiasm of a big Kerry support or the focus of the players.
It won't be any surprise to any with even a passing interest in the game to guess the identity of Kerry's top scorer. Patrice Diggin opened her account with a tricky enough free out on the left sideline, bisecting the posts with a surgeon's precision. She added another from well inside her own half, with a lively Amy O'Sullivan snapping over Kerry's first point from play a minute later and quickly doubling her account.
After eight minutes Kerry had taken eight shots and converted five of them – the last one a brilliantly crafted opportunity well executed by Anne Marie Leen. Patrice took an early knock that left her limping for a while, but she soon shook it off and went on to deliver one of her best performances – and with a player of this quality, that's no small saying.
In fairness to Laois, despite missing a number of regular starters, the likes of Aisling McAuley and Karla Whelan were showing great first touch control and midfielder Clodagh Tynan was absolutely outstanding. The trouble was that they had nothing like Kerry's potency in attack, with Kerry's half back line of Aoife Behan, Niamh Leen, and Kate Lynch absolutely impassable.
Laois had their first attack in the 11th minute. Clodagh Tynan sent a free dropping short into the Kerry square. Gráinne O'Reilly did well to control it but was well covered. In the circumstances, her reverse pass to Amy Flanagan showed great presence of mind and the centre forward blasted home from close range. A good goal, and suddenly the scoreline was 0-5 to 1-0.
In retrospect, that goal out of nowhere might have done Laois no favours. Having profited once from a long ball into the danger zone, they stuck rigidly to that attacking tactic, but high ball down onto the likes of Sara Murphy and Michelle Costello? Meat and drink to players like that, and they mopped up with consummate ease. Meanwhile, that goal refocused Kerry, who instantly upped their already impressive game.
Patrice added two more frees – Laois simply couldn't afford to foul anywhere on the field with Kerry's sharpshooter in this kind of form. Gráinne O'Reilly won a free converted by Clodagh Tynan, but a good pass from Clodagh O'Sullivan saw Patrice Diggin take her personal tally to five. Amy O'Sullivan added another before Alice Walsh fired over just before referee Mike Daly whistled for the break, with Kerry leading 0-9 to 1-2.
Amy Flanagan pulled back another point on the restart to leave just a goal between the sides. It was hardly a fair reflection of Kerry's superiority, but that changed instantly as Kerry landed an instant and devastating riposte. Aisling McAuley did very well to block Amy O'Sullivan's shot on goal but an alert Clodagh Walsh pounced on the rebound to force it home. A strong run by Patrice saw her slot over another point and Kerry were seven points clear and accelerating.
Laois did pull two points back through Andrea Scully and an Aimee Collier free, but Kerry were taking charge now. The unstoppable Diggin slotted two more points before launching in a clever lob over the defence to the lurking Laura Collins, who coolly slotted her second goal. Julianne O'Keeffe, just introduced, added a super point with practically her first touch of the sliotar. It was left to Diggin to close out a comfortably Kerry victory with the last two scores, taking her tally into double figures at the same time.
Kerry can set their sights firmly on the final, hopefully in Croke Park on April 16, where they will face old rivals Meath for the title. While the Royals will be stronger opposition that a Laois side in transition could bring, Pat Ryan and co. will be quietly confident if they can repeat if this kind of performance.
KERRY: Ciara Moloney, Michelle Costello, Sara Murphy, Rachel McCarthy, Aoife Behan, Niamh Leen, Kate Lynch, Patrice Diggin 0-10 (5f), Ellen O'Donoghue, Caoimhe Spillane, Laura Collins (1-0), Anne Marie Leen (0-1), Clodagh Walsh (1-0), Jackie Horgan, Amy O'Sullivan (0-3). Subs: Áine O'Connor for C Spillane (38), Julianne O'Keeffe 0-1 for A O'Sullivan (53), Aisling Ní hAiniféin for M Costello (56), Emma Lawlor for A M Leen (56), Sarah Lawlor for Clodagh Walsh (56)
LAOIS: Aideen Lowry, Emily Carroll, Fiona Scully, Aisling McAuley, Leah Daly, Aimee Collier 0-1 (1f), Karla Whelan, Alice Walsh (0-1), Clodagh Tynan 0-1 (f), Gráinne O'Reilly, Amy Flanagan (1-10), Gemma Hoare, Andrea Scully (0-1), Luisne Delaney, Hannah O'Connor. Subs: Evelyn Aylward for G O'Reilly (54), Roisín Dowling for A Lowry (54)
Referee: Mike Daly (Tipperary)