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Kerry hold out against late Galway rally to get All-Ireland campaign off on a winning foot

Ní Mhuircheartaigh scores 0-8 while Scanlon, Carmody and McCarthy raise green flags in two-point win

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Lorraine Scanlon scores Kerry's first goal during the TG4 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Group C Round 1 match against Galway at St Brendan's Park in Birr, Offaly. Photo by Sportsfile

Lorraine Scanlon scores Kerry's first goal during the TG4 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Group C Round 1 match against Galway at St Brendan's Park in Birr, Offaly. Photo by Sportsfile

Lorraine Scanlon scores Kerry's first goal during the TG4 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Group C Round 1 match against Galway at St Brendan's Park in Birr, Offaly. Photo by Sportsfile

kerryman

LGFA ALL-IRELAND SENIOR FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP GROUP C ROUND 1

Kerry 3-10

Galway 3-8

Kerry survived a late onslaught from Galway to claim a hugely important win in the first round of the All Ireland series with a performance that showed that they are well up to the speed of senior championship football and will fear no one going forward.

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The intensity of the Kerry display was wonderfully supplemented with some high octane work-rate throughout the contest, and they were well deserving winners against a Galway team that found it difficult to cope with Kerry’s pressing game, despite a five-star performance from Tracey Leonard who finished with six points for the losers.

A major key to the Kerry victory was the display of Cáit Lynch who was assigned a marking role on Galway danger woman Olivia Divilly, and not only did the Desmonds star keep Divilly scoreless from play, but she also popped over a left-footed point at the start of the second half and ended up securing the TG4 Player of the Match award.

The turning point of the contest probably came in the ninth minute of the second half when a free kick from Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh uncharacteristically fell short – Ní Mhuircheartaigh was largely unerring throughout the game and finished with 0-8 – but as Paris McCarthy and Erica McGlynn challenged for the ball it looked like McCarthy got the final touch and guided to the back of the net to push Kerry into a 2-8 to 1-6 lead.

If that goal was slightly fortunate, then Kerry’s third goal four minutes later was a thing of beauty. McGlynn was involved once more and she showed great vision to find Niamh Carmody in space 25 metres out from the Galway goal. Carmody had only one thing on her mind and she struck a brilliant shot to the top corner of Alanah Griffin’s goal for a net puncher that was reminiscent of Jack O’Shea’s pile-driver against Offaly in 1981.

Kerry led by 3-10 to 1-7 with just four minutes left in the contest and with a nine-point lead it looked like it would be a pretty comfortable ride coming into the home straight. Then, as if startled by the ease of their impending victory, the Kingdom women made life very difficult for themselves with two players going to the sin bin in the final few moments that reignited a Galway fire that looked to be very much extinguished.

Lorraine Scanlon, who gave a huge performance at midfield, was the first to see yellow in the 56th minute, and seconds later it was the turn of Ní Mhuircheartaigh after another cynical foul that belonged to the ‘thou shalt not pass’ mantra. With Kerry down to 13 players Galway pushed up on their kickouts and it paid some rich dividends.

A point from an Olivia Divilly was supplemented by a goal a minute later by Louise Ward and following the kick out the Kerry defence was forced into a scrambling block as Galway attacked the Kerry goal with venom. Galway were wide from the subsequent ’45’ but smelling blood, the Tribeswomen pressed on the Kerry restart once more and Leanne Coen was on the end of a good move to score their third goal.

Time was against the Connacht champions though and the final whistle sounded soon afterwards, much to the relief of the Kerry players and management.

The first half was far from vintage but the Kingdom looked the better side and caused Galway all sorts of bother, as they mixed a long and short game to good effect. Galway were unlucky not to goal in the 17th minute as Kerry goalkeeper Ciara Butler did well to keep out a Lynsey Noone effort but it was a portent for what was to come afterwards.

The Galway goal in the 17th minute was impressive with the fluidity of it’s movement with Olivia Divilly, Mairead Seoighe, Andrea Trill and finally Leanne Coen involved with the Corofin maestro Trill punishing Kerry with a palm to the net, despite the heroic efforts of Ciara Butler to keep the ball out.

Galway centre half back Tracey Leonard added a point soon afterwards to push them 1-3 to 0-3 ahead but Kerry struck back thanks to a brilliant goal from Lorraine Scanlon. Dr Crokes Kayleigh Cronin sprayed a lovely high pass into Scanlon who had ghosted inside the Galway cover, and despite being surrounded by three Galway players the midfielder had the composure to hit a superb shot to the back of the net.

The last few minutes of the first half belonged to Kerry as Ní Mhuircheartaigh added three frees, although they were denied what looked like a valid enough penalty shout when Ciara Butler looked to kick the ball away as Galway’s Andrea Trill went to pick it off the ground. To be fair to referee Maggie Farrelly she was possibly playing an advantage for an earlier foul and with a free called back outside the 21-metre line, Kerry were glad that they got away with that one.

Kerry’s 1-6 to 1-3 lead at half time was well; deserved and the manner at which they pushed on in the second half was very pleasing. What wasn’t as likeable was the self induced nervous moments close to the finish line, but if you said to managers Quill and Long before the game that they would win by two points they would have bitten your hand off.

Kerry’s next assignment is a home contest against Armagh on June 25 at Fitzgerald Stadium, a game that the Kingdom will go into with massive confidence.

KERRY: Ciara Butler (Castlegregory); Aoife Dillane (Austin Stacks), Kayleigh Cronin (Dr Crokes), Eilis Lynch (Castleisland Desmonds); Aishling O’Connell (0-1) (Éire Óg Cork), Cait Lynch (0-1) (Castleisland Desmonds), Ciara Murphy (MKL Gaels); Emma Costelloe (Firies), Lorraine Scanlon (1-0) (Castleisland Desmonds), Niamh Carmody (1-0) (Finuge/St Senans), Anna Galvin (Southern Gaels), Niamh Ní Chonchúir (Corca Dhuibhne), Danielle O’Leary (Rathmore), Erica McGlynn (Fossa), Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh 0-8 (5f) (Corca Dhuibhne). Subs: Paris McCarthy (Castleisland Desmonds) for N Carmody (temp, 4 mins), Paris McCarthy (1-0) for N Ní Chonchúir (20 mins), Siofra O’Shea (Southern Gaels) for E McGlynn (46 mins), Caoimhe Evans (MKL Gaels) for D O’Leary (53 mins), Clodagh O’Connor (Éire Óg Cork) for A Dillane (56 mins), Mary O’Connell (Na Gaeil) for N Carmody (61 mins).

GALWAY: A Griffin; S Molloy, S Ní Loingsigh, E Gavin; C Cooney, N Ward 0-1, K Geraghty; A Davoren, L Ward 1-0; L Coen 2-0, A Trill, M Seoighe; L Noone, O Divilly 0-1, T Leonard 0-6 (1f). Subs: K Slevin for A Trill (26), C Trill for Gavin (30), S Divilly for Davoren (30), A Morrissey for Seoighe (36), A Molloy for S Molloy (52).

Referee: M Farrelly (Cavan).


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