Joint-manager allays fears over Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh’s ankle injury, saying she will be fine for All-Ireland final
It has been a rollercoaster three years for joint Kerry ladies manager Darragh Long. Between Covid interrupted National League campaigns, narrow Championship losses, and an unexpected League final defeat to Meath in 2021, they’ve had more than their fair share of tough luck.
Now, though, things have taken a very welcome turn for the better, and having already amassed the National League Division Two title last April, they now find themselves in an All Ireland final – and deservedly so!
“It's an unbelievable feeling and I’m really proud of this group,” said an ecstatic Long. “Our goal from day one has been to get to an All-Ireland final. Now we’re there. Did I expect it to happen so quick? Probably not I suppose. Less than twelve months ago we were playing in a relegation battle against Tipperary down in Mallow.
“We had dark days last year here in Croke Park with the Meath defeat which was very embarrassing for this group. We took it on the chin and produced good performances against Galway and Donegal in the Championship. We regrouped and these girls came back full of vigour and full of commitment and we made a promise to each other back in November that 31st of July was our target. Now we’ve done what we set out to do.”
The manner of Kerry’s performance, and margin of victory, really pleased the Austin Stacks man although he admitted that semi-finals are all about winning – no matter what manner it’s achieved by.
“It’s all about results. If we’d won today 10-9 or 2-1, I’d be every bit as happy as I am now. Performances are great if you can get them but at this time of the year it’s all about getting the victory. We’re delighted with the result today and to be fair we played some very good football in patches. Not that happy with the second half in pieces, but look, goals win games and the girls showed massive ice in their veins to take those four chances.
“We were extremely disappointed to lose to Cork down in Killarney (Munster Final) in our own back yard. We knew that we weren’t too far away, and I think that the girls have answered that with the wins against Galway, against Westmeath, against Armagh, and here today. They just keep coming up with the answers and hopefully there’s one more left.
“We set a challenge to the girls and every time we asked them a question they’ve come and answered it. It’s been a combination of a lot of work that myself and Dec have put in along with our management team. Everyone has invested in this and now we have one more pay out.”
Worryingly, Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh went down on her ankle just two minutes before the finish of the game. It initially looked serious at first as the Corca Dhuibhne lay on the turf, but Long insisted that she would be fine for the final.
“She’s fine. She’ll be fine for two weeks’ time – don’t worry about her. I don’t think there would be any man, and definitely not me and Declan, to tell her that she’d be sitting out an All-Ireland final – I’m not that brave!
“What can I say that hasn’t been said about Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh? She’s a leader within this group and this year, and I’ve only known her a couple of years but I followed her career in bits and pieces over her twelve or thirteen year career, and I think that this year she’s been immense and has found a new level to her game. I think Armagh tested her hugely, physically and emotionally; she stood up and struck 2-6. The balls she won today, the leadership of the forwards. I just can’t speak highly enough of her.”
Long lauded some other individual performances and also paid tribute to the leadership that their captain Anna Galvin brings to the group.
“A couple of girls individually probably stood up in the second half. Kayleigh Cronin was outstanding, Eilis Lynch put in a performance of the ages at corner back; something like Marc O Sé would be happy with there today. Aoife Dillane came on at half time in that pressure cooker and was immense.
“The likes of this doesn’t happen just because of me and Declan. This happens because of the likes of our captain Anna who has been our skipper for two years. That says enough about the girl that she is who we want her leading this group – and this group wants her leading them. There’s been a lot said about the likes of Currans and stuff over the past few months, but we’ve left none of that bother us. Our performances have shown that any outside noise to this group is just noise, and we fully focused on the job in hand.”