Kerry players celebrating at Croke Park.
Kerry players celebrating at Croke Park.

Kerry win Division Two title

Ladies Football National League Division Two Final

*Kerry 1-12 Armagh 0-12

By Paul Keane

Kerry will return to Division 1 of the National Football League in 2023 after a five-year absence - and they have Danielle O'Leary to thank for helping them secure promotion.

The 19-year-old Rathmore star proved the Kingdom's super sub with an incredible Croke Park cameo, coming on after 37 minutes and contributing directly to 1-4 of the team's scores as they came from behind to defeat the Ulster champions.

O'Leary finished with 1-2 while she also won two crucial frees that Louise Ni Muircheartaigh converted and right at the death drew the foul that led to Niamh Marley's sin-binning for Armagh.

Armagh, All-Ireland semi-finalists as recently as 2020, led by two points at the second water break but were overwhelmed from there on as Kerry outscored them 0-5 to 0-0 in the final quarter.

O'Leary was central to the late onslaught and won't forget this lanmark day in a hurry as the side jointly managed by Declan Quill and Darragh Long secured their ticket back to Division 1 at the third time of asking.

Kerry had previously lost the 2019 and 2021 Division 2 finals - either side of the cancelled 2020 campaign - having suffered relegation back in 2018.

A stiff wind increased the chill factor but the players produced a high quality, ultra intense game with consistent passages of real quality.

The Mackin sisters, Aimee and Blaithin, were to the fore throughout and between them accounted for half of Armagh's first-half tally of 0-8.

Catherine Marley was terrific too and the number 10 got through a tonne of good work, popping up in her own full-back line on occasions and always providing an outlet in attack.

She also kicked an eighth minute point and was involved in setting up early points for Eve Lavery and Aimee Mackin with her high work rate paying off in spades.

Armagh led for the most part and were 0-5 to 0-3 ahead at the first water break though Kerry briefly tied it up following back to back Ni Muircheartaigh points.

Kerry were then dealt a hammer blow when Ni Muircheartaigh, with 2-34 to her credit at that stage in the campaign, was sin-binned for a high tackle on Niamh Marley.

Armagh took advantage of the greater numbers to outscore Kerry by 0-3 to 0-1 in the run in, leaving them 0-8 to 0-6 ahead at the break.

They just about deserved the lead though Kerry rued their failure to convert at least 2-1 in decent chances.

The in-form Erica McGlynn hit the crossbar and the post for Kerry in separate attacks while Niamh Ni Conchuir drew a decent stop from Armagh 'keeper Anna Carr.

Armagh made a significant half-time substitution, bringing on Caroline O'Hanlon for corner-back Grace Ferguson, necessitating a positional shake up with O'Hanlon going in at midfield.

Aimee Mackin kept Armagh in control in the third quarter with three points in a row though O'Leary's introduction was a game changer for Kerry, the student bursting through for a brilliant 44th minute goal.

She powered down the right before cutting back inside Armagh full-back Clodagh McCambridge and firing an unstoppable shot to the net at the Hill 16 End.

Armagh still led 0-12 to 1-7 at the second water break but Kerry had precious momentum and kicked on with a brilliant final quarter display.

Cait Lynch, O'Leary and O Muircheartaigh were all on the mark as Kerry first levelled the game again and then kicked on clear for a memorable win.

Scorers for Kerry: Danielle O'Leary 1-2, Louise Ni Muircheartaigh 0-5 (0-3f), Erica McGlynn 0-2, Niamh Ni Conchuir 0-1, Aishling O'Connell 0-1, Cait Lynch 0-1.

Scorers for Armagh: Aimee Mackin 0-6 (0-3f), Catherine Marley 0-2, Eve Lavery 0-1, Niamh Coleman 0-1, Blaithin Mackin 0-1, Aoife McCoy 0-1.

Kerry: Ciara Butler; Ciara O'Brien, Kayleigh Cronin, Julie O'Sullivan; Aishling O'Connell, Cait Lynch, Ciara Murphy; Lorraine Scanlon, Emma Costello; Niamh Carmody, Caoimhe Evans, Anna Galvin; Niamh Ni Conchuir, Erica McGlynn, Louise Ni Muircheartaigh.

Subs: Danielle O'Leary for Evans 37, Mary O'Connell for Carmody 48, Paris McCarthy for Ni Conchuir 56, Rachel Dwyer for McGlynn 58, Meadhbh Johnston for Murphy 60.

Armagh: Anna Carr; Shauna Grey, Clodagh McCambridge, Grace Ferguson; Tiarna Girmes, Lauren McConville, Cait Towe; Niamh Marley, Blaithin Mackin; Eve Lavery, Niamh Coleman, Catherine Marley; Aimee Mackin, Aoife McCoy, Niamh Reel.

Subs: Caroline O'Hanlon for Ferguson h/t, Kelly Mallon for Reel 42, Fionnuala McKenna for Coleman 46, Sarah Marley for Lavery 53, Megan McCann for Catherine Marley 57.

Referee: Jonathan Murphy (Carlow).