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'I think we’ve proven a lot of you folks wrong over the last 12 months'

Kerry fell short in yesterday’s All-Ireland senior ladies football final.

Kerry dejected after the game.
Kerry dejected after the game.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

KERRY’S FIRST ALL-IRELAND senior ladies football final since 2012 may have ended in defeat, but joint-manager Darragh Long was keen to focus on the bigger picture post-match.

The Kingdom fell to defending champions Meath on a scoreline of 3-10 to 1-7 at Croke Park yesterday, goals from Emma Troy, Niamh O’Sullivan and Bridgetta Lynch ultimately the difference.

“Very disappointing,” Long began. “We came up here full of belief, full of confidence that we could come away with a victory.

“I thought we got a fantastic start. We went 1-2 to 0-0 up within the first nine, 10 minutes. Gave away a very silly goal. Emma Troy seems to be our nemesis. I thought we competed really well in the first half. Again, started the second half quickly, got two scores on the board and then just sloppy mistakes from ourselves. The first half and second half, sloppy mistakes led to stupid turnover ball.

“Fair play to Meath, I think Eamonn [Murray] said during the week that they’ve timed their run to perfection. They kicked 3-10 in the end. They’re All-Ireland champions for a reason, but hugely proud of our group of girls. I think we’ve come an awful long way in 12 months, from Mallow last year and a relegation battle. Just hugely disappointed.”

Kerry have enjoyed an upward trajectory since Long and Declan Quill officially took the job ahead of the 2020 season.

The duo well and truly steadied the ship after chopping and changing with management, league relegation in 2018 after fielding an ineligible player and a winless campaign, county board issues and other off-field drama.

The 2022 Division Two champions can be proud of their journey this season, although their wait for a first Brendan Martin Cup since 1993 continues.

“We asked the girls to be no shrinking violets out there today,” Long continued. “They left everything we had out there. I think Meath showed us a lot of respect, I don’t think they thought it was going to be an easy game today.

I think we’ve proven a lot of you folks wrong over the last 12 months. We’ve been written off countless times in every game this year and this group has stood up. The 36 girls out there have put in a huge shift since the first of November last year. Myself and Declan are just immensely proud of what they’ve done. I think we’ve put Kerry ladies football back on the map.

“I think the support that travelled to support those girls today was phenomenal and not something that we had expected. We’re back where we want to be next year in Division One football.

“We’ve a bit of work to do as we said to the group outside there. We’ve lost two games this year, but we’ve learnt an awful lot in those two losses. We’ll take this on the chin. We’ll go away and we’ll enjoy our group for the next couple of days. We’ll come back and our aim is to get back here again next year.”

Long also paid tribute to star forward Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh, who brought the curtain down on a stellar 15th season in the green and gold with a 1-2 tally in Croke Park.

She’s not one of Kerry’s greatest players, she is one of ladies football’s greatest players ever. You’re not going to get me to say anything otherwise. Louise speaks for herself, she’s been phenomenal for this group. On and off the field all year.

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“I think someone made the comment after her interview in the semi-final, the post-match interview after the Mayo game, that she had a smile on her face that she hasn’t had for a couple of years and she’s played like that all year. I have no doubt Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh will be back in pre-season training come the first weekend in November.”

Saluting the ‘Kerry Way’ the team is playing once more, he concluded: “Our average age there today is just over 23-years-old.

“The spine of our team is really experienced. Between Kayleigh [Cronin], Emma [Costello], Cáit [Lynch], Anna Galvin, Louise. We had Louise Galvin on the bench. It’s only going to stand to them, it’s only going to make them better.

“As I said, we’ll go away and we’ll learn from this. We’ll regroup and we’ll come with huge vigour and huge enthusiasm for next season.”

BTL 5

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Emma Duffy

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