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Kerry hang on against Galway to round off league campaign with another win

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Adam Moynihan reports from Fitzgerald Stadium

National Football League: Division 1

Kerry 0-15 Galway 1-10

They made harder work of it than they needed to but Kerry won their final league game of 2024 at a dull and dreary Fitzgerald Stadium today – although, as it turned out, the result itself was largely irrelevant.

Jack O’Connor’s men knew they were unlikely to overtake Dublin and book a place in the league final even if they held up their end of the bargain, and that’s exactly how it transpired as the Dubs hammered Tyrone in Croke Park.

Galway knew that they would be safe - even if they lost - as long as Roscommon also lost to Derry, and that’s exactly how it transpired as Derry won easily in Celtic Park.

The game ended in a flurry of excitement nevertheless when Tomo Culhane’s 68th-minute goal cut the deficit from six to three, but Kerry held on to finish their campaign on 10 points, level with finalists Dublin but ultimately ranked lower on head-to-head.

Derry will play Dublin in the Division 1 final next Sunday. Roscommon will join Monaghan in Division 2 in 2025.

Kerry now have a four-week break before their next competitive match: the Munster semi-final (probably against Cork) on April 20.

SLOW START

The hosts were slow enough out of the blocks, which was perhaps understandable given the lowkey lineup they fielded and the low stakes nature of the fixture from their perspective. They did manage to take the lead via a fisted effort by Joe O’Connor within 25 seconds but Galway seized the initiative thereafter as two marks by Rob Finnerty and a long-range effort by Cillian Ó Curraoin made it 0-3 to 0-1 in Pádraic Joyce's team's favour.

Some fine shooting by the returning Killian Spillane (two) and Stephen O’Brien kept Kerry within striking distance heading into the final five minutes of a low-scoring first half. Ater Johnny Heaney swung over a lovely point for the visitors, Kerry finished the half in the ascendancy as Darragh Roche, Seánie O’Shea and Killian Spillane kicked them into a two-point half-time lead (0-8 to 0-6).

With midfielders Joe O’Connor and Barry Dan O’Sullivan dominating the skies, The Kingdom pushed on in the third quarter. They kicked the first three points of the period through O’Shea, full debutant Armin Heinrich and Paul Geaney, before Heaney ended Galway’s 18-minute scoreless run in the 49th minute.

CLIFFORDS

The Clifford brothers were held in reserve until the 50-minute mark and both Paudie and David got their names on the scoresheet when they were introduced. David’s 64th minute free means his incredible scoring streak is still going; he has now registered at least 0-1 in all 67 of his appearances for the Kerry seniors.

When O’Shea made it 0-15 to 0-8 two minutes later it should have been game over but a point by John Daly narrowed the deficit to two goals.

Then Culhane was teed up by Finnerty (after Johnny Heaney turned over Gavin White from a short Shane Ryan kickout) and the super sub made no mistake to make for an exciting last few minutes.

Paul Conroy worked an opening and nailed a shot to make it a two-point game, and Kerry’s hearts were in their mouths when Heaney’s probing ball into the mixer was attacked by keeper Connor Gleeson in the last play of the game.

Luckily for Kerry the ball deflected away from danger, and they will head off for their training camp in Portugal on Monday week on the back of three straight wins.

KERRY: S Ryan; P Murphy, D Casey, A Heinrich 0-1; Seán O’Brien, T Morley, G White; BD O’Sullivan, J O’Connor 0-1; A Spillane, P Geaney 0-1, Stephen O’Brien 0-1; K Spillane 0-4 (1f), D Roche 0-1, S O’Shea 0-4 (2f).

Subs: P Clifford 0-1 for Geaney; D Clifford 0-1f for Roche; G O’Sullivan for Heinrich; B Ó Beaglaoich for Murphy; R Buckley for Stephen O’Brien.

GALWAY: C Gleeson; J McGrath, S Fitzgerald, E Kelly; D McHugh 0-1, J Daly 0-1, L Silke; P Conroy 0-2, J Maher; J Heaney 0-2, C Darcy, C Sweeney 0-1; R Cunningham, R Finnerty 0-2m, C Ó Curraoin 0-1.

Subs: D O’Flaherty for Cunningham; T Culhane 1-0 for Darcy; P Egan for Ó Curraoin; J Glynn for Silke; K Molloy for McHugh.

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‘There’s definitely more in me’ – Leahy feeling positive after close-run thing at nationals

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Kerry woman Sarah Leahy chats to Adam Moynihan about her recent outing at the National Outdoor Championships in Dublin. The Killarney Valley AC sprinter competed with the best of the best, including new Irish record holder Rhasidat Adeleke.

Adam Moynihan: You recently took part in the 100m final at the National Championships. How was that experience for you?

Sarah Leahy: Atmosphere-wise it was absolutely amazing. Just very good energy all around. And coming out for the final, obviously, Rhasidat brought a massive crowd. So that was really cool to be a part of because I don’t think there’s ever been a crowd that big at nationals before. To be in the final where so many people were there to watch her was obviously amazing.

What about the race itself?

I came fifth and ran a time of 11.74. On the day, with the whole excitement of it all, I was actually really happy with that. I was a bit disappointed but I was like, it’s a great day overall. I ran well, didn’t get a medal but I was really close. I didn’t get the perfect start like I did in the heat. So I was a little bit behind, but I just managed to come fifth in the end.

A week on, the excitement has kind of worn off, and I think there’s definitely a lot more in me. I could’ve pipped the third place But yeah, it is what it is. It was still good. I’m happy with it.

It was very tight for third place, wasn’t it?

Yeah, it was two-or-three-hundredths of a second and it was a blanket finish for four of us. So it was close but no cigar. Not this time. I came fifth last year as well, so I was hoping for at least fourth this year, but it ended up being the same. At least it wasn’t sixth! And there’s definitely more in me as well. Time-wise I’m just waiting for it to kind of happen a little bit. I believe it will. It was amazing to be in a race where a national record was broken.

And the standard was obviously very high across the board. All the big names were there.

It was a very high standard, yeah. Going in we kind of knew that first and second were gone (to Adeleke and Sarah Lavin). Everyone else was battling for that third medal and only one person could get it in the end. (Mollie O’Reilly got the bronze.) We were all close.

But overall I was super grateful to be in the mix, especially in a race that was that big. It’s one that will go down in history. It was a massive weekend and it was very enjoyable.

Rhasidat is a massive superstar now. What’s it like to run alongside her?

Rhasidat is a great athlete and a very nice girl. As you can see in interviews, she’s very humble. So to compete next to her, to literally be running in the lane right beside her, was amazing. I couldn’t have asked for more from the day in that respect. I thought she might have ran sub-11 because she did it before but she still got a national record. To be part of that race was a big deal for me.

Athletics in Ireland seems to be in a good place, particularly after the success the Irish team had in the recent European Championships in Rome. Does it feel like the sport is getting more attention and more recognition these days?

Oh 100%. Support for athletics has grown hugely in the last few years and I think it’ll continue to grow, especially with the success that Ireland had at the European Championships. I think the Olympics this year is going to drive that on even more because we have such great athletes going. The support is growing and rightfully so. The athletes are really getting the recognition they deserve. I think the future is very exciting for athletics in Ireland.

What about your own career? What’s next for you?

I have one last race of the season left, which is at the AAI Games on Sunday in Dublin. I’m hoping to just get a good run out, a good time, and execute the race well. Training will continue until the end of July, I’ll get a month off, and then we’re back training for indoors next year. I love indoors. I think I excel at that. There’s European Indoors and World Indoors next year, so to qualify for them would be a huge, huge goal.

As for outdoors, I’d like to get on the Irish relay team, but I’ll be focussing on indoors first. It should be a good year.

Are you enjoying it?

Yeah, I’m really enjoying it. I think sometimes you might put too much pressure on yourself and try to get a PB in every race but this year I’ve really learned that I’ve done the training, so it will happen when it happens. Just go out and run and let your body do its thing. And I’m actually really enjoying competing this year. I know I’m going to continue enjoying it for the next few years.

With the surrounding support of the club and coaches and my training group, it’s all going really well for me at the moment. I have no complaints at all. I’m very lucky.

Thanks for your time, Sarah, and all the best for the rest of the season.

Thank you very much, Adam. It was lovely talking to you.

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Kingdom ladies hoping for repeat performance against Royals

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LGFA All-Ireland Senior Championship Quarter-Final

Kerry v Meath

Saturday 5.15pm

Austin Stack Park

Live on TG4

Just like they did in 2023, the Kerry ladies will take on Meath in the All-Ireland quarter-final in Tralee this weekend and a repeat of the result they earned that wintry day 12 months ago will do just fine.

Last year’s encounter at Stack Park was a classic game of two halves as the home team ran up a 10-point lead with the unseasonable elements at their collective back.

Meath, who at the time were on the hunt for their third All-Ireland in a row, fought back admirably in the second period but the Kerry women held firm and won by four (2-8 to 0-10) after an emotionally charged final quarter.

Síofra O’Shea was Kerry’s top scorer on the day with 1-1 and her return from injury in recent weeks is a major boost to Darragh Long and Declan Quill’s squad.

The Kingdom made light work of Meath when the sides met in the league in March as Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh kicked 0-8 in a 1-15 to 0-5 victory. Shane McCormack’s charges subsequently lost to Dublin in the Leinster final by 18 points before finishing second to Armagh in the All-Ireland group stage.

Marion Farrelly, Emma Duggan and Meadhbh Byrne caught the eye in their recent win over Tipperary, combining for 2-11 of the team’s total of 2-15.

Former Player of the Year Vikki Wall could be in line for a dramatic comeback after a spell with the Ireland Rugby Sevens team.

As for Kerry, they should arrive at the last eight in decent spirits having put in their best display of the season so far against Waterford three weeks ago. The Munster champions were excellent and eventually ran out 4-13 to 0-9 winners with skilful forward Hannah O’Donoghue (1-3) and all-action half back Aishling O’Connell (0-2) particularly impressive.

Meath are a capable opponent on their day, though, so another professional performance will be required if Kerry want to keep their All-Ireland dream alive.

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