A 63rd minute point from Danielle O'Leary gave the Kerry ladies the narrowest of wins over Waterford in an entertaining Division 1 opener at Piltown this afternoon (1-9 to 1-8).
The Déise fought back from six points down after seven minutes to draw level entering the closing stages. Player of the match Emma Murray scored three points from number six. Two frees dropped short from the home side before O'Leary kicked the winner. Captain Síofra O'Shea shot 1-4 for the Kingdom.
Kerry took the field with seven starters from last year's All Ireland final (Eilís Lynch, Emma Costello, Aishling O’Connell, Lorraine Scanlon, Siofra O'Shea, Niamh Carmody and Danielle O’Leary). Evelyn O'Brien made her senior debut between the posts for Waterford.
The visitors raced six points up after seven minutes. Niamh Carmody kicked two early points and made a block at the other end. Midfielder Lorraine Scanlon also raised a white flag. In the seventh minute, Niamh Ní Chonchúir set up Síofra O'Shea for a three pointer (1-3 to 0-0).
Sheena McGuckian nearly connected with a dangerous cross for Waterford before number six Emma Murray put the home side on the scoreboard after 14 minutes. The Comeragh Rangers player added a second.
On 20 minutes, Aoibhe Waring, Murray and Kate McGrath combined to supply Lauren McGregor who found the net from close range (1-4 to 1-2).
O'Shea and McMaugh traded points. The green and gold lost Carmody to injury but two injury time frees from O'Shea gave them a 1-7 to 1-3 advantage at the break.
Seven minutes into the second period, Emma Murray cruised past three players before she curled over her third point off her right boot. The score of the afternoon. Three Kellyann Hogan singles (two from play) and one from Brid McMaugh levelled the match for the first time with six minutes left. Driven forward by Murray and Megan Dunford, Pat Sullivan's side looked the most likely victors. Kerry called on All Star attacker Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh off the bench.
Two Hogan frees dropped short as Waterford chased a winner. Three minutes into injury time, Danielle O'Leary found it. Waterford launched one last attack but couldn't get a shot away before Jonathan Murphy's final whistle.
Scorers for Kerry: S O'Shea 1-4 (4fs), N Carmody 0-2, L Scanlon, D O'Leary, H O'Donoghue 0-1 each.
Scorers for Waterford: L McGregor 1-0, K Hogan (1f), E Murray 0-3 each, B McMaugh 0-2.
Kerry: M E Bolger; E Lynch, E Costello, A Dillane; N Broderick, A O'Connell, L Galvin; L Scanlon, M O'Connell; N Carmody, S O'Shea, C Evans; N Ní Chonchúir, D O'Leary, H O'Donoghue.
Subs: K Brosnan for Carmody (23), C Lynch for L Galvin (38), C Murphy for Broderick (38), L Ní Mhuircheartaigh for Ní Chonchúir (43), P Diggin for M O'Connell (43), C O'Brien for Dillane (46), A Galvin for Brosnan (51), R Dwyer for Evans (53).
Waterford: E O'Brien; Kate McGrath, M Dunford, A Murray; E Power, E Murray, H Power; K Hogan, A Waring; C McCarthy, L McGregor, A O'Neill; S McGuckian, B McMaugh, A Fitzgerald.
Subs: Karen McGrath for McCarthy (43), C Hynes for McGuckian (43).
Referee: J Murphy (Carlow)