By Jackie Cahill at St Brendan’s Park, Birr
Kerry 3-19 Waterford 3-10
Sarah Houlihan was the scourge of Waterford again as Kerry stormed into the TG4 All-Ireland ladies senior football quarter-finals for a ninth successive year.
Houlihan collected 1-6 when the sides met in the Munster championship and she was on song again in Birr, notching seven of her nine points from play.
Bernie Breen, Emma Sherwood and Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh chipped in with goals for the Kingdom as they set up a last-eight clash with Ulster champions Monaghan on August 20.
But it wasn’t until the second half that Kerry pulled away as Waterford trailed by just two points at half-time – 1-7 to 1-9 – but they needed to be closer or ahead having played with the breeze from the start.
And Kerry unloaded with a run of 1-7 without reply in an 11-minute spell after the break to move out of danger.
While Kerry will be happy with the tally of 3-19 they racked up, the concession of 3-10 is a cause for concern.
And they got off to the worst possible start when Gráinne Kenneally, who scored goals in both halves, netted for Waterford with just 25 seconds on the clock.
Kerry’s response was good, however, as they reeled off three points to level and the sides were deadlocked on four occasions within the first 15 minutes.
Kerry didn’t get ahead for the first time until the 12th minute, when Houlihan pointed, and the prolific Beaufort ace had four points on the board by half-time, including three from play.
Kerry’s crucial first-half goal came from midfielder and former skipper Breen, who was on hand to slot the ball home from close range after an extremely patient build-up.
Ní Mhuircheartaigh provided the killer pass and Breen stayed cool to side-step a defender and find the net in the 16th minute.
At the other end, Edel Murphy pulled off an excellent double-save as Caoimhe McGrath and Kenneally threatened and Kerry had their biggest lead of the half, 1-9 to 1-5, six minutes before the break.
By the 22nd minute, Kerry had five of their six forwards on target and Laura Rogers tried her luck at goal from an acute angle but Katie Hannon comfortably saved.
With the breeze advantage in the first half, Waterford needed a lead of some kind but despite hitting the ground running with that Kenneally goal, they were playing catch-up ahead of the second half.
Kerry stepped on the gas after the break, with Emma Sherwood goaling in the 39th minute after hard-working Rogers provided the assist.
And there were more goals to come as goalkeeper and captain for the day, Katie Hannon, finally opened Waterford’s second half account with a 43rd minute penalty goal after Kenneally was fouled.
Ní Mhuircheartaigh was the next player to raise a green flag three minutes later, reacting quickest after Houlihan’s shot was saved by Hannon, but Kenneally replied in kind within a minute as Waterford kept plugging away.
But Kerry comfortably kept Waterford at bay during a ten-minute spell when Denise Hallissey was off the pitch – the wing-back sin-binned for the foul on Kenneally for Waterford’s penalty.
And Waterford, without the Ryan sisters due to a family wedding, had Kenneally sin-binned in the final minute as their championship season ended with a heavy defeat.
Scorers for Kerry: S Houlihan 0-9 (2f), L Ní Mhuircheartaigh 1-2, B Breen 1-1, E Sherwood 1-0, L Rogers 0-3, L Scanlon 0-2, J Lynch & A Murphy 0-1 each.
Scorers for Waterford: G Kenneally 2-0, M Delahunty 0-6 (3f, 1 45), R Tobin 0-2, L McGregor & N Fennell 0-1 each.
KERRY: E Murphy; A O’Connell, A Desmond, K O’Sullivan; D Hallissey, C Kelly, E Lynch; B Breen, E Sherwood; L Rogers, L Scanlon, J Lynch; S Houlihan, A Brosnan, L Ní Mhuircheartaigh.
Subs: A Galvin for Brosnan (39), A Leonard for E Lynch (48), C Buckley for J Lynch (54), A Murphy for Rogers (54), C O’Sullivan for Houlihan (54).
WATERFORD: K Hannon; L Wall, M McGrath, M Dunford; A Mullaney, M Wall, H Power; K McGrath, C McGrath; E Murray, M Delahunty, R Tobin; L McGregor, G Kenneally, A Wall.
Subs: K Murray for McGregor (39), S Dunphy for Mullaney (42), N Fennell for K McGrath (50), C Hurley for L Wall (54), C Fennell for Power (60).
Referee: M Kenny (Mayo).