Meath ladies were crowned Lidl National Football League Division 2 champions with a convincing final victory at the expense of Kerry.
The Royalettes were defeated by Kerry in the opening round of this year’s competition but produced a superb team display to seal their place in Division 1 for 2022, ending a seven-year wait for a return to the top division.
Back at Croke Park for the first time since their TG4 All-Ireland Intermediate Football Championship triumph against Westmeath last December, Meath went four points clear early on courtesy of a superb Niamh O’Sullivan effort and three successive Stacey Grimes frees.
The winners had a 0-7 – 0-2 cushion at the first-half water break.
Kerry had lost ace attacker Emma Dineen to the sin-bin on 12 minutes, but with the elusive Ní Mhuircheartaigh knocking over three unanswered points, they were firmly in contention upon her return.
Meath rediscovered their scoring touch just before the interval when Orlagh Lally released Emma Duggan for a well finished goal on 27 minutes. Lally followed up with a point of her own and wing-back Aoibheann Leahy was also on target as the Royals led 1-9 to 0-5 at half-time.
After Bridgetta Lynch and Grimes points stretched their advantage on the resumption, Meath were awarded a penalty when Kingdom skipper Aislinn Desmond was adjudged to have fouled Duggan inside the square.
Grimes blasted beyond the reach of Ciara Butler to give her team an 11-point advantage.
Grimes, first-half substitute Megan Thynne, and Vikki Wall proceeded to add to Meath’s tally, before Ní Mhuircheartaigh’s fifth of the game left Kerry 12 points adrift at the second water break.
Substitute Rachel Dwyer did find the net for the Kingdom in the 55th-minute, but Meath ended the days scoring with Lynch and Niamh Gallogly both chipping in with late points.
Scorers – Meath: S Grimes 1-5 (1-0 pen, 0-4f), E Duggan 1-0, B Lynch 0-3, E Troy 0-1, A Leahy 0-1, V Wall 0-1, M O’Shaughnessy 0-1, O Lally 0-1, N O’Sullivan 0-1, M Thynne 0-1, N Gallogly 0-1.
Kerry: L Ní Mhuircheartaigh 0-5 (3f), R Dwyer 1-0, H O’Donoghue 0-2, L Scanlon 0-1, A Galvin 0-1.
MEATH: M McGuirk; E Troy, MK Lynch, K Newe; A Leahy, A Cleary, O Byrne; V Wall, M O’Shaughnessy; S Ennis, S Grimes, O Lally; N O’Sullivan, E Duggan, B Lynch.
Subs: M Thynne for O’Sullivan (19), N Gallogly for Leahy (40), E White for Lynch (60), A O’Sullivan for McGuirk (60).
KERRY: C Butler; J O’Sullivan, A Desmond, C Murphy; A O’Connell, K Cronin, C Lynch; L Scanlon, N Carmody; L Galvin, E Dineen, A Galvin; N Ní Chonchúir, H O’Donoghue, L Ní Mhuircheartaigh.
Subs: A Murphy for Dineen (34), D O’Leary for Ní Chonchúir (34), M O’Connell for O’Sullivan (41), R Dwyer for A Galvin (41), M O’Connell for L Galvin (49).
Referee: Barry Redmond (Wexford).