By Jackie Cahill
TWO late points from attacker Louise Ní Mhuircheartaigh sealed TG4 Munster ladies senior football championship glory for Kerry in Mallow on Saturday afternoon.
With the sides level late on, flame-haired ace Ní Mhuircheartaigh took matters into her own hands to drag the Kingdom across the line, as they ran out 1-14 to 3-6 winners against gritty Waterford.
In a gripping finish, Waterford moved ahead with a run of 1-1 without reply, Grainne Kenneally scoring a vital goal to help establish a 3-5 to 1-10 lead.
Ní Mhuircheartaigh then levelled matters with a free before Maria Delahunty inched Waterford, who had beaten Kerry in the round-robin series, ahead again.
But that proved to be Waterford's last score as Laura Rogers levelled matters, before Ní Mhuircheartaigh's late brace sealed the deal.
In what was a repeat of the 2003 final between the counties, Kerry won their first Munster senior crown since 2015 - and their third in five seasons.
Waterford, back in the final for the first time in ten years, were denied their first provincial win since 2002.
The sides were deadlocked at half-time, 0-6 to 1-3, after goalkeeper Katie Hannon netted a penalty for Waterford.
Waterford roared into an early 0-2 to 0-0 lead but the first score of the game didn't arrive until the 13th minute, when Delahunty slotted over a free.
Michelle Ryan's point stretched Waterford's advantage but Kerry responded with five unanswered points.
Hannon's penalty levelled matters but Kerry moved ahead again when Amanda Brosnan pointed.
The final say of the first half went to Delahunty - another free from a player blessed with ability in that facet of the game.
Kerry opened the second half with real intent, lancing three points in a row, but Delahunty's 41st minute goal had Waterford level at 2-3 to 0-9.
Kerry's response was immediate, Sarah Houlihan netting within a minute, but Waterford refused to die.
Aofie Murray's point kept them in touch and when Kenneally found the net, they were dreaming of ending a 15-year provincial senior drought.
But Graham Shine's Kerry held their nerve to advance to the All-Ireland quarter-finals, as Waterford head for the qualifiers, and a date with Laois or Cavan.
Meanwhile, Tipp retained their intermediate title, scoring a 4-9 to 1-14 victory over Clare, in what was a repeat of last year's decider.
Ailish Considine's goal helped Clare to lead by 1-10 to 0-4 at half-time but the Premier County came roaring back with a flurry of goals.
Aisling McCarthy and Roisin Howard were both on target - as lethal attacker Aishling Moloney bagged a brace.