Galway came out on top by the narrowest of margins, 2-9 to 2-8, against Kildare in the Tesco Home Grown NFL semi-final in Banagher on Sunday.
The victory ensures Galway will now meet Kerry, who enjoyed a dominant 3-16 to 0-6 win over Westmeath, in the division two final on May 11.
Kerry and Galway are worthy finalists, having finished the league at the top with 17 championship points - Kerry enjoying a superior points difference. The two sides drew in their last meeting and all is now set for a cracker of a final.
However Galway manager Barry Downey says his team will have to step it up after last weekend’s narrow victory.
“It was great to get the win and the girls did well, but we didn’t really appreciate the way Kildare were going to take the game to us. It was a valuable exercise because now we know that we have things we need to work on before the final on May 11 because we’re going to have to step it up that bit more if we want to be able to compete with Kerry then.”
Downey said geting through to the final was exactly the kind of scenario the team had been building towards since reforming in January.
“It’s vital to still have competitive games to prepare for because we’re going straight into a Connacht final against Mayo, so you want to be as prepared as spossible in advance. And all the girls are working towards the common goal right across the panel. Four substitutes came in and they all did a job, that’s what you need at the end of the day.”
Last weekend Roisin Leonard kicked Galway into an early lead with just two minutes on the clock, but 10 minutes had lapsed before Galway registered another score. They then enjoyed a scoring surge with Aoibheann Daly and Edel Concannon finding the net, and Deirdre Brennan pointing before 15 minutes had elapsed.
Kildare soon found form through Johanna Connolly in the 22nd minute to keep the margin at just one point, and although the Galway goalkeeper pulled off another save in the 26th min, Kildare's Gillian Behan secured the goal on the rebound. Galway's backs misjudged the kickout and Maria Moolick earned Kildare's second goal in as many minutes to bring them right back into the game. Galway made one change at half time with Marion Hernon replacing Amy Rohan, but it was Kildare that started the better by getting two points in the first two minutes. Galway took control and replied with four points to give them a three point lead after 10 minutes. Kildare's Stacy Cannon brought the margin back to one with two points by the 17th minute.
Roisin Leonard gave Galway some breathing space with a point but two frees by Aine Gately levelled things with eight minutes left on the clock. Both sides had chances to win the game in the closing stages and an attack by Galway resulted in a free and Tuam/Cortoon's Edel Concannon kept a cool head to send Galway into the final against Kerry on May 11.