In the end, it was all too comfortable for Kerry. But it mattered little, the result they needed from Pearse Stadium didn't materialise.
Having recovered from an early wobble, helped largely by the first-half dismissal of Neil Flynn for a challenge on Killian Young, attention at Fitzgerald Stadium turned to matters up west. It wasn’t good. Kerry needed a Galway victory. Instead, Monaghan were cruising. It was no surprise then to see Kerry followers pouring out of the Killarney venue with a quarter of an hour remaining. Their season was done, irrespective of the final winning margin over the Lilywhites.
At half-time, the mood in the terraces was sour enough. The hosts were fortunate to be just four adrift, 1-12 to 1-8, with only Paul Geaney and David Clifford putting in shifts of which could be deemed above average.
Within 47 seconds of the restart, mind, the outlook had changed considerably, David Clifford punishing a mistake by Kildare ‘keeper Mark Donnellan to secure their second goal. Paul Geaney subsequently had them level and while a Kevin Feely free momentarily edged Kildare back in front, the Munster champions kicked 1-8 on the bounce to open up a 10-point lead, 3-17 to 1-13.
The one-way nature of proceedings continued right to the end, Donnellan having to make a number of fine stops to prevent further Kerry green flags.
Kildare finished with 13 men as Mick O’Grady joined Neil Flynn in being sent off on a straight red card. The visitors kicked 1-3 in the entire second period.
It was a strange first-half here in Killarney; it was as if Kildare were fighting for their championship lives and Kerry had nothing to play for, their summer fate already decided.
When Paul Cribbin kicked his fifth point from play in the 32nd minute, the visitors to Killarney held a scarcely believable 1-12 to 1-6 lead.
Cian O’Neill’s charges didn’t hang about in exploiting - and punishing - the casual nature of Kerry’s play. Three-in-a-row from Kevin Flynn, Paul Cribbin and Niall Kelly moved Kildare into a double-scores, 0-8 to 0-4, advantage. Kerry spent much of the opening quarter going route one, but to little joy, with Mick O’Grady getting the better of Kieran Donaghy the first three times the ball was pumped in over the top.
A 1-2 burst had Kerry, though undeserving of it, in front for the first time in proceedings. The Kerry goal was a David Clifford penalty on 23 minutes after David Moran, fed by Geaney, was upended.
Kildare’s reply, however, was to kick 1-3. A beautiful Chris Healy pass picked out Neil Flynn for the Kildare major, with Paul Cribbin subsequently swelling his personal tally.
Kildare’s six-point advantage became less stable when Flynn was sent off and they offered little or no resistance upon the change of ends.
Scorers for Kerry: D Clifford (2-5); J O’Donoghue (1-2); S O’Shea (0-5, 0-3 frees, 0-2 ‘45s); J Barry (0-3); P Geaney (0-1 free), M Burns (0-2 each); D Moran, S O’Brien, K Donaghy, T Morley, K McCarthy (0-1 each),
Scorers for Kildare: P Cribbin (1-5); N Flynn (1-3, 0-1 free, 0-1 ‘45); K Feely (0-3, 0-3 frees); P Kelly, J Byrne, K Flynn, T Moolick, N Kelly (0-1 each).
Kerry: B Kelly; J Foley, P Crowley, T O’Sullivan; P Murphy, K Young, G White; D Moran, J Barry; M Burns, S O’Shea, S O’Brien; D Clifford, K Donaghy, P Geaney.
Subs: J O’Donoghue for Donaghy, K McCarthy for Young (HT): D O’Sullivan for Burns (57); T Morley for Foley (59); A Maher for O’Shea (62); B Begley for White (69, inj)
Kildare: M Donnellan; P Kelly, M O’Grady, D Hyland; K Flynn, E Doyle, J Byrne; F Conway, T Moolick; K Cribbin, P Cribbin, P Brophy; N Kelly, K Feely, N Flynn.
Subs: C Healy for K Cribbin (26); J Murray for Hyland (bc, HT): C Nally for N Kelly (47); E Callaghan for Conway (50); F Dowling for Moolick (55); M Hyland for P Kelly (61)
Referee: D O’Mahoney (Tipperary).