However, coach Eddie Murphy was a relieved man:
"Going into this game we were short Shane Brick and Michael Conway, two of our best scoring forwards, while Darren Young was on holiday, and without them our scoring power was depleted.
"For us to get to this stage is unbelievable, to be playing Limerick next weekend with the pick we have."
Delighted and relieved also was team manager Maurice Leahy, but the former Newtownshandrum player had even more reason to be concerned.
Playing with a strong breeze, Kerry shot from the blocks, led 0-3 to 0-0 before Derry even raised a gallop, yet with just 10 minutes to go to the break, it was all square, 0-6 apiece.
As the Kerry attack began to stutter, their defence started to concede very stupid frees.
Stupid on two counts because in the first instance most of those frees were of the innocuous variety, called admittedly by an over-fussy referee, but even more stupid because, in Oliver Collins, Derry have one of the great placed ball exponents in hurling.
The centre-forward had all those six opening Derry points, went on to score a mind-boggling 15, all but one from frees.
In those last ten minutes, Kerry picked it up again, with two pointed frees from their most impressive forward Michael Slattery n the 35th minute, Slattery picked the pocket of Derry full-back Emmet McKeever, and broke through one-on-one on keeper Kieran Stevenson, finished emphatically to the net.
Two minutes later, direct from a huge goal-line clearance from Kerry keeper John Healy, the ball dropped in behind the Derry defence and John Mike Daly, the other Kerry corner-forward, dummied the unfortunate Stevenson, ball in net again, Kerry 2-8 to 0-6 ahead at the break.
As a contest the game improved somewhat after a restart that was delayed by some petty gamesmanship from Derry (went back into the dressing-room when Kerry were slow to come out), but not as a spectacle.
A monotonous procession of Kerry indiscretions, punished by Collins, brought Derry within two goals, 2-11 to 0-11, in the 55th minute, before we had the first Derry score from play, the first also from a player other than Oliver Collins, with midfielder Gregory Biggs striking over.
Three minutes later, full-forward Michael Conway, who had otherwise been completely spancilled by the very impressive Aidan Healy, hit a strong ground shot across John Healy and Derry were within a goal.
Struggling for possession in the midfield area, the Kerry sideline had moved Slattery to wing-forward and he was to play a vital role in those nail-biting final minutes.
Scored two points, made another for Billy Brick, and Kerry hung on, just about, but it simply won't be good enough against Limerick.
Scorers Kerry: M. Slattery 1-8 (0-5 frees, 0-1 65); JM Dooley 1-1; P. O'Connell 0-3; B. Brick, G. O'Brien, K. O'Sullivan, 0-1 each.
Derry: O. Collins 0-15 (0-14 frees); M. Conway 1-0; G. Biggs 0-1.
KERRY: J. Healy; T. Cronin, A. Healy, I. Brick; J. McCarthy, C. Flaherty, C. Harris; A. Cronin, P. Cronin; L. Boyle, B. Brick, P. O'Connor; JM
Dooley, G. O'Brien, M. Slattery. Subs: K. O'Sullivan (Boyle 47); H. Twomey (McCarthy 53); M. Lucid (A. Cronin 65).
DERRY: K. Stevenson; K. Hinphey, E. McKeever, B. Ward; C. Brunton, D. Magill, P. O'Kane; A.
McChrystal, G. Biggs; L. Hinphey, O. Collins, R. Convery; D. McGrellis, M. Conway, C. McKeever. Subs: J. O'Dwyer (C. McKeever 33); G. Brunton (Ward 35+2); P. Cartin (K. Hinphey 47); M. Collins (O'Dwyer 57); R. Kennedy (Convery 58).
Referee: E. Morris (Dublin). Far too fast on that whistle.