Rated as short as 1/50 with the bookmakers, the hosts looked good in the first half, but allowed 14-man Waterford into the game after half-time.
Kerry manager Mick Ned O’Sullivan would have liked it done in a better fashion.
“It’s a work-in-progress,” he said.
“We played well against the wind for 20 minutes in the first half but then I felt the lads stood back and thought that they had their job done. Young lads can take their foot off the pedal, they’re only learning to be ruthless and they’re not ruthless yet anyway.”
While Conor Gleeson’s free had equalised Jack Savage’s opener for the hosts, Micheál Burns restored Kerry’s lead and then, in the ninth minute, wing-back David Foran’s surging run was rewarded as Savage’s flick fell into his hands and he swept his finish past Craig Brown.
Playing with the wind, Kerry were stronger in all areas as Waterford suffered a lack of chances to get together since beating Limerick in the first round. With the benefit of three games before this, it looked like the Kerry management were close to their best. Cian O’Connor, who came into midfield alongside Kieran Murphy, dominated the skies while Horan, who was in the half-forward line, exerted more influence from centre-forward.
Goalscorer Foran had gone in the opposite direction, but was still a threat from deep, while Éanna Ó Conchúir, who was earlier deployed in midfield, formed a fluid full-forward line with captain Savage and Conor Keane.
Both corner-forwards benefited from nice interplay to boost their tallies in the first half while Killian Spillane also looked bright at times, and Keane’s point from Savage’s pass made it 1-6 to 0-2 by the 16th minute.
Defensive questions remained for Kerry, however. A storming run from Waterford midfielder Tom Devine resulted in a goal chance for full-forward Kevin Daly then, but Kerry keeper Shane Ryan saved well, not for the first time in Kerry’s provincial campaign.
By half-time, Kerry’s lead was 1-9 to 0-4, and it would have been more had Keane not shot wide from close range after he had done well to bring down an Éanna Ó Conchúir delivery.
With only Willie Hahessy getting on the scoresheet for Waterford alongside Gleeson, however, the visitors’ task going into the second half was a big one, and it became even more difficult when full-back Tomás Cooney was sent off for two bookings within five minutes of the restart, Savage extending Kerry’s lead with a free.
Just as he had during the first half, though, Devine slalomed through the Kerry cover from midfield, this time opting to shoot himself, firing high past Ryan to leave six points in it.
After Waterford’s Paul O’Connor answered Savage’s sixth point with a free at the other end, the same gap — 1-11 to 1-5 — pertained with fewer than 20 minutes left. Kerry’s attacking play was not as keyed in as the first half, Savage’s free-taking reliability notwithstanding, and Waterford goalkeeper Brown had more than one point attempt drop into his grasp.
Matthew Flaherty should also have scored a second Kerry goal but he shot high and wide, but when Waterford won a 54th-minute penalty after a footblock on Hahessy’s effort, Cormac Curran put his effort outside the post.
When they were awarded another as Ryan was judged to have fouled Devine, Gleeson took it and scored, but it was too late to matter.
Scorers for Kerry: J Savage 0-8 (0-7 frees), C Keane 0-4, D Foran 1-0, T Brosnan (free), M Burns, K Spillane 0-1 each.
Scorers for Waterford: C Gleeson 1-2 (1-0 penalty, 0-2 frees), T Devine 1-0, W Hahessy, P O’Connor (frees) 0-2 each.
KERRY: S Ryan; B Sugrue, C Ó Lúing, F Clifford; M Flaherty, P Ó Conchúir, D Foran; K Murphy, C O’Connor; K Spillane, G Horan, M Burns; C Keane, É Ó Conchúir, J Savage. Subs: T O’Sullivan for Sugrue (half-time), B O’Sullivan for Murphy (49), T Brosnan for Savage (55).
WATERFORD: C Brown; D Ryan, T Cooney, J Mullaney; B O’Keeffe, B Looby, M Shine; C Curran, T Devine; J Curry, C Gleeson, W Hahessy; M Troy, K Daly, P O’Connor. Subs: J Allen for Daly (37), C Murray for Troy (43), M Casey for Hahessy (45-47, blood), Casey for Curry (59).
Referee: K Murphy.