In a poor game the winners shot 18 wides to the losers’ 14 and Kerry manager Tom Howard, while delighted to have steered Kerry into another final, agreed the performance was sub-standard.
“I did not think that we played well at all,” he said.
“We were three points up at half time. It was anybody’s game and we felt the most important period of the game would be the first 15 minutes of the second half and we needed to take control.
“I suppose to that end we did, with an opportunist goal, and we took control then for 10 or 15 minutes. Then we kind of lost our way again, lost our shape, shooting from 70 and 80 yards out, looking for the hero scores, when we should have been landing the ball in the square and seeing what return we could get out of it.
“I would not be happy with the performance. We have plenty to work on because that display would not be good enough to win a Christy Ring Cup final against a Down or a Meath for sure.”
After Paul Divilly’s penalty was saved inside the opening minute Kildare never recovered and Kerry’s defence, inspired by Darragh O’Connell and Darren Dineen, held firm as the Kingdom established a 0-7 to 0-4 lead at the interval, with corner-forward Colm Harty firing over three points and Willie O’Dwyer two, all from play.
Kerry got the start they needed early in the second half when Shane Nolan struck a goal after Aidan Boyle dispossessed Kildare keeper Paul Dermody as he tried to clear.
The home side tacked on points from Daniel Collins, Darragh O’Connell, Brendan O’Leary and Aiden Boyle to go 1-11 to 0-6 clear by the 45th minute.
Kildare were totally reliant on free-taker Paul Divilly and with few ideas in attack, the game fizzed out.
The Kerry defence was the rock on which this win was built with O’Connell, Paud Costello, Liam Boyle, Darran Dineen and Tom Murnane outstanding throughout.
“I think it was maybe some of our fellas pressing the panic button a little, but our defence was excellent,” said Howard.
“I thought [O’Connell] had a slow enough start for such a good hurler, but he had a storming last 10 minutes of the first half and hurled very well for the second half, but to a man, you would have to be very happy with our backs.”
Kerry will face the winners of the Down/Meath replay in Saturday week’s final.
Scorers for Kerry: S Nolan 1-4 (0-2 free), C Harty 0-3, W O’Dwyer, D Collins 0-2 each, D O’Connell, B O’Leary, A Boyle 0-1 each.
Scorers for Kildare: P Divilly 0-6 (4f, 1 65), M Purcell, M Moloney, G Keegan, R Kelly, M Delaney 0-1 each.
KERRY: B Rochford; R Horgan, L Boyle, P Costello; D O’Connell, T Murnane, D Dineen; J Griffin, D Collins; B O’Leary, G O’Brien, W O’Dwyer; C Harty, A Boyle, S Nolan.
Subs: J Egan for G O’Brien (ht), P Boyle for a Boyle (60), S Maunsell for W O’Dwyer (65).
KILDARE: P Dermody; J Doran, F Ó Muineacháin, P Curtin; N Ó Muineacháin, P Keegan, P Reidy; M Moloney, D Butler; P Divilly, M Purcell, P Divilly; B Deay, T Murphy, G Keegan.
Subs: P Downey for D Harney (47), K Divilly for D Butler (47), R Kelly for M Purcell (50), E O’Neill for P Curtin (51), M Delaney for T Murphy (55).
Referee: F Horgan (Tipperary).