Antrim stand in the way of Kerry in next weekend’s promotion/relegation play-off, and after this five-goal demolition of Westmeath, the Kingdom should hold no fear of the northerners.
In the early stages of the first-half Kerry realised that the route to victory came through the high ball, and they continually peppered the Westmeath square with aerial deliveries.
Eventually after 18 minutes of being taken apart with Kerry striking for five goals Westmeath’s hopes of victory lay in tatters, for the third time in the last four years.
Mikey Boyle was most impressive inside and hit two goals before the break, while Shane Nolan, Colm Harty and Keith Carmody all hit the net for Kerry between the fifth and 23rd minutes.
“It’s a long time since they went back to back league titles and they are one step away from playing against Clare, Waterford and Limerick and these kind of teams,” said Kerry boss Eamonn Kelly.
“We have to get our feet back on the ground, we were here last year, but the competition we have focused on is the Christy Ring and we need to get back down to earth and get ready for Down.”
Derek McNicholas hit a goal in each half for Westmeath and the impressive Darragh Clinton also hit the net a minute from time to put respectability on the final scoreline.
That late comeback might have been transformed into the possibility of a late win had Brendan Murtagh been awarded a goal after the restart.
It was the major talking point afterwards as Murtagh saw his goal from a free chalked off when he infringed across the 20 metre line in the 41st minute.
Had it stood just seven points would have separated the sides, and the Lakesmen’s manager Michael Ryan lamented the decision, despite admitting his side were second best.
“Right through the field I thought Kerry were superior. I though they played great hurling, their first touch and their use of the ball was excellent.
“But Brendan Murtagh’s goal was a tough call. The linesman said he was six inches inside the line when he struck the ball. That would have brought it back to five or six points and it would have been manageable,” said the former Waterford manager.
Last month Westmeath inflicted Kerry’s only league defeat – by 15 points in Tralee – but this convincing reversal sets up a promotion/relegation play-off against Antrim next weekend, 12 months on from their defeat to Offaly at the same stage.
Manager Kelly said last year’s disappointment was not a motivational factor, but the more recent loss to the Lakesmen.
“We were up for it big time,” said Kelly. “They gave us an awful beating there a few weeks ago and it was probably the wake up call we needed.
“Bit it’s important to kick on, it’s another great game for us. I haven’t look at to to be honest, we didn’t look past Westmeath.
“They are a very good side, we got a great start, credit to them they came back to us. Next weekend is for this evening and tomorrow, we’ll look at it at that stage.”
M Boyle 2-2, P Boyle 0-7 (6f), S Nolan 1-3, C Harty 1-2, K Carmody 1-0, J Griffin, P Kelly, J Flaherty 0-1 each.
D Clinton 1-4, D McNicholas 2-1, N O’Brien 0-5 (5f), B Murtagh (1f), C Boyle 0-2 each, E Price, A Devine, N Dowdall 0-1 each.
J Logue; D Fitzell, D Dineen, B Murphy; S Weir, D Collins, P Costello; J Griffin, P Kelly; M O’Leary, S Nolan, C Harty; M Boyle, P Boyle, K Carmody.
J Egan for O’Leary (31), P Lucid for J Griffin (56-60 blood), J Flaherty for Egan (57), T Casey for Carmody (64), P Lucid for Harty (66), A Royle for Weir (69).
P Collins; S Power, T Doyle, A Price; G Greville, A Clarke, L Varley; E Price, J Clarke; A Devine, B Murtagh, R Greville; N O’Brien, D McNicholas, D Clinton.
A Craig for A Price (16), C Boyle for Varley (h-t), A McGrath for J Clarke (47), N Dowdall for Devine (54), E Corrigan for O’Brien (61).
Tony Carroll (Offaly)