IT turned out to be a close run thing in the finish as East Kerry gave the defending champions some nervous moments before Dr Crokes eventually booked their quarter-final place.
The three-in-a-row champions looked comfortable at 3-12 to 1-8 ahead with a quarter of the game to go. However, the district side put in a strong finish that saw them come within one score of levelling the contest before Brian Looney put over an insurance score for an eventual four point win.
Despite a large number of absentees on the day East Kerry will feel a major shock was on the cards had a number of chances gone the right way for them as Crokes needed Colm Cooper's craft to guide them through a testing encounter.
The club side looked good after 15 minutes leading by 0-6 to 0-1, Ryan O'Carroll missing a decent goal chance after five minutes for East Kerry when Jack Sherwood put him through. Gavin O'Shea had put over a patient move by the Crokes to put them five ahead before both sides exchanged goals within 60 seconds of each other. Carroll fed the ball to Colm O'Shea who was fouled inside the area and a penalty was awarded.
Liam Murphy duly obliged, but Crokes were swift in their response. Cooper and O'Shea combined to send Ambrose O'Donovan through and even though Colin Myers saved the midfielder's effort, the rebound was punted in by Brian Looney to quickly undo the damage at the other end. Alan O'Sullivan had another effort saved at point blank range from Myers soon after but goal number two for the Crokes came in the 29th minute when Kieran O'Leary powered home to give them a 2-8 to 1-4 lead at half-time.
Johnny Buckley was withdrawn as a precaution by the home side at half-time, Bryan McMahon taking his place at midfield while team captain Michael Moloney was replaced by David O'Leary early in the second-half. DJ O'Connor came in for East Kerry but the highlight of the early second-half exchanges was a 40 metre dash by Crokes defender Kieran Ward that saw him put over a fine point.
The Crokes' third goal came in the 38th minute when East Kerry substitute Matthew Culloty fouled O'Donovan and another penalty was given. Cooper sent Myers the wrong way and a free soon after saw him finish with 1-7 on the day.
Liam Murphy matched the Kerry star's total, however, and East Kerry seized on some complacency in the Crokes' ranks in the final quarter to keep the contest very much alive.
Daithi Casey's point in the 44th minute was Crokes' last until Looney's insurance effort. While the crossbar denied Casey a goal with five minutes to go, at the other end the gap was gradually coming down. East Kerry had seven points in succession, Jack Sherwood's effort in the 54th minute catching the eye. When DJ O'Connor's third point in the last minute of normal time went over, the game hung in the balance with only three points between the sides.
Looney was alert for his side when needed however as East Kerry's brave fight back was eventually overcome.
The district can take confidence for what was a solid display on limited resources but will wonder what might have happened had they stayed a little closer throughout.
Nothing was lost by the Crokes in last Sunday's win, but there plenty of things for them to work on ahead of the competition's resumption, whenever that will be.
Dr Crokes: David Moloney, John Payne, Michael Moloney, Kieran Ward (0-1), Fionn Fitzgerald, Eoin Brosnan, Shane Myers, Ambrose O'Donovan, Johnny Buckley, Alan O'Sullivan, Daithi Casey (0-1), Brian Looney (1-2), Kieran O'Leary (1-1), Colm Cooper (1-7, 5f), Gavin O'Shea (0-1) Subs: Brian McMahon for Buckley, David O'Leary for Michael Moloney and Shane Doolan for O'Shea
East Kerry: Colin Myers (Fossa), John O'Mahony (Firies), John Sheehan (Gneeveguilla), Anthony Wharton (Fossa), Danny Wren (Listry), Padraig O'Connor (Gneeveguilla), Jack Sherwood (Firies, 0-1), Fintan Coffey (Fossa, 0-1), Gary O'Sullivan (Listry), Mike Daly (Fossa), Mike O'Donoghue (Spa, 0-2), Ryan O'Carroll (do, 0-1), Colm O'Shea (Firies), Liam Murphy (Gneeveguilla, 1-7, 7f), Jeff O'Donoghue (Glenflesk) Subs: Dara Roche (Glenflesk) for Daly, Matthew Culloty (Glenflesk) for O'Mahony, DJ O'Connor (Gneeveguilla, 0-3, 2f) for Wren and Stephen Foley (Firies) for Jeff O'Donoghue
Referee: Pat Sheehy (Clounmacon)
Colm Cooper picked up where he left off from the previous Sunday in Fitzgerald Stadium. While the majority of his 1-7 total came from set pieces, it was his work off the ball in providing leadership that got Crokes through this interesting examination.
Have East Kerry shown a potential few chinks in the Crokes armour? Last Sunday was primarily about the win for the defending champions but this wasn't the same convincing nature that they showed a month earlier against Legion.