McNicholas slip saves Kerry
Kerry 3-13 Westmeath 2-15
A last-gasp slip by Westmeath's otherwise-outstanding Derek McNicholas as he attempted to strike a 72nd-minute free enabled Kerry to eke out a fortunate third successive win in Mullingar.
Westmeath had gone into the game on the back of two poor performances against London (a draw) and Derry (a heavy defeat) and much talked-of unrest in the camp, but they hurled with great spirit and were unlucky not to claim at least a share of the points.
Kerry led by 0-5 to 0-3 midway through the first half when McNicholas' deft touch at the end of Ciaran Curley's delivery earned his side a goal. The home side were full value for an interval lead of 1-8 to 0-7.
Westmeath were two points up when Kerry's David Butler poked the ball to the net in the 42nd minute to nudge the visitors in front.
A soft goal from Noel Conaty put the midlanders four points to the good, but a goal apiece from Kerry subs Paudie O'Connor and Padraig Boyle had them ahead by the narrowest of margins entering added-time.
McNicholas was fouled on the 45-metre line with seconds left, and he was unfortunate to slip as he lined up a potentially equalising free in the last action of an enjoyable game.
Scorers – Kerry: S Nolan 0-7 (3fs, 1 '65'), P Boyle 1-1, D Butler, P O'Connor 1-0 each, M Boyle 0-3, C Harty, D Dineen 0-1 each. Westmeath: D McNicholas 1-5 (0-2 '65s', 1f), N Conaty 1-3 (0-3fs), A Devine 0-2, D Gavin, A McGrath, C Curley, A Craig, R Greville 0-1 each.
Kerry – T Flynn 6; B Murphy 6, J Casey 5, D Fitzell 6; S Weir 6, J Leahy 5, K Carmody 6; D O'Connell 6, D Dineen 7; M Boyle 8, D Collins 6, C Harty 6; S Nolan 8, A Boyle 5, D Butler 6. Subs: T Murnane 6 for Casey (22), P Boyle 7 for A Boyle (h-t), P O'Connor 6 for Leahy (h-t), K Orpen 6 for Fitzell (55), B Brosnan for Dineen (65).
Westmeath – P Collins 7; G Greville 7, T Doyle 8, P Fennell 6; D Fennell 6, A Craig 6, P Reilly 6; C Curley 6, P Gilsenan 7; R Greville 6, D McNicholas 7, D Gavin 6; N Conaty 5, A McGrath 6, A Devine 6. Sub: T Gallagher 6 for Gilsenan (59).
Ref –T Carroll (Offaly).