SHANE NOLAN helped himself to 1-7 as new-look Kerry beat a youthful Westmeath in Tralee.
With both sides guilty of bad wides – Kerry amassed 12 while Westmeath managed to shoot 10 – the result was decided by the Kingdom's ability to score goals at vital junctures.
Westmeath led by a single point at the interval (0-8 to 1-4) with Aidan Boyle goaling for Kerry in the 17th minute.
Nolan goaled early in the second half, and he also added two points to give Kerry a four-point lead.
The Kerry defence were superb, with Tom Murnane outstanding at full-back and with John Griffin and Daniel Collins dominant around the middle – the Westmeath attack never threatened except for the superb Damian McNicholas.
Westmeath, who had Blaine Leharte sent off for two yellows, staged a comeback but Kerry held on for two vital points for new manager Tom Howard.
Man of the Match: S Nolan (Kerry)
Scorers – Kerry: S Nolan 1-7 ( 3f, 1 '65'), A Boyle 1-1, P Boyle, S Maunsell 0-1 each. Westmeath: D McNicholas, N O'Brien (1f) 0-4 each, E Price 0-2 (1f), C Jordan, S Power, J Shaw 0-1 each
Kerry – B Rochford 8; R Horgan 8, T Murnane 9, P O'Keeffe 7; T Barrett 8, D Dineen 7, D O'Connell 8; D Collins 8, B Brosnan7; B O'Leary 8, G O'Brien 7, W O'Dwyer 7; P Boyle 7, A Boyle 8, S Nolan 9. Subs: J Griffin 8 for B Brosnan ( 29), S Maunsell 7 for G O'Brien (46).
Westmeath – P Collins 8; M Keegan 7, A McGrath 6, T Gallagher 7; E Price 8, C Jordan 8, P Gilsenan 8; R Greville 7, S Power 6; J Boyle 5, J Clarke 6, A Clarke7; D McNicholas 8, N O'Brien 7, J Shaw 7. Subs: B Leharte 6 for J Boyle (45), D Fennell 6 for N O'Brien (54), C Glennon 6 for J Shaw (65)
Ref – S Hourigan ( Limerick)