Relief for Fitzmaurice as Kingdom bounce back
Kerry 0-19 Kildare 0-14
The old adage goes that when you fall off the horse, the best thing you can do is get back on as quickly as possible and Kerry boss Eamonn Fitzmaurice was delighted to have the opportunity to put their disastrous result against Dublin to the back of their minds.
Twelve points separated the Kingdom and the three-in-a-row All-Ireland champions just six days before the visit of Kildare to Tralee and while their five-point victory certainly didn't set the world alight, it was a start.
"It was just great to have a game so soon. There wasn't much time to be dwelling on last week. We looked at the game and there were areas we felt we could improve on that would help us this weekend," Fitzmaurice said.
"It was great there was a game six days after. You really had to gather yourself. There was no time for feeling sorry for ourselves. The expression is 'getting back up on the horse'. We had to do that straight away."
It was a "scratchy performance" as David Clifford and energetic centre-forward Dáithí Casey did the bulk of the damage with Fitzmaurice admitting that it was "just a case of getting the job done" as flashy football went out the window in bitterly cold conditions.
Those sentiments were echoed by captain Fionn Fitzgerald. "Happy with the win and the bit of fight we showed. We came for a win and to lay down a marker. We are definitely going in the right direction. We are far from the finished article, but the bounce-back from last week is a positive."
Their division status is all but confirmed for 2019 while Kildare - who lost inspirational midfielder Kevin Feely to injury before half-time - go in the opposite direction after six straight defeats. It was a disappointing return to Kerry for Cian O'Neill, who gave up his coaching position with the Kingdom after the 2015 All-Ireland final to manage his native county.
Much like last week's defeat to Mayo, they rued another lacklustre second quarter having kept tabs with Kerry in the early stages as the sides were tied 0-4 apiece midway through the opening half. Seven unanswered points from Kerry put the game to bed - 0-11 to 0-5 at the break - as Kildare's wayward shooting again left them ruing what might have been.
An inspired performance from the impressive Daniel Flynn, who shot six points and gave Jason Foley a torrid time, helped them back to within three points with a quarter to play, 0-13 to 0-10, only for Clifford and Casey to help the home side kick on strongly to the end.
There was much food for thought for O'Neill. "Relegation is a setback in terms of our aspirations to be in the top-eight, but I was pleased there was a fightback after a really disappointing performance last week," O'Neill said.
"The defeat is disappointing, but it is not demoralising. We've had a really disappointing league. I don't want to shy away from the fact that up until last week, we were really competitive in every single league game we played.
"Ultimately, we just weren't good enough. We are just not performing at the level you need to to win these matches. We're close, but we're not close enough."
Scorers - Kerry: D Clifford 0-6 (4f), P Geaney 0-3 (1f), K McCarthy, D Casey, BJ Keane 0-2 each, S Murphy (f), M Burns, P Murphy, D Moran 0-1 each. Kildare: D Flynn 0-6; K Feely, T Moolick, P Brophy, B McCormack, N Kelly, F Dowling, P Kelly, M O'Grady 0-1 each.
Kerry - S Murphy 8; B Ó Beaglaoich 7, J Foley 6, R Shanahan 7; P Murphy 8, P Crowley 7, F Fitzgerald 7; J Barry 8, Barry O'Sullivan 6; M Burns 7, D Casey 8, K McCarthy 7; D Clifford 8, P Geaney 7, BJ Keane 6. Subs: D Moran 7 for O'Sullivan (45), M Flaherty 6 for Burns (52), A Spillane 6 for McCarthy (58), M Griffin 6 for Geaney (60), J Buckley 6 for Keane (64), T O'Sullivan 6 for Fitzgerald (67).
Kildare - M Donnellan 7; P Kelly 7, D Hyland 7, M O'Grady 7; J Byrne 6, E Doyle 6, K Flynn 6; K Feely 7, T Moolick 7; F Conway 6, K Cribbin 6, P Brophy 6; N Kelly 7, D Flynn 8, B McCormack 6.
Subs: P Cribbin 7 for Feely inj (28), D Slattery 6 for K Cribbin (BC 48), F Dowling 6 for Moolick (50), M Sherry 6 for Brophy (BC 57), C McNally 6 for McCormack (58), J Hyland 6 for Conway (61).
Ref - D Coldrick (Meath)