Kerry did just enough to get the better of Cavan at Croke Park this afternoon, winning by 0-15 to 0-09 to qualify for the All-Ireland semi-finals.
Kerry controlled the first half, leading by 0-11 to 0-02 at the break, with points from Colm Cooper (4)and Johnny Buckley (3).
Cavan fought back bravely, and points from Niall McDermott and Eugene Keating narrowed the gap, but an unconvincing Kingdom side held on, despite scoring just four points in the second half, Cooper top-scoring with six.
Cavan, having gone in as rank outsiders, earned many admirers in the way they carried the game fearlessly to the Kingdom in the second half, outscoring the Munster champions by seven points to four.
Kerry failed to fire, and manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice faces a tough few weeks as he attempts to get his side back on track and re-establish their credentials as genuine All-Ireland contenders.
Martin Dunne’s early point was to be Cavan’s only score of the opening quarter, and it as Kerry who seized control, dictating the pace of the game without threatening to explode into spectacular action.
Donnchadh Walsh brought them level, and Johnny Buckley thumped three long range place kicks between the posts.
Kerry struggled to work the ball through Cavan’s massed defence, but did open up a 0-5 to 0-1 lead in the 15th minute when Colm Cooper stroked over a free.
As the game wore on, Cavan found it increasingly difficult to track the instinctive runs of the likes of Darran and Declan O’Sullivan, Cooper and Tomas O Se, and when Declan O’Sullivan landed a superb long range score, they led by six.
Kieran Donaghy and Cooper tagged on points, and the Kingdom were in cruise control, ahead by eight without hitting second gear.
Ronan Flanagan carved the opening for David Givney to kick Cavan’s first point in 27 minutes, but ace finisher Dunne remained isolated and starved of possession.
Cooper slotted another couple of frees between the uprights, and the Munster champions led by 0-11 to 0-2 at the interval.
The Breffni men registered the first two points of the second half, both from Niall McDermott frees, before Cooper brought his tally to five.
But Cavan were now much more competitive, and increasingly positive in their desire to commit men forward.
Martin Reilly converted a ’45 and substitute McDermott landed a tidy point from play, and when Walsh and David Moran hit the target at the other end, they quickly responded with two Eugene Keating frees.
Kerry were on the rack, and when Cian Mackey’s tireless endeavour was rewarded with a splendid long rang point, they now trailed by just five.
Kerry were never going to lose this one, however, despite their failure to impose themselves on the game in the second half, with Rory Dunne and Killian Clarke performing heroically at the back for the Ulster men.
Kerry had gone 14 minutes without scoring when Cooper steered over his first point from play, and on a day when many of their big stars failed to shine, the Munster men survived to go through to the last four, with much work to be done between now and semi-final day.
Kerry: B Kealy, F Fitzgerald, M O Se, S Enright, T O Se, K Young, P Crowley, D Moran (0-1), J Buckley (0-3, 2f, 1 ’45), P Galvin, C Cooper (0-6, 5f), D Walsh (0-3), Declan O’Sullivan (0-1), K Donaghy (0-1), Darran O’Sullivan.
Subs: P Geaney for Donaghy, K O’Leary for Walsh, P Curtin for Darran O’Sullivan, M Geaney for Galvin
Cavan: A O’Mara, T Corr, R Dunne, K Clarke, J McLoughlin, A Clarke, R Flanagan, D O’Reilly, D Givney (0-1), C Mackey (0-1), D McVeety, F Flanagan, M Reilly (0-1, ’45), M Dunne (0-1), E Keating (0-2, 2f).
Subs: N McDermott (0-3, 2f) for R Flanagan, M Argue for Corr, J Brady for Dunne, J McEnroe for Givney, K Tierney for Keating
Referee: E Kinsella (Laois)