It wasn't the most regal of performances from the Kingdom, but it didn’t have to be as Kerry did the necessary against the Royals to get an early foothold in the Joe McDonagh Cup with a fully deserved ten-point win in Tralee.
The benefit of last week’s Division 2A final against Antrim - despite losing that game - clearly stood to Kerry against a Meath team that hadn’t seen competitive action since last March.
Kerry’s sharpness on the ball, their work off it, and their greater sense of purpose on home soil was apparent from start to finish.
All that and Kerry’s greater accuracy and proficiency in front of the posts made this a solid start for the Kingdom ahead of tougher tests in the McDonagh Cup, starting with a trip to Mullingar next weekend to face Westmeath.
Kerry led from first whistle to last, though it really took until Shane Nolan's 31st-minute goal for the home side to put some real distance between the teams as they opened a 1-11 to 0-06 lead after 34 minutes.
Kerry’s ace marksman Shane Conway had a quiet day from open play by his standards, but the Lixnaw man converted nine frees, while midfielder Nolan chipped in with that goal and two points from play, while Mikey Boyle helped himself to four points.
Meath’s scoring power came largely from Padraic O’Hanrahan, who struck over seen frees, and wing-forward Jack Regan who conjured up four fine scores from play. However, it was Meath’s inability to create any meaningful goal chance that left them chasing this game, and Kerry goalkeeper Darren Delaney had only one save of any note to make - a brave block in the second half.
Kerry led 0-05 to 0-02 at the first water break but two long-range scores from Regan helped Meath back to parity, 0-05 apiece after 20 minutes. Kerry edged out to a 0-09 to 0-06 lead when Michael Leane played in Nolan for a deft finish past Mark McCormack to see the home side lead 1-11 to 0-08 at half time.
O’Hanrahan and Conway traded a pair of converted frees early in the second half, but Kerry were 1-15 to 0-10 ahead at the second water break as Meath struggled to breach a resolute Kerry defence in which John Buckley, Jason Diggins and Fionan Mackessy impressed most.
The final quarter petered out with a few late scores from Conway and O’Hanrahan as Kerry eased to victory ahead of what will be a much tougher examination of their credentials in Westmeath next week, while Meath have a week off to regroup.
Kerry: D Delaney, J Buckley, B Murphy, E Leen, T O’Connor, J Diggins, F Mackessy, B O’Leary, S Nolan (1-02), B Barrett (0-01), M O’Leary (0-02), M Leane, S Conway (0-09, 0-09f), M Boyle (0-04), M Slattery (0-01).
Subs used: D Collins for M Leane (46), P Boyle for M Slattery (46), C Harty (0-01) for M O’Leary (51), J O’Connor for T O’Connor (61), D Casey for B O’Leary (69).
Meath: M McCormack, S Geraghty, S Brennan, M Burke, S Whitty (0-01), D Kelly, K Keoghan, P Conneely, M Molloy, J Regan (0-04), P O’Hanrahan (0-08, 0-07f), C McCabe, É Ó Donnchadha, S Morris, J Walsh.
Subs used: N Potterton for E Ó Donnchadha, P Potterton for M Molloy (46), D McGowan for J Walsh (53), P Slevin for C McCabe (60), J McGowan for S Morris (60).
Referee: T Walsh (Waterford).