The Kerry hurlers remain in close pursuit of Division 2A leaders Offaly after a comfortable and expected win over Wicklow in Tralee, with Shane Conway amassing another impressive haul of 1-13 while Mikey Boyle came off the bench to mine 2-03 from play.
The win moves Kerry onto six points, level with Offaly, but, crucially the Leinster men have a game less played and won their head-to-head with the Kingdom. It all means that Kerry are still hoping for an unlikely miracle – Offaly to drop three points from their last two games – or some other such unlikely scenario that would bring them into a three-way argument with Offaly and Down.
To that end, all Kerry could do was hurl what was in front of them, which was a Wicklow team that had so far failed to win a game or a Allianz League point. They came to Austin Stack Park more in hope than confidence of reversing that trend.
Wicklow made six changes to the team selected, while Kerry had seven different players starting from the team that started and beat Meath at the same venue the previous weekend. It all amounted to little as Kerry ran away with a 22-point victory that was in the bag by half time.
Kerry led 0-05 to 0-02 at the first water break but from the 24th to 29th minutes Conway reeled off six consecutive scores (four frees and two from play) as Kerry began to open up a lead that Wicklow never looked like closing.
A couple of scores from Christy Moorehouse and a neat point from Mikey Lee kept Wicklow interested, but with Kerry leading 0-14 to 0-06, Conway slalomed through for a simple goal to help Kerry to 1-15 to 0-06 lead at the interval.
The Boyle brothers, Padraig and Mikey, Shane Nolan, Cian Hussey and Jason Diggins scored third-quarter points as Conway converted a couple of frees to see Kerry 3-24 to 0-10 to the good at the second water break - the goals coming in the 45th and 50th minutes from the stick of Mikey Boyle.
The fourth quarter ran the same course, with Kerry sub Nathan Guerin raising the Kingdom's fourth green flag in the 66th minute and Gary Hughes landing a consolation goal for the visitors with the last play of the game.
The only concern for Kerry boss Fintan O’Connor was the first-half injuries to captain Daniel Collins, Tomas O’Connor and Barry Mahony, with all three withdrawn as a precaution ahead of next weekend’s trip to Carlow and the subsequent Joe McDonagh Cup looming.
Wicklow’s June gets no easier with the visit of Offaly to Aughrim on Sunday week.
Kerry: Darren Delaney, James O’Connor, Colman Savage, Conor O’Keeffe, Eoin Ross, Jason Diggins (0-01), Florence McCarthy, Paudie O’Connor, Tomas O’Connor (0-01), Fionan O’Sullivan, Daniel Collins (0-01), Barry Mahony, Shane Conway (1-13 8fs, 1 '65’), Shane Nolan (0-03), Cian Hussey (0-04).
Subs: Michael Leane (0-01) for D Collins (3, inj), Mikey Boyle (2-03) for T O’Connor (20, inj), Colin Walsh (0-01) for B Mahony (22, inj), Eric Leen for E Ross (ht), Padraig Boyle (0-02) for F O’Sullivan (ht), Nathan Guerin (1-00) for C Hussey (53), Sean Sheehan for E Leen (53).
Wicklow: Conor McNally, Brian Kearney, Michael Mangan, Martin O’Brien, Gary Byrne, John Henderson, Peter Keane, Daniel Staunton (0-01, 1f), Shaun Cranley, Padraig Horan, Eamonn Kearns, Luke Evans, Gary Hughes (1-01), Christy Moorehouse (0-13, 10fs), Mikey Lee (0-02).
Subs: Andy O’Brien for S Cranley (ht), Eoin McCormack for P Doran (ht), Mark Murphy for D Staunton (51), Ciaran Breen for M Mangan (51), Wayne Kinsella for M Lee (51), Gavin Weir for J Henderson (60), James Byrne for L Evans (63).
Referee: Kevin Jordan (Tipperary).