Kerry were pushed all the way by Meath in Killarney but David Clifford’s goal separated the teams at the final whistle, 1-19 to 2-13.
The Munster champions, whose goalkeeper Brian Kelly executed a couple of important late saves, started and finished the first half purposefully to compile a 1-10 to 1-5 interval lead. Clifford’s 14th-minute major and points from Paul Geaney, debutant David Shaw, Sean O’Shea (2) and Micheal Burns propelled the Kingdom into a commanding 1-5 to no score advantage inside the opening quarter.
The Royals rallied with a Donal Keogan goal in the 19th minute after Cillian O’Sullivan and James McEntee had pointed, further points from James Conlon and Thomas O’Reilly closing the gap to just two points, 1-6 to 1-4. However, ultimately, first-half black cards for key men O’Sullivan and Keogan caught up with the visitors as Kerry finished the half strongly…
Following an exchange of frees between O’Shea and O’Reilly, the hosts reeled off three unanswered points before the short whistle, O’Shea (two frees) and Clifford closing out the first-half scoring.
O’Reilly (free) and Geaney traded points upon the resumption but Oisin O’Brien, O’Reilly (free) and Conlon slotted scores as the underdogs mounted another spirited revival. Kerry refused to panic, however, and landed six unanswered points to effectively put the game to bed: the winners led by four points again at the three-quarters stage following points from Clifford (free) and Burns, 1-13 to 1-9.
The gap was out to six with 15 minutes left thanks to further points from substitute Dara Moynihan and O’Shea (free); Moynihan’s second and another Burns strike leaving eight between the teams with an hour played.
Meath refused to give up, Bryan McMahon’s goal and an O’Reilly point quickly halving the deficit before Bryan Menton replied to a Tommy Walsh effort, O’Sullivan’s 70th-minute converted free setting up a grandstand finale as potentially just one score separated the teams going into added time.
Clifford mined the insurance point in the second minute of injury time and O’Reilly’s sixth point (free) was too little, too late for the Royal County, whose commendable performance wasn’t enough to save them from slipping to a fourth successive defeat.
Despite being pushed to the pin of their collective collars in the last ten minutes, Kerry have registered their second win of the campaign and move up onto five points.
Kerry - B Kelly; G O’Sullivan, T Morley, T O’Sullivan; P Murphy, S Enright, G White; L Kearney, J Barry; M Burns (0-3), S O’Shea (0-6f), S O’Brien; D Shaw (0-2), D Clifford (1-3, 0-1f), P Geaney (0-2). Subs: D Moynihan (0-2) for L Kearney, T Walsh (0-1) for D Shaw, T Brosnan for S O’Brien, D O’Connor for P Geaney.
Meath - M Brennan; R Clarke, C McGill, D Toner; J McEntee (0-1), Ronan Ryan, D Keogan (1-0); B Menton (0-1), B Conlon; C O’Sullivan (0-2, 1f), B McMahon (1-0), E Devine; J Conlon (0-2), T O’Reilly (0-6, 5f), O O’Brien (0-1). Subs: E Wallace for E Devine, D Lenihan for O O’Brien, S Tobin for J Conlon, G McCoy for B Conlon, Ross Ryan for Ronan Ryan.
Referee - D O’Mahony.Tweet