Kerry 1-20 Derry 0-12
It may not have been Kerry at their classic best yet a Christy Ring Cup title success still rarely tasted so sweet.
A year on from their surprise final defeat to Kildare, and having also lost the 2013 decider, the Kingdom finally captured the title they craved thanks largely to a 1-8 contribution from Shane Nolan.
Both sides found it difficult to generate momentum in front of a tiny crowd in the huge stadium though Kerry had enough class when it counted.
They led from the first score of the game until full-time and Nolan’s 30th minute goal put real daylight between the teams.
Aside from Nolan, Michael O'Leary and Keith Carmody delivered three points each while Patrick Kelly, a panellist with Clare's All-Ireland winning team of 2013, fired two impressive points.
Manager Eamonn Kelly admitted it was a scrappy game a week on from Kerry's 36-point semi-final demolition of Kildare.
“It probably wasn’t a very fluent game to look at, it was stop-start, a lot of frees hit,” said Kelly, whose side will enter the Leinster championship’s qualifier series in 2016 as reward. “But when the sweeper system is in place, it’s just about grinding it out. I think we stuck to our task and when we adapted and put the extra man back ourselves, we went toe to toe with them and found our game a bit.
“It’s been an incredible year, I couldn’t have foreseen all of this coming. To be fair, all we were looking at the whole time was getting back to Croke Park to win the Christy Ring Cup. After last year, everyone was gutted.”
Kerry led 1-10 to 0-8 at half-time and Derry needed a major improvement to stand any chance. It never arrived and both sides engaged in a poor third quarter that yielded no scores for the first 10 minutes.
Kelly's back to back points appeared to ignite Kerry and they finished strong with three converted frees from Nolan. Derry lost Kevin Hinphey to an injury-time red card.
KERRY: S Murphy; R Horgan, P Costelloe, B Murphy; K Carmody (0-3), D Dineen, D Collins (0-1); J Griffin, P Kelly (0-2); M O'Leary (0-3), J Egan (0-1), C Harty (0-2); M Boyle, S Nolan (1-8, seven frees), P Boyle.
Subs: J O'Neill for P Boyle (43 mins), D Butler for O'Leary (50 mins), S Weir for M Boyle (59 mins), J Flaherty for Harty (63 mins), D Fitzell for Dineen (69 mins).
DERRY: D McDermott; M Warnock, C Quinn, S McCullagh; L Hinphey (0-1), C McSorley, K Hinphey; S McGuigan, B Quigley; P Henry (0-4, four frees), P Cleary, P McCloskey; A Grant (0-1), R Convery (0-5, five frees), A Kelly.
Subs: N Ferris for McCloskey (6 mins), D Flanagan for Quigley (31 mins), J O'Dwyer (0-1) for Cleary (40 mins), R McCloskey for McSorley (57 mins), M Conway for Grant (60 mins).
Referee: J Keane (Galway).