With the exception of the opening quarter, when Waterford forced the pace, Clare were the far superior outfit, and but for a hat trick of late goals the home side would have suffered a much heavier defeat.
Fitzgerald said the outcome will have no relevance on the championship stage: “I know exactly what these Waterford players are made of, and there is no point whatever in me getting excited about our performance today, ’’ Fitzgerald said.
“In June it will be a very different story and anyone who thinks otherwise isn’t living in the real world.’’
Even so, his Waterford counterpart Michael Ryan couldn’t conceal his disappointment.
“Today Clare put down some very serious question marks that must be answered by us, and clearly we now have a serious lot of work to be done before we next meet them in the championship,’’ Ryan said.
Waterford made the perfect start and were six points to the good inside a quarter of an hour, having had the tonic of an excellent Seamas Prendergast goal in the 10th minute.
Even at that early stage Walsh had emerged as a real thorn in the side of the Clare defence, and quality points in the 5th and 6th minutes were no less than his great play deserved. His eventual loss through injury was a serious blow to Waterford.
Leading by six points, 1-6 to 0-3, with 20 minutes played, there was little to indicate the depth of the Clare mastery to come, In the space of 12 minutes they reeled off 1-6 without a solitary Waterford response, with their goal in the 27th minute scored by Daire Keane.
Colin Ryan too rifled over a marvellous point, and although a pointed free by Martin O’Neill was the final score of the half, Clare were by then a deserving 1-9 to 1-7 in front.
For virtually the entire second half, Waterford were forced to play second fiddle to rampant Clare.
Waterford’s positioning of Michael “Brick’’ Walsh at midfield in a switch from centre-forward never paid the expected dividend, and Clare’s near total dominance early in the second-half saw them virtually out of sight with 15 minutes remaining.
The second goal came in the 54th minute, a superb effort by Aaron Cunningham, stretching the Clare lead to ten points, 2-15 to 1-8, and while the closing seven minutes brought Waterford goals by Martin O’Neill in the 64th and 68th minutes and another by Seamas Prendergast they were only a small source of consolation.
Scorers for Clare: C Ryan (0-6, 0-5 frees); A Cunningham (1-2); C Galvin (1-1); D Keane (1-1); P O’Connor (0-2); T Carmody, P Donnellan, F Lynch, P Kelly, J Conlon (0-1) each.
Scorers for Waterford; M O’Neill (2-6, 0-6 frees); S Prendergast (2-0); S Wash (0-2); M Shanahan (0-1,f).
CLARE: D Tuohy; D O’Donovan, C Dillon, C, Cooney; S Morey, E Barrett, P O’Connor; C Galvin, P Donnellan; J Conlon, D Keane, F Lynch; T Carmody, C, Ryan, A, Cunningham.
Subs; P, Kelly for Barrett (HT); C, Chaplin for Lynch (48); R, Horan for Keane (60).
WATERFORD: A, Power; S, Fives, D, Prendergast, A, Kearney; J, Nagle, S, O’Sullivan, K, Moran; M, Walsh, P, O’Brien; M, Shanahan, S, Prendergast, D, Twomey; M, O’Neill, S, Walsh, E, McGrath.
Subs; P, Nevin for Twomey(40); T, Ryan for Walsh, inj (51).
Referee: John Ran, Tipperary.