Hosts Tipperary were humbled by All-Ireland champions Clare in Thurles this afternoon as Conor McGrath bagged a stunning hat-trick of goals.
McGrath struck twice in the first half and completed his treble with 18 minutes remaining as Clare collected a second League victory of the season.
A disjointed Tipp fell to their second successive defeat and after leaking five goals against Kilkenny at Nowlan Park, the Premier County’s netting bulged four times this afternoon.
McGrath was the undoubted star of the show as he gave Tipp full-back Paddy Stapleton a torrid time.
McGrath shrugged off Stapleton in the eleventh minute before cutting inside to deliver Clare’s first goal.
And the Cratloe hitman was on target again in the 30th minute after taking a clever pass from Padraic ‘Podge’ Collins.
Clare’s third goal arrived with two minutes remaining in the first half as John Conlon collected Colm Galvin’s delivery before rifling a shot past Darren Gleeson.
Again, Tipp had been punished for turning over possession in a key area and a rampant Clare attack took full advantage.
In front of 8,133 spectators, Clare were 3-7 to 0-8 clear at half-time but Tipp opened the second half with some intent and reduced the deficit to just three points, 0-14 to 3-8, with 20 minutes left.
But throughout their All-Ireland winning campaign in 2013, a feature of Clare’s play was their ability to respond in the face of adversity.
And they did so once again here as McGrath rounded off his hat-trick in the 52nd minute to make the game safe.
Tipp did come with a late flurry of scores but Clare were content to keep the scoreboard ticking over throughout the second half.
Tipp struggled to create goalscoring opportunities but when they did in the second half, Donal Tuohy did well to deny John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer and James Woodlock.
Clare could have had at least another goal but Tipp netminder Darren Gleeson did well to keep out Peter Duggan and Shane O’Donnell, hat-trick hero in last year’s All-Ireland final replay.
D Tuohy; S Morey (0-1), C Dillon, D McInerney; B Bugler, C Ryan, P O’Connor; P Donnellan (0-1), C Galvin (0-1); J Conlon (1-3), P Duggan (0-2), C Ryan (0-4, 2f, 1 65); D Honan (0-1), C McGrath (3-1), C O’Connell.
Subs: P Collins for Honan (inj, 26), T Kelly (0-1) for Galvin (50), S O’Donnell for O’Connell (51), C McInerney for Duggan (65), P Flanagan for Morey (70+1).
D Gleeson; P Stapleton, T Stapleton, C Barrett; S McGrath (0-1), T Hamill, M Cahill; B Maher, J Woodlock (0-2); K Bergin (0-1), N McGrath (0-1), P Murphy (0-1); J Forde (0-2, 1f), J O’Dwyer (0-7, 3f, 1 65), S Bourke (0-2).
Subs: C O’Mahony for Hamill (35), D Maher for Murphy (40), C Kenny (0-2) for Bourke (58), M Heffernan (0-1) for Bergin (61), R Maher for Forde (64).
J Owens (Wexford).