It’s not that Clare’s opening salvo in this year’s National League was a box-ticking exercise, but as soon as the final whistle sounded to signal this facile 16-point victory it’s safe to say that everyone of a saffron and blue hue was moving towards next Sunday’s mouth-watering clash with Wexford.
Brian Lohan v Davy Fitzgerald, as much as it will be Clare v Wexford, with the former quickly pointing out that the 70 minutes in Innovate Wexford Park will be a much truer test of Clare’s league aspirations.
“That’s the one we’re looking forward to,” mused Lohan after this stroll played out before an attendance of 2,283. “It’s a tough place to go, particularly when they have the crowd behind them, which they’ve had for the last couple of years.We’ll have a cut at it.”
They didn’t really need to cut loose here, after being in complete control from as early as the second minute when Shane O’Donnell rifled low to the net for a goal from 12 yards after latching onto a pass from Ian Galvin.
Not quite game over, but thereafter it had all the appearances of a damage limitation exercise for Carlow as a confident Clare, combining work ethic all over the field with the complete mastery exerted over proceedings by midfielder Tony Kelly, gradually turned the screw.
Kelly, who has taken over the free-taking duties in Peter Duggan’s absence, had one of those afternoons when he floated around Cusack Park and everything he touched turned to gold.
A dozen points, split evenly between placed balls and from play, saw him toy with a Carlow side that was far too reliant on Martin Kavanagh for scores as they fought valiantly to stay in touch in the opening half.
The centre-forward helped himself to 0-6 in that opening period, but with all Clare’s six forwards getting on the scoresheet by the 18th minute the home side were dominant as they opened up a 1-12 to 0-9 interval advantage.
This was a return to a more traditional brand of hurling by Clare — there wasn’t a sweeper in sight and they played plenty of route one ball to pin Carlow back into their defence for much of the one-sided spectacle.
With the industrious half-forward line of David Reidy, David Fitzgerald and Ian Galvin getting on top of their opponents from the off, as did the new midfield pairing of Kelly and David McInerney, the space and time was there for Clare to pick off points at will from long range in an impressive display of marksmanship.
Carlow may not have been without hope as they turned around for the second half but it all but disappeared inside five minutes as points by David Fitzgerald, O’Donnell and Kelly eased Clare nine clear as they set about putting as much daylight between the sides as possible.
Midway through the half that gap had stretched to double figures despite Kavanagh adding a further 0-2 to his tally, but it was only going to get worse for Colm Bonnar’s charges once midfielder Edward Byrne was red-carded inside the last ten minutes for a tackle on Kelly.
It was exhibition stuff near the end as new captain John Conlon and wing-back Aidan McCarthy picked off brilliant scores to show up the chasm in class between the sides.
“Our movement was pretty good,” said Lohan afterwards. “It’s important to win matches because there aren’t too many matches in the year. We want to try and win as many matches as possible and that’s what we’ll be doing.”
T Kelly (0-12, 6 frees); S O’Donnell (1-2); J Conlon (0-3, 1 free); D Fitzgerald, A McCarthy (0-2 each); D McInerney, P O’Connor, I Galvin, D Reidy, R Taylor, D McMahon (0-1 each).
M Kavanagh (0-8, 7 frees); C Nolan (0-3, 1 free); John Michael Nolan (0-2); R Coady (0-1).
D Tuohy; J Browne, C Cleary, E Quirke; S O’Halloran, P O’Connor, A McCarthy; D McInerney, T Kelly; I Galvin, D Fitzgerald, D Reidy; S O’Donnell, J Conlon, R Taylor.
D McMahon for Galvin (53), L Corry for Quirke (55), S Morey for Reidy (62), C Guilfoyle for O’Donnell (63), N Deasy for Fitzgerald (64).
D Jordan; R Smithers, P Doyle, M Doyle; K McDonald, D English, D Byrne; R Coady, E Byrne; John Michael Nolan, M Kavanagh, Jon Nolan; A Amond, P Coady, C Nolan.
S Whelan for Byrne (half-time), T Joyce for Amond (52), M Malone for P Coady (63), C Treacy for John Michael Malone (64), J Kavanagh for Kavanagh (71).
Liam Gordon (Galway)