Clare manager Brian Lohan was already looking forward to next Saturday night’s clash with Limerick under the Gaelic Grounds lights by the time this Cusack Park canter came to its inevitable conclusion on Sunday afternoon.
“Obviously there are going to be bigger tests ahead,” the Shannon man mused after his side’s facile 25-point victory over a Westmeath side that on the evidence of this 70 minutes will be in for a torrid time of it in the top flight of league hurling.
In truth, Lohan’s thoughts had probably turned to the challenge of taking on the All-Ireland champions as early as the first-half of this miss-match of an opener, as a hungry Clare made swift work of the midlanders.
Mark Rodgers and Aidan McCarthy were the stand-out performers throughout from a selection that was also notable for the inclusion of three impressive National League newcomers in Adam Hogan, Jack Kirwan and Davy Conroy.
“They all want to play and Adam, Jack and Davy did really well,” reflected Lohan, “and you’d have to be happy with it, as they worked very hard for the whole 70 minutes”.
This work ethic ensured the game had an air of inevitability about it as early as ten minutes in, by which time Clare and five different scorers on the board, before the hugely talented Rodgers showcased his poaching skills with two stunning goals on the cusp of half-time for a 2-10 to 0-7 interval lead that was only going in one direction.
The Scariff poacher blasted home from a tight angle on 26 minutes after great work in the build-up by Ian Galvin and David Fitzgerald, while his audacious strike from all of 25 yards three minutes before the break killed any lingering hint of competitiveness dead.
Killian Doyle's first-half tally of 0-6 had ensured it wasn’t totally one-way traffic for a while, but last year’s Division 2A champions were overwhelmed after the change of ends as a merciless Clare side put on an exhibition of scoring for their supporters who made up the bulk of the 3,523 attendance.
It was a training spin under the guise of a competitive game as Clare poured forward throughout and points rained over Noel Conaty’s crossbar, while the goals from Ian Galvin and Aron Shanagher on 49 and 68 minutes respectively put the seal on what was a perfect opening display for a Clare management that has made no secret of a desire to treat the league as a competition to win, and not just as a preparatory exercise before the late April start to the championship.
And, no one symbolized this desire more than Aidan McCarthy, who missed the entire 2022 league and championship campaign due to a work injury, as he hit the ground running and reached double figures before the end.
Ranging out the field from his left-corner-forward berth the Inagh-Kilnamona man was practically flawless with his shooting from distance as Clare limbered up for some Saturday night fever in Limerick with this dominant display.
A McCarthy (0-10, 5f), M Rodgers (2-2), I Galvin (1-3), D Conroy (0-5), A Shanagher (1-0), D Fitzgerald (0-3), B O’Connell (0-1), D Ryan (0-1), G O’Grady (0-1), S Morey (0-1).
K Doyle (0-8, 4f, 1 ‘65), C Doyle (0-2), J Boyle (0-1), J Galvin (0-1s), R Greville (0-1), D Glennon (0-1).
E Quilligan; S Morey, C Cleary, A Hogan; D Ryan, D McInerney, B O’Connell; C Malone, J Kirwan; D Fitzgerald, D Conroy, P Duggan; A McCarthy, M Rodgers, I Galvin.
G O’Grady for Rodgers (48), C Nolan for Hogan (50), C Galvin for Ryan (55), K Smythe for Duggan (57), A Shanagher for Galvin (60).
N Conaty; C Shaw, D Egerton, T Doyle; J Galvin, K Regan, A Craig; S McGovern, S Clavin; J Boyle, N O’Brien, R Greville; E McCabe, K Doyle, D Glennon.
E Keyes for Clavin (Half-Time), C Doyle for McCabe (46), M Cunningham for McGovern (52), J Bermingham for Shaw (52), J Dillon for O’Brien (60).
P O’Dwyer (Carlow).