Kelly helps Clare dish out a lesson to the Dubs
Clare 3-18 Dublin 0-19
The locals in Ennis were edgy at half-time yesterday.
They've been to Division 1B as recently as last spring and, frankly, they weren't in much of a rush back.
There and then in Cusack Park, the forecast wasn't great either. Dublin, freshly fortified by the return of four of Cuala's All-Ireland club-winning team, were two points up.
That feat was made all the more remarkable for the passing up of a couple of pristine goal chances and almost complete wipe-out on Clare's puck-outs.
Last year's league title triumph seemed like a long time ago for the Clare supporters. The 2013 All-Ireland felt ancient.
"We are five months on this project and we were going to be judged today," admitted their co-manager Gerry O'Connor afterwards. "That probably showed in the first half; we were nervous and took the wrong options at times.
"To be fair to Donal (Maloney), he…. 'encouraged' them at half-time, shall we say. And that definitely worked in terms of the focus and the actual application and that gave us a platform."
From that stage, Clare scored 1-4 in the five minutes after half-time, leaving Dublin in a stunned and confused state from which they never really emerged.
"It has happened once or twice before, where we put ourselves in a good position and doing all the hard work in the first half, going in at half-time two ahead," Ger Cunningham admitted after what amounted to a worrying collapse.
"That's hard to come back from. It's hard when you lose momentum. It's something that we'll have to look at. It shouldn't be happening at this level.
"If you get a score or two against you batten down the hatches and work yourself back into the game.
"It just gave us a mountain to climb when those scores went in."
Having required Aron Shanagher's goal after a sky-scraping fetch in the first half to avoid sinking, Clare cut Dublin to ribbons for a couple more in the second half to bludgeon home their newly-acquired superiority.
John Conlon struck one in the 40th minute after cutting in from his wing but the moment of the match fell to Tony Kelly who, after intercepting one of Conor Dooley's puck-outs, glided through the middle of Dublin's defence and, from all of 30 metres, cracked another into the bottom left-hand corner of Dooley's net.
"Some days you will have times when things aren't going for you and you just need to stick in there and keep fighting," Moloney pointed out.
"We have a lot of quality players and they just kept working, our defence got on top and we started building from there. When you have men like Tony everything is possible."
The loss consigns an inexperienced Dublin team to Division 1B and lacking the necessary traction going into a summer where discernible progress is now a baseline requirement.
"You've got to be careful of what you say now because it might come across that because we got relegated, you're making suggestions," Cunningham noted of the current league format which despite popular demand, won't be changed before next year.
"But I think any team that finishes fourth in 1B with two points and makes a quarter-final of a competition, I think something ain't right.
"If you look at today's results, three 1B teams winning…they're able to play at that level under a lot less pressure. The six games we played this year have all been championship-like games.
"There's a huge pressure to win and to stay at the top level. When you're not at the top table you can afford to look at players and come in that bit fresher.
"But you've got to move on quickly," the Dublin manager added. "Like anything, it is what it is. We are where we are. The league is now over for us. We've got to look forward to Tullamore at the end of May. That's now our focus."
SCORERS - Clare: T Kelly 1-3; D Reidy 0-6 (5f); A Shanagher 1-2; J Conlon 1-1; C Galvin, J McCarthy 0-2 each; D Fitzgerald, A Cunningham 0-1 each. Dublin: D Treacy 0-7 (5f); D Burke, C Crummey, E Dillon 0-3 each; C Conway 0-2; N McMorrow 0-1.
CLARE - A Fahy 8; C Dillon 8, D McInerney 6, S Morey 6; B Bugler 7, C Cleary 6, D Fitzgerald 7; C Galvin 7, T Kelly 8; J Shanahan 5, P Collins 7, J Conlon 7; C McInerney 5, A Shanagher 7, D Reidy 7. Subs: J McCarthy 7 for Shanahan (21), P Flanagan 7 for Morey (h-t), A 6 Cunningham for C McInerney (50), C Malone 6 for Cleary (59), G O'Connell 6 for Bugler (69).
DUBLIN - C Dooley 6; S Barrett 7, E O'Donnell 7, O Gough 6; C Crummey 7, L Rushe 7, C O'Callaghan 6; D O'Connell 6, B Quinn 5; R O'Dwyer 5, N McMorrow 6, C Conway 6; D Treacy 7, D Burke 7, E Dillon 6. Subs: J Malone 6 for Quinn (30), C Boland 6 for Conway (47), R McBride 6 for O'Dwyer (50), F Whitely 6 for McMorrow (65), S Ó Riain 6 for Treacy (68).
REF - J Ryan (Tipperary)