This travesty of a contest at Cusack Park, Ennis raises more questions than answers for the two counties and also for the development of hurling.
The bonus for Clare is a confidence boost and a place in the final against neighbours Limerick in a fortnight. Other than that, and the satisfaction manager Ger O'Loughlin can take from seeing his hungry young side chase down every ball for the duration of the match, Clare remain, in O'Loughlin's candid opinion, "a work in progress."
Carlow, gallant, but outclassed in every department, returned home to lick their wounds with confidence shattered and a championship clash with Westmeath already looking a daunting prospect.
Manager Kevin Ryan had hoped for better, and commented: "We're not that bad, and they're not that good. We just didn't show up today and you can't do that with a team like Clare."
Ryan made that assessment in the context of Clare's narrow win over Carlow last year at Dr Cullen Park, but on this evidence, it's hard to see how the game in either county benefits from a result such as this one. That's why O'Loughlin called for a new look at the league by the authorities.
"The structures are wrong. We know that at the moment, we're a good bit off Division 1 hurling, but building for the future, we'd be better off playing Division 1, in something like a 1A and 1B set-up," he said.
"Playing Division 2 you think you're making strides, but then you come out in the first round of the Munster championship, in our case the winners of Cork and Tipp, who are battling week in, week out at a faster pace. It would be an awful culture shock for us. There's only probably 12 teams realistically that should be playing in a Division 1 -- in an A and B set-up -- and the sooner they realise that, the better."
Clare had the majority of their 2009 All- Ireland winning U-21 side on display, and it showed as the Banner men played with youthful exuberance and a hunger that they maintained to the finish.
Colin Ryan opened the scoring from a free inside 30 seconds, but Carlow's Ruairi Dunbar equalised inside the two-minute mark. Carlow, with midfielder Jack Kavanagh and half-forward Craig Doyle prominent early on, looked solid and committed, but that lasted only for the first 15 minutes.
Clare built their assaults from the full-back line of Pat Vaughan, Conor Cooney and Domhnall O'Donovan, who defended ferociously and then launched a series of high balls into Carlow territory every chance they got.
Practically every time Carlow got careless off the breaking ball or had an attack break down, Clare turned it into a score. With 23 minutes gone the Banner were 0-8 to 0-2 ahead and then Conor McGrath wriggled his way clear to the end line and crossed for full-forward Diarmuid McMahon to bat the sliotair home for the first goal.
From there it was all downhill for Carlow, who were 1-15 to 0-4 down at the interval. Clare hardly put a foot wrong in that half, with Patrick O' Connor, Cian Dillon, Nicky O'Connell, John Conlon, Jon Clancy, Colin Ryan and Diarmuid McMahon particularly impressive.
Carlow had substituted the injured Brian Doyle with Paudie Kehoe after 26 minutes and brought on four more subs in the second half, but the one-way traffic continued. O'Loughlin held back on subs for Clare until the 53rd minute by which time his players had 3-18 on the scoreboard to Carlow's 0-4.
Goals two and three came from a free lashed home from 20 metres by Colin Ryan after 44 minutes, and by a powerful John Clancy shot in the 52nd minute. Ryan got the fourth goal five minutes from full-time. Carlow didn't stop trying, but there was just no hiding place against rampant Clare who face a much tougher test against Limerick.
Man of the Match: Colin Ryan (Clare)
Scorers -- Clare: N O'Connell 0-8 (3f, 1 '65), D McMahon 2-4, C Ryan 1-4, J Clancy 1-3, C McGrath 0-4, J Conlon 0-3, S Collins, C Tierney 0-1 each. Carlow: R Dunbar 0-4 (1f); E Nolan, E Byrne, J Kavanagh, P Kehoe 0-1 each.
Clare -- D Tuohy 7; P Vaughan 7, C Cooney 7, D O'Donovan 7; P O'Connor 7, C Dillon 7, P Donnellan 7; N O'Connell 8, L Markham 7; J Conlon 7, F Lynch 7, J Clancy 7; C McGrath 7, D McMahon 8, C Ryan 8. Subs: G Quinn 6 for P O'Connor (53); C McInerney 6 for C McGrath (54); S Collins 6 for F Lynch (58); B Bugler 6 for L Markham (61); C Tierney for C Ryan (65).
Carlow -- N Roberts 5; A Corcoran 5, S Kavanagh 5, B Doyle 5; D Shaw 5, D Kavanagh 5, R Coady 5; J Kavanagh 5, J Rogers 5; C Doyle 5, E Byrne 5, J Doyle 5; A McDonald 5, E Nolan 5, R Dunbar 5. Subs: P Kehoe 5 for B Doyle (26); K McCabe 5 for A McDonald (h.t); HP O'Byrne 5 for D Kavanagh (h.t); J O'Hara 5 for R Coady (h-t); E Kane 5 for A Corcoran (48).
Ref -- M Haverty (Galway)