MARK FLAHERTY hit 2-10 as Clare outclassed Down at Cusack Park yesterday.
New Clare manager Ger 'Sparrow' O'Loughlin fielded a relatively inexperienced and youthful outfit, giving starts to five players who won All-Ireland U-21 medals last September and introducing two more in the second half, as his side ran riot.
Within 20 minutes of the throw-in, Clare had amassed an 0-8 to 0-0 lead with full-forward Mark Flaherty in fine form, scoring at will from both placed balls and play. The visitors opened their account in the 22nd minute when centre-forward Paul Braniff landed a good long-range score, but even though chances were being created, poor shooting was never going to aid a limited team in troubling Clare.
The game's opening goal arrived about four minutes before the break when Domhnall O'Donovan found Flaherty with a good defensive clearance.
The full-forward shot low and hard from an acute angle on the right flank to put Clare 1-12 to 0-2 in front. By the half-time whistle, the scoreboard read Clare 1-13, Down 0-4, and realistically the game was over as a contest.
The second period proved to be a lacklustre affair with Down continuing to shoot themselves in the foot by amassing wide after wide against a much more clinical and effective Banner outfit.
Flaherty, who proved to be the game's top scorer and man of the match, grabbed a second Clare goal late in the contest when he pulled first time to the back of the net following a poor Down clearance.
Scorers -- Clare: M Flaherty 2-10 (0-9f), J Clancy 0-3, S Collins, M Murphy 0-2 each, P Donnellan, B O'Connell, D McMahon 0-1 each. Down: P Braniff 0-4 (0-2 f), J Coyle, C Woods 0-1 each.
Clare -- P Brennan; A Brigdale, C Dillon, B Bugler; D O'Donovan, J McInerney, P Donnellan; B O'Connell, N O'Connell; S Collins, F Lynch, J Clancy; D Honan, M Flaherty, M Murphy. Subs: J Conlon for Clancy (50), C Ryan for N O'Connell (54), D McMahon for Lynch (63), D Barrett for Collins (68).
Down -- G Clarke; L Clarke, F Conway, S Ennis; C O'Prey, C Woods, M Teague; K McGarry, C Coulter; P Keith, P Braniff, B Ennis; J Coyle, G Johnston, E Clarke. Subs: J McCusker for Coyle (48), P Flynn for Teague (52), E McGuinness for Keith (56), S Conlon for E Clarke (59), M Hughes for L Clarke (65).
Ref -- M Haverty (Galway).