The wait was worth it for Clare as they got off to a winning start in the Munster SHC, comfortably seeing off Tipperary at FBD Semple Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
The Banner County were the last to begin their campaign but they never trailed in Thurles, set on their way by an eight-minute Ian Galvin goal to put them into a 1-3 to 0-1 lead. By half-time, further goals from Peter Duggan and Tony Kelly (a penalty) ensured that they led by 3-11 to 0-7 points as Tipp struggled.
Though the home side did give themselves brief hope with second-half green flags from sub Ger Browne and Barry Heffernan, the deficit was never smaller than seven points. It means that the Premier County must go to TUS Gaelic Grounds on Sunday week needing to beat All-Ireland champions Limerick to keep alive any hope of qualification for the knockout stages.
For Clare, the win gives them a boost ahead of what is likely to be a pivotal clash with Cork back in Thurles next Sunday and the watching Rebels management team will have been given plenty of food for thought.
Both sides went with two men inside – goalscorers Duggan and Galvin for Clare with Robyn Mounsey dropping deep, while Mark Kehoe and John McGrath led Tipp’s attack as Jason Forde roamed. Tipp opted to put Séamus Kennedy in a man-marking brief on Tony Kelly but, while the 2013 hurler of the year did not dictate matters as he can, he still managed two points from play and showed nice touches. What will please Brian Lohan and his backroom is that Clare would win, and convincingly so, without the Ballyea man needing to be the virtuoso.
Clare made good used of the win in the first half, with John Conlon dominant at centre-back while Ryan Taylor did well at midfield and Shane O’Donnell, a late inclusion, making an impact at wing-forward.
He was involved with the goal, helping Kelly and Taylor to work the ball to Duggan, who shot. While Brian Hogan made a superb save to touch the ball on to the crossbar, Galvin was waiting unmarked.
Tipp replied with points from Cathal Barrett and Forde before the latter drew a save from Eibhear Quilligan but, overall, they weren’t at the races. After Kelly’s point made it 1-5 to 0-4, Clare had their second goal as Conlon was allowed to run at the Tipp defence. While Hogan denied him, this time it was Duggan in splendid isolation to turn the ball home. When impressive corner-back Rory Hayes added a point, it was 2-6 to 0-4 after 20 minutes and things were about to get worse.
Brian McGrath was introduced as a sub for James Quigley and, before he could touch the ball, he was penalised for holding Galvin under a dropping delivery, with referee James Owens awarding a penalty. Kelly nailed it and Duggan’s point after that left them 3-7 to 0-4 to the good.
But for some sloppy wides, they could have had a greater lead than the 13-point advantage they possessed at half-time and when Browne – introduced early on for the injured John McGrath – fired home a fine individual goal for Tipp on the restart, there was the hint of a fightback.
However, though Clare weren’t as good as they had been in the opening period, they were able to do enough, even allowing for Heffernan’s lucky goal, a ball sent goalwards that Quilligan failed to deal with. The goalkeeper did atone to deny Mark Kehoe on 59 when a third Tipp goal would have cut the lead to six.
Though a pair of Forde frees had Tipp within seven, 3-16 to 2-12, on 62, Clare replied through Mounsey, an inspiration score from wing-back David McInerney and an effort from halfway by Taylor.
They were not going to be denied after that.
Scorers for Tipperary: J Forde 0-7 (0-5f, 0-2 65), G Browne 1-3, B Heffernan 1-0, R Maher 0-2, N McGrath, M Breen, M Kehoe, C Barrett 0-1 each.
Scorers for Clare: T Kelly 1-7 (1-0 penalty, 0-5f), I Galvin, P Duggan 1-2 each, S O’Donnell, R Taylor, R Mounsey 0-2 each, R Hayes, D Ryan, D McInerney, D Fitzgerald 0-1 each.
TIPPERARY: B Hogan; C Barrett, J Quigley, C Morgan; D Quirke, S Kennedy, R Maher; J Morris, N McGrath, M Breen; J Forde, M Kehoe, J McGrath.
Subs: G Browne for J McGrath (23, injured), B McGrath for Quigley (27), C Stakelum for McCormack (half-time), G O’Connor for Morris (49), A Flynn for Heffernan (64).
CLARE: E Quilligan; R Hayes, C Cleary, P Flanagan; D Ryan, J Conlon, D McInerney; C Malone, R Taylor; D Fitzgerald, T Kelly, S O’Donnell; I Galvin, P Duggan, R Mounsey.
Subs: P Crotty for Galvin (49), D McMahon for Fitzgerald (62), J McCarthy for O’Donnell, S Golden for Mounsey, J Browne for Taylor (all 70).
Referee: J Owens (Wexford).