Clare 3-19 Down 0-05
Clare manager Eamon Fennessy admitted considerable improvement is needed ahead of next month’s semi-final showdown with Leinster champions Dublin.
Clare put their Munster final heartache behind them to advance to a third successive All-Ireland semi-final as Ulster champions Down provided feeble resistance at Cusack Park last Saturday.
Down arrived in the midlands in buoyant mood, having captured the Ulster minor title for the first time since 1994, but were crushed in the first-ever meeting between the counties in this grade.
And now Clare face Dublin in a meeting between the 2010 and 2011 All-Ireland final losers. The prize is a crack at Tipperary or Galway in the final and Clare have the firepower to trouble any of the teams remaining in the competition. Bobby Duggan and Niall Deasy were in free-scoring form as the pair finished with a combined total of 2-12. Duggan had all but one point of his 1-7 haul posted by half-time, while Deasy bagged 0-3 in the first-half and 1-2 in the second period.
And it was Duggan’s goal in the second minute that sent Clare on their way to a facile 23-point win.
At half-time, wind-assisted Clare led 2-11 to 0-3 as Shane O’Donnell banged home a fine solo goal ten minutes before the break.
And the rout was capped by Deasy’s 35th minute goal, batted home from close range after Down goalkeeper Seán Savage had brilliantly saved Jamie Malone’s blistering drive.
Down battled gamely to the finish in unpredictable weather conditions but mustered just three points from play.
"It was always going to be a banana skin for us but we came up and treated Down with respect," reflected Fennessy.
"We have work to do, there’s no doubt about it. That’s a good way to be going into a semi-final, knowing that you have work to do."
Down boss Fergus Cooper appeared to call time on his three seasons in charge afterwards: "What I hope for next year and whoever comes in to work with them is that we develop and move on, that we set the bar high and we’re competitive.
"We’re obviously disappointed but they put in an absolutely fantastic season. We’ve been at this since June last year. And this year, nobody gave us a chance in hell."
Scorers for Clare: B Duggan 1-7 (0-5fs), N Deasy 1-5, S O’Donnell 1-0, S Gleeson 0-2, A O’Gorman, J Shanahan, J Malone, C Deasy, M O’Leary 0-1 each.
Scorers for Down: C Bailie 0-3 (2fs), G Lynch, E Sands 0-1 each.
CLARE: E Quilligan; S O’Brien, B Carey, G Ryan; A McGuane, C Cleary, E Quirke; D Conroy, A O’Gorman; N Deasy, J Malone, J Shanahan; B Duggan, S Taylor, S O’Donnell.
Subs: C Deasy for Taylor (15), M O’Leary for O’Gorman (ht), S Gleeson for O’Donnell (36), N Bolton for Quirke (40), E Tuohy for Cleary (48).
DOWN: S Savage; C Costello, J McGrath, C Taggart; R Brannigan, G O’Neill, J McManus; L McMullan, C Egan; R Burns, C O’Neill, C Bailie; G Lynch, M Nicholson, E Sands.
Subs: S Mageen for Lynch (21), C Fitzsimmons for G O’Neill (41), S O’Callaghan for Mageen (41), P Óg McCrickard for Burns (54), B Byers for Costello (55).
Ref: P O’Dwyer (Carlow).