Clare may not have had too far to travel to Pearse Park, but the quality Galway exhibited was a world away from their limits and they were duly crushed by a score-line of 4-25 to 0-20.
Despite the rout, the pessimism that has engulfed Galway hurling since exiting the Leinster Championship was evident throughout the 70 minutes.
Support for the home side was incidental, as if many in the crowd had just stopped by in the midst of their evening stroll in the sunshine. By the end, that is exactly what it was for the Tribesmen as Joe Canning, Ger Farragher and Damien Hayes made the game look easy.
Those three men each managed a goal before Alan Kerrins claimed a fourth. The hosts could even have had (at least) two more were it not for fine saves from Philip Brennan and the help of the crossbar which denied Canning a score off his first strike.
After seven minutes Canning, playing in a deep role to cause maximum damage, lofted a high ball towards the big square. Hayes plucked it from the air and rifled his side into a 1-1 to 0-1 lead. The nearest Clare would get to them all night.
After 15, the hosts had amassed a nine point lead. Clare had managed just one point from a Nicky O’Connell free. The opening quarter of an hour was the game in a microcosm. After that, Galway loosened up, allowing Clare too much space in attack.
The Banner had nothing to lose; they poured forward and began to get the scoreboard ticking with a point from a Conor McGrath free. It was the corner forwards first touch of the game. But it came only after Galway had disappeared over the horizon.
12 minutes in, and another scything run from Hayes prised the defence open a second time. He picked a short pass inside to Iarlaith Tannian whose low shot reached the base of the post before bouncing out. Farragher though arrived with precision timing and his finish left the travelling Clare support looking at their watch, wondering how soon they’d be home if the traffic was as soundly beaten as the team they had followed north.
Farragher ignited a flurry of umpire activity as the sides traded three points apiece in the space of just over two minutes. With their lead into double figures, Galway were clearly content to trade tit-for-tat scores from this point on.
To their credit, Clare never died. They motored on against the first half wind and continued to send the scoreboard ticking upwards. However, Galway’s forward line was better still. While matching the opposition’s point tally, they also added another goal. And a beauty of a goal it was too.
Canning, drifting out to the right flank took down a ball and shrugged off a robust challenge from O’Connell. He cut inside, composing himself and feigning a pass, then a shot. The tiniest gap opened up and the 22-year-old drove a laser guided strike past Brennan.
Credit to O’Connell, he dusted himself off and immediately pointed a free but his side could rarely string points back to back so they went in at the break trailing by 3-13 to 0-12.
Any lingering hope Clare held was quashed after 40 minutes when James McInerney decided he had enough of Canning leading him a merry dance. He went in on the Portumna man on the edge of the big square and connected with a swinging hurl below the forwards chin; an assault borne out of pure frustration.
Galway’s biggest danger was now themselves. That was brought to bear by the sickening clash between club mates Hayes and Andy Smith before the hour mark. The pair were going full blooded for the ball but managed to inflict as much pain on each other as they did on the travelling support.
Kerrins compounded their misery with Galway’s fourth goal as the game wound down to a close. But by that stage it seemed cruel to make Clare stumble on to through to the end. The more humane sport of boxing would have ended this contest inside the first 10 minutes.
Galway: J Skehill, F Moore, S Kavanagh, D Collins, D Barry, T Og Regan, A Cullinane, D Burke (0-01), A Smith (0-01), J Gantley (0-02), G Farragher (1-4), I Tannian (0-01), D Hayes (2-04), J Canning (1-09, 3f, 1 ’65, 1 s/l), A Kerins (1-02).
Subs: B Daly for Burke, J Regan (0-1) for Gantley, A Harte for Farragher, K Hynes for Cullinane
Clare: P Brennan, P Vaughan, C Dillon, C Cooney, P O’Connor, P Donnellan, J McInerney, J Clancy (0-01), N O’Connell (0-06, 5f, 1 ’65), J Conlon (0-02), F Lynch (0-01), D McMahon, C McInerney (0-01), C Morey (0-03), C McGrath (0-05, 3f).
Subs: B Bugler for Vaughan, L Markham (0-1) for Clancy, S Collins for Lynch, C O’Donovan for McMahon, G Quinn for Donnellan
Referee: D Kirwan (Cork).