Davy Fitzgerald has predicted a wide open championship this summer and insisted "five or six teams" are capable of lifting the Liam McCarthy Cup.
The Banner, with a new-look back-room team which includes Donal Óg Cusack, kicked off their season with a 1-14 to 0-14 over Cork in the Munster Senior Hurling League on Sunday.
Fitzgerald said his team have an improved attitude and are ready to show their true potential this year, but the former Waterford boss is prepared for a cut-throat summer.
“If you realistically look at it, we've been behind in the pecking order the last year or two," he told RTÉ Sport.
"We’re definitely behind the Waterfords, the Tipps, the Kilkennys. We’re a small bit behind them – not very much, but a bit.
"There is a difference in [the Clare players’] attitude, I can tell you that. We won't be afraid of anybody. We’re as good as anybody on our day.
"I think the championship this year is going to be an interesting one. I honestly believe there’s five or six teams that can win that. Kilkenny look very good and they're a super team but I really believe there’s five or six teams that are capable of doing it."
The decision to bring in Cusack raised eyebrows but Fitzgerald said it was an easy call, as the former Rebels goalkeeper shares his philosophy on how the game should be played.
“The big thing about bringing in Donal Óg, Aonghus [O'Brien] and Jimmy [Payne], but especially Donal Óg, is, the way I think about the game is the way he thinks about the game.
"It’s easy to bring in someone like that. I’m happy. You need to have different voices and a few different ideas. Will that make the difference? I don’t know.
“It wasn't a pretty game out there today with the conditions, but we don’t really mind. We just wanted to get the win and we got that. I thought the enthusiasm was good. The energy, the enthusiasm we’ve wanted over the last two years… I saw a bit of that today."