Rory Gallagher's Derry carried their Ulster championship momentum into Croke Park, demolishing Clare to reach a first All-Ireland semi-final for 18 years.

An authoritative and ruthless first-half display set the platform for the victory, Benny Heron and the magnificent Conor Glass blasting home goals after a cagey opening and Paul Cassidy rocketing another into the top stanchion just before half-time.

Clare, in an All-Ireland quarter-final for the second time during Colm Collins tenure, were patently in over their heads, the game feeling already beyond them after the opening quarter.

Derry initially settled into their Ulster final rhythm, crabbing across field interminably, waiting for the space to shoot. After a series of wides at either end, Niall Loughlin stroked over the opening free.

This, however, was just a case of feeling their way into the contest. Soon after, having taken a grip of their opposition, they would let rip.

If the Ulster decider was played at a staccato rhythm, this was a heavy metal performance.

In the eighth minute, disaster struck for the underdogs, Tristan O'Callaghan clipping a short kick-out straight down the throat of Ethan Doherty, who fed Benny Heron to blast home from close range. Cue a wall of noise from the sizable Derry contingent.

If the first goal owed its thanks to goalkeeper error, the second was a beautiful flowing move down the right wing, Glass eschewing the point and rocketing the ball to the roof of the net.

Cathal O'Connor challenged by Padraig McGrogan

Clare, their shooting wayward early on, had a sniff of a goal when Podge Collins somehow finagled his way through a hesitant Derry defence, drawing on the ball but Lynch pushed it around the post. The resulting 45, like most of Clare's first-half attempts, was blazed wide.

Shane McGuigan, now beginning to rock and roll, curled over a couple of points, either side of a majestic Glass effort.

The score had trickled out to 2-05 to 0-01 by the time Jamie Malone finally staunched the flow of wides at the Hill 16 goal, notching Clare's first from play with the clock gone past the half hour mark.

There were further signs of life moments later when Clare responded to another McGuigan score with a well worked goal, Podge Collins lofting a handpass for the raiding Kieran Russell, who slipped the ball to Pearse Lillis, the wing forward rifling a shot into the top corner.

Cleary added another point to narrow the gap to six but Derry's momentum was soon restored, a beautifully swift handpassing move down the right ending with Paul Cassidy lamping a vicious shot into the top corner - the ball, as with Lillis' effort down the other end, nestling in the stanchion.

Any notion that Clare would rally in the second half was brutally cut down in the third quarter as Derry set about piling on more hurt.

They had the ball in the side-netting early in the half, the Derry crowd in the Cusack Stand initially presuming - not unreasonably given the tenor of the game - that another goal had been scored.

However, they didn't have to wait long. The ebullient Gareth McKinless bombed forward with characteristic menace, rattling home the fourth.

The pattern of the game was now set as Derry's runners all scrapped to get in on the scoring act, Conor McCluskey bulleting forward from corner-back to tag on another point.

Clare did respond, Eoin Cleary scoring a faintly surreal goal midway through the second half, after keeper Lynch was caught in no-man's land, kicking the ball on the ground first time and sending it trickling into the far corner.

However, they didn't have long to celebrate. McCluskey involved again, galloping into open country up the right wing and slipping a pass to McGuigan, who got in on the goal-scoring party, firing into the far corner.

McGuigan continued to fill his boots, winding up with 1-08 in total, eventually being called ashore to a rapturous reception.

The rest of the game was a victory lap, Derry finally easing off the throttle, as Clare mounted a late run for respectability. David Tubridy, a second-half substitute, popped over a brace of scores, while Cleary continued to plug away, winding up with 1-05.

After nine years of solid over-achievement, Colm Collins wouldn't be drawn on whether he'd had enough, telling the media that they, assuredly, would not be the first to know.

Derry, meanwhile, march on, their supporters - and everyone else - wondering where their momentum will take them.

Derry: Odhrán Lynch; Chrissy McKaigue, Brendan Rogers, Conor McCluskey; Conor Doherty, Gareth McKinless (1-00), Pádraig McGrogan; Conor Glass (1-02), Niall Toner; Paul Cassidy, Shea Downey, Ethan Doherty, Benny Heron (1-00), Shane McGuigan (1-08, 1f), Niall Loughlin (0-01, 1f).

Subs: Emmett Bradley for Heron (48), Lachlan Murray for Loughlin (53), Ben McCarron for Glass (61), Paul McNeill for Downey (65), Declan Cassidy for McGuigan (68)

Clare: Tristan O'Callaghan; Manus Doherty, Cillian Brennan, Cillian Rouine; Cian O'Dea, Ciarán Russell, Jamie Malone (0-01); Darren O'Neill, Cathal O'Connor; Pearse Lillis (1-00), Eoin Cleary (1-05, 2f), Emmet McMahon; Pádraic Collins, Keelan Sexton, Aaron Griffin.

Subs: Alan Sweeney for Rouine (35), Brendan Rouine for McMahon (43), David Tubridy (0-02, 1f) for Griffin (43), Joe McGann for Sexton, Gavin Cooney for Collins (53)

Referee: Martin McNally (Monaghan)